I have a cold. I have had a cold for over a week now . It just doesn’t seem to be going away. I caught this cold off of my kids and we have a whole household of coughing, spluttering, snotty people. Nobody has escaped.
All logic says that when you have a cold you shouldn’t train. You should give your body time to recover from it’s illness and then resume training once you feel better. Quality, after all, is better than quantity.
Ignoring my own advice, on Sunday 24th August Bushy and I went down to Weymouth to ride the Ironman bike course, all 112 miles of it. I felt less than brilliant when he picked me up just before 6am on the Sunday. My cold was in full effect, energy levels were very low and I had slept appallingly. Usually Bushy and I will banter away with each other constantly when we meet up, but on this morning he commented that I seemed to have nothing to say for myself. Clearly I wasn’t firing on all cylinders.
|Arriving at Weymouth
The weather forecast for Sunday morning in Weymouth was bad. Not light rain, but heavy rain and wind. Regular blog readers will know how much I love riding in the wind. Unperturbed, Bushy and I trundled along down the south coast towards Weymouth. As we got closer and closer the weather closed in and by the time we arrived it was like a monsoon. We parked in the car park that will be the transition area on the day of the race. As you can see from the picture, the weather was not the best.
Following a brief discussion, mostly consisting of “are we really going to do this” we got out of the car and started to get ready. The plan was to create an aid station in the boot of Bushy’s car. We would carry enough food and water to get us round one lap of the 56 mile course, stopping halfway to resupply and then go around again. Neither of us are particularly quick on the bike, so we were aiming for 4 hours for each lap. This is an average speed of 14mph, which is by no means fast but about right for our Ironman bike pace. Remember that we have to run a marathon after cycling 112 miles so we need to leave something in the tank!
|You can just make out our
new friend and his bike
Getting ready to ride at the same time was a very nice chap who told us he was there to ride the bike course in preparation for his first ever Ironman. He was older than us, but whippet thin and one of those people who just looked fit. Tall and lean with a very nice beard, he clearly knew he was a better triathlete than us and we clearly knew it too. I remarked to Bushy that I often wonder what other triathletes think of us when we meet them. We looked like two blokes who woke up one day and said “lets do an Ironman”. He looked like a seasoned and well prepared campaigner. It is funny how accurate looks can be at times.
Chatting further with our new friend, it turned out he was going for one lap round the course as he was in his “taper”. A taper is when you reduce your training load to allow your body to maximise its strength and endurance ahead of your race. Made popular by top flight endurance athletes who train really hard and then back down to allow their body to reach peak fitness, it has slipped into the amateur ranks and many triathletes spend as much time talking about tapering as they do talking about how light their bikes are. Anyway, he was tapering 3 weeks out from the event, which is a fairly long taper. Each to their own I suppose, plus only an Ironman triathlete would consider a 56 mile bike ride to be “reducing their training”. Soon we finished chatting and he was off into the gloom and rain on his very nice looking bike.
Not long after this, after a considerable bit of messing about (I am the master of messing about), we headed off into the gloom ourselves. It was raining…….hard. The first part of the bike course is a climb up onto the “Ridgeway” and then you have about 35 miles of rolling Dorset countryside before another long gentle climb and then a drop back down into Weymouth.
|One lap of the bike course
We made sure to stick to our nutrition plan (something to eat every 30 minutes) and cycled along, sticking fairly closely to our target average speed. It was very very wet and we rode through numerous puddles and areas of standing water. Within about 20 minutes we were both soaked…….and we stayed that way.
In nice weather I imagine the bike course would be absolutely beautiful, but in the rain and gloom it was hard to see where you were going, let alone any sort of view.
|Cool map showing the topography of the course
Towards the end of the ride I started to feel bad. Just lacking in energy. Slow and lethargic. It was obvious that my cold had caught up to me. I was pleased to have gotten as far as I had before feeling poor. Bushy whizzed off into the distance and I was playing catch up. I had very little in the tank, was freezing cold and my wet clothing had rubbed my skin in a few places that you don’t want rubbed. Approaching the end of the first lap there was no way I was going out for a second. Competing in weather like this is fair enough. Riding for “fun” in awful conditions is something quite different.
When we got back to the car for the end of lap one I told Bushy that I was done. When it came to calling it a day, he didn’t take much convincing and soon we were into our dry clothes and on the way home to Pompey.
Despite not making the full 112 miles, 56 miles had been ridden in awful conditions. The best part about it is that we had completed one lap of the course in just over 3hrs 35mins, which was 25 minutes faster than planned. We had also averaged 15mph, 1mph faster than planned and allowing for the awful weather this was a great result.
On the day, in decent weather and when I do not have a cold (hopefully) then I think the bike course will be great. 112 miles is a very different beast than 56; however as soon as I start lap 2 of my bike ride on the 13th September I will know that all I have left is 56 miles of cycling and a marathon.
Whilst to most this sounds like a lot, to me I am half way done and only have half way to go. I will be half way to being an Ironman!
Before I go, a very quick update on my fundraising. I am absolutely delighted to say that I am 60% of my way towards my fundraising target of paying for a day’s care at Chestnut Tree House. The generosity that people have shown towards my endeavour is astounding, with well over £4000 raised so far. A brilliant total, so to those of you reading this who have donated thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have been with me every step of the way during my training. Every time I go for a swim, ride or run I think about those kids at Chestnut and all of the kind people who have donated to my cause.
It sounds like a cliche, but at some of my lowest points during training the kind words and donations that my supporters have given me have picked me back up again. I cannot lie about it, training for this Ironman has been tough, but it has also been the greatest journey of my life so far. In 16 days time that journey comes to its end. I will have covered 10’s of 1000’s of miles in training. I will have only 140.6 miles to go. Nothing to it……………….right?