Being an Ironman – the curse

Nobody told me that once you become an Ironman it follows you round like a curse or a bad smell…

Somehow once you manage this momentous event the worlds perception of you changes… It’s like you are walking around with a banner on your head (and I don’t even have an Ironman tattoo)!

All of a sudden you are no longer considered to be a normal human, people expect you to be better, stronger, more capable than anyone else.

And this is great, and perhaps temporarily for the week following the Ironman event you may feel super strong, on a massive high, this may even last a bit longer than a week. But after that, most people return to normal training levels, or even have a complete break for a few weeks, and guess what, this renders you the same as any other person. Except other people don’t see this.

Every time you have a tough training session, people will say ‘but you can cope, you are an Ironman’ when you go for a long run or bike everyone thinks that that distance isn’t significant to you as ‘you are an Ironman’!

I did my first full distance in Malaysia after a shorter training period than recommended due to my ankle operation, I trained as hard as I could, gave Malaysia my best shot and am proud of my achievements. However I came back to the UK, struggled with the winter, the cold, the inevitable winter flu and colds that plagued most of my friends and family and as a result experienced a huge drop in fitness really quickly! Mid November I raced an Ironman, mid December I struggled with parkrun at what should have been a sociable pace for me, 3miles at over 10 minute per mile pace felt like hell, the longest distance ever and left me flat and exhausted! I don’t mind telling people that after a particularly tough parkrun when I had planned to run home afterwards I got a lift home and cried! I felt like a failure, 4 weeks prior to this day I was running home from work 14miles at a faster pace and bouncing along… or running 9 miles after a 80mile bike ride but now I couldn’t run 3 miles on its own without feeling like my world was ending!

My bike fitness and confidence suffered similarly… Whereas 90mile rides wouldn’t normally phase me I went down to an hour on the bike (approx 15-16 miles) feeling like a huge effort, I couldn’t face riding further than 15 miles or so as I knew I couldn’t cope… But again this Ironman curse follows you round. ‘But you are an Ironman, an hour on the bike is nothing to you’.

A mile is a mile! Regardless of whether it’s your first mile, your last mile, your fastest mile or your slowest mile! It’s a significant distance and whether you can only walk 1 or 50, run 1 or 26.2, cycle 1 or 100, its an achievement! Just because you have previously run a marathon doesn’t make 5km less of an achievement. 112 miles in an Ironman is a crazy amazing distance, but 12 miles on a commute when you are tired and it’s dark is also fab! It’s not ‘only’ 12 miles, it’s 12 miles!!! No only about it!

Iv slowly managed to get my fitness and its accompanying confidence back to some levels that are perhaps more ‘normal’ for me, I am back to running reasonably long distances in training for the Brighton marathon, but just because 16 miles running is now my long training run, doesn’t mean someone else’s 10 mile run isn’t long enough. Yes I have previously run 26.2miles but for now I’m counting every run that doesn’t leave me feeling broken and miserable as an achievement. I took part in the York Leeds York cycle event recently and felt quite happy on the bike, for which I am grateful. But I know that 2 months ago I wouldn’t have managed that distance. My ‘normal’ now was my impossible a few months ago, despite being an ‘Ironman’.

I am an ‘Ironman’ but I am also a human, a normal girl who goes through normal patterns of success and failure, normal levels of enthusiasm and despair, normal fluctuations in fitness. Being an Ironman doesn’t make me invincible, strong or better than anyone else. All it has given me is a sense of achievement and a constant shadow of expectation…

And if you want to be an Ironman that’s great, I will be doing another full in Italy in September but that doesn’t mean because Iv done one before il be fine. In the meantime I’m the same as everyone else, working on myself, improving my fitness, battling with confidence and struggling to live up to the ‘Ironman’ expectations!

We are not all on top of our game every day, our past achievements shouldn’t overshadow the ones we make today. Don’t judge yourself or others based on what they or you have previously achieved, yes it’s great to have an aim, maybe even want to beat a past PB, but if you are putting in the effort today and not reaching the levels you reached a year ago or even a month ago just know that that’s ok! As long as you are trying, keep your eyes on where you want to be but your mind in the moment! Celebrate the victories however small and keep it fun.

I’ve tried to accompany this blog post with pictures that maybe wrongly would possibly not always make it onto my social media, but my world isn’t always flying feet and thumbs up, its grit, sweat, shuffles, tears, effort, failure and success all in equal parts. And it’s far from glamorous!

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York Leeds York

Part of my commitment as a Primal Europe Ambassador is to take part in some of the Velo29 events.

Primal Europe are the official clothing sponsors of the Velo29 sportives and they have some amazing custom jerseys for these events – you can check them out here Adam bought the York Leeds York one and its awesome!

At the beginning of the year I looked at the list of events and tried to find some that suited my training plan. This is harder than you would think, especially as I am training for a marathon at the moment so most of my weekends are taken up by long runs. But the York Leeds York event was quite early season and on a Saturday, so meant I could travel up on Friday after work and still be back for a long run on the Sunday!

Friday night we drove up to York (we being me and Adam who had kindly agreed to come along with me). Bikes on the roof of the car, boot packed with tons of kit as the weather had been a little unpredictable, on Thursday it had snowed in both York and Leeds, this could be a very cold event! Luckily the snow had passed, however this was replaced by some quite persistent rain and it rained for the whole drive, poor bikes got very soggy on the roof of the car. We eventually arrived in York at 10.15pm on Friday, checked with the hotel that we were ok to take the bikes up to our rooms, unloaded the car, then ordered a Chinese takeaway (well we can’t do a sportive without fueling). All in all this made for a rather late night.

Up just before 6am the next morning to pack up, have breakfast and check out.

Jenni had also driven over from Southport to ride with us and arrived at the hotel quite late. Unfortunately she was rather ill on Saturday and was then unable to join the event, so this left it with just me and Adam riding together.

We headed to the start at the York Auction Centre and there were already so many people there. The car park was packed solid, and there were so many people around. I hadn’t quite expected such a massive turnout to a sportive so early in the season, especially as the weather was not great. It was raining when we arrived at the start, not too badly but it was destined to be a damp ride!

Adam and I headed in to registration and collected our rider numbers before heading over to the Primal Europe stand to introduce ourselves. This was the first time I had met any of the team in person and it was lovely to finally put faces to names and meet James and Ben. I used this opportunity for a cheeky selfie with James and then it was time to get the bikes and ourselves ready for the ride ahead.

Once ready we joined a queue of riders ready to start, the queue snaked round the outside of the auction centre as the race itself was starting from inside the building. Everyone waiting to start seemed in good spirits and we spoke to quite a few people who had done the event the previous year (its always a good sign when people go back for a 2nd time). One poor gentleman had managed to forget a wheel as he had had to dismantle his bike to pack it in the car and hadn’t remembered to put the wheel in the car. The organisers did call over the tannoy to see if anyone had a spare but unfortunately no one did, so he had to head off to have breakfast and wait for his friends and family to finish.

Quick race briefing and we were off. Almost as soon as we started so did the rain, it was varying in intensity from heavy miserable drizzle, to angry sideways heavy rain. But this didn’t appear to deter any of the riders. Some of the roads were incredibly flooded, at one point I came around a corner at the front of a small group and shouted ‘swimming pool’ there was no other way to describe the large puddle that spanned the entire road. Luckily it was only a few inches deeps and we made it through to drier land! (I do love a triathlon but taking my bike for a swim was not on the agenda!)

After some initial flooded and muddy roads the roads towards the mid point were a bit easier, less mud and surface water but it was colder! As we got towards Leeds the temperature dropped noticeably and there were still patches of snow banked up at the side of the roads. We arrived at Harewood House rather cold and damp. It was an absolutely stunning location and I am sure on a summers day I would have stayed a little longer, sat on the grass and taken pictures of the house, but I was pretty cold and my fingers weren’t too keen on trying to take photographs, I do feel like I might need to go back one day just to appreciate how lovely it really was.

I did however manage to take photos of some participants bikes racked in the snow!

We queued for a very welcome hot drink and I ate a very sweet and tasty flapjack before a mass undress operation to try to go to the bathroom. Cyclists – I am sure you all sympathise. I had to take off layer after layer of clothing to be able to get to my Onyx Thermal bib tights.

Then we set off on the 2nd half, not wanting to hang around too long or get any colder than we needed to be. Once again all cyclists seemed to be in good spirits on the ride back, even a poor lady whose hub in her rear wheel had died, she was cheerfully waiting to be picked up by the mechanics and we stopped to chat to her for a few mins and check she was ok.

I also managed to ride for a while with some ladies from the Yorkshire Lass Cycle Club. They were really lovely and friendly and it was so nice to spend a while chatting to some new people as the miles passed by. One of the ladies husbands was a triathlete and had done Ironman Vichy last year!

65 miles later (we did the medium route) we arrived back in the auction centre to be presented with our medals, have our photo taken and the all important post ride snack – an actual bbq’d sausage in a bun! This is possibly the best post event food idea ever and was most welcome as a warm filling food item after quite a cold event.

Bikes back on the car, quick change in the carpark – thanks to Dryrobes – they really do make post event routines so much easier. Then a quick goodbye to the Primal team and it was time to begin the long journey home. We arrived home approximately 10pm that night. A crazy long weekend, exhausting but fabulous! I loved every minute of it, now where is that Velo29 events list, I need a new target!