Ironman Training and young families…….can the two coexist harmoniously?

My newborn is 3 weeks old.  To say I am a bit tired is fair comment.  Newborn babies are nocturnal, or at least our one appears to be.

The Kraken / a 2 year old

We also have a two year old.  Two year old kids can be difficult customers at the best of times.  Throw having to compete for Mummies attention with a newborn baby into the mix and you unleash the Kraken slumbering inside any two year old.

I am also trying to fit my Ironman training around helping my wife with the kids as much as I can.  How she is coping with the demands of feeding the nocturnal newborn all night long and looking after both her and the two year old terrorist all day is beyond me.  I am constantly in awe of how she manages to hold it all together.

So far I have managed to stick fairly closely to my training plan.  I missed out on a bike ride over the weekend cause of family commitments but otherwise I have made all my other training sessions.  I can only put this down to the fact that my wife understands my motivation for wanting to go out training and is willing to stand by me whilst I do so.

Either it’s that, or she is so knackered that she doesn’t have the energy to object.  The more I think about it the more I think it is probably this; however I will make hay whilst the sun is shining and continue to train as often as possible.

So I guess the answer to the question “can Ironman training and raising a young family coexist harmoniously?” is yes, provided you have a supportive partner, or one that is so tired she will go along with anything.

Sunday 15th March is my first Multi-Sport event of the year, the Portsmouth Duathlon.  Curry and I competed in this last year and I am keen to see if I am faster one year on.  Fingers crossed for a good finishing time; however I do want to hold something in reserve as I am desperate not to do anything that may harm my Ironman training.

Competing at close to 100% capacity can result in injury as you push yourself.  A safer option would be to coast round at 85-90%.  I am hopeful that my 85% effort will be faster than my 100% effort from last year.

Looking back on my write up of last years event (click here to read it) I was suffering with shin splints at the time.  These devils are thankfully well in my past, so my running should be quicker purely because it is pain free.  I also have a nice shiny new bike to debut in it’s first ever race, which should be substantially quicker than the previous one.  I weigh less, should be more fit and am generally in better condition than I was a year ago.

“Surely he can’t go wrong” I hear you all thinking to yourselves.  Perhaps you are right.  Competing is a funny thing and as long as I prepare properly and keep my head there is no reason I won’t be able to improve on last years finishing time.

All I have to do before Sunday is a brick session tonight (bike then run), a swim and bike ride on Thursday, a long run on Friday (which will be at least 2.5 hours) and a long bike ride on Saturday.  Total amount of training ahead of me before Sunday’s race day is around 7.5 hours.

Nothing to it, or as Aleksandr would say…………………….Simples.  



Everything is in place………I might just pull this off

For the first time since I undertook the challenge to complete an Ironman I am starting to feel that it might just be possible.

When I first told my loved ones of my intention to compete in an Ironman Triathlon I received the following comments:

My Mum         – “Are you sure James.  It sounds like a lot to take on”
My Friends     – A mixture of utter astonishment and general sniggering
My Nan          – “Well my dentist does Triathlons dear and he is much fitter than you”
Cat (my wife) – “You’re going to die”

Now of course all of these comments were completely fair.  I was out of shape.  Very out of shape.  I weighed over 16 stone, couldn’t run to the end of the road without stopping, hadn’t ridden a bike since I was about 10 and the last time I swam anywhere was when I swam from the side of the pool to the pool bar on honeymoon.

Over a year later and things are rather different.  For the first time in forever (to quote from Frozen) I am starting to feel fit.  Weight is slowly dropping off, despite my tendencies to eat entire bags of Doritos and quite a bit of chocolate.  Also I have recently had a great success………..

I CAN RUN !!!!!!!!

All be it not very far (haven’t done more than 6k for a while) but I have no shin pain, the post run calf pain is starting to disappear and I am really starting to feel very positive about this whole endeavour.

Good thing too, as I have a charity place for the Brighton Marathon.  Bushy and I are running for Chestnut Tree House, which is the hospice that cared for Amber and her family, towards the end of her fight with Neuroblastoma.  The marathon is in April and is a great target to aim for.  I can’t wait to strap on my Luna Sandals on the start line, raising some money for this incredible charity and ticking off an important milestone on my way to the Ironman in September.

Some of my regular readers may wonder how I have suddenly managed to start running injury free and why I am starting to feel a lot more fit all of a sudden.  I can put this down to a few factors.  The first one is my discovery of barefoot/minimalist running.  To do this topic justice would require an entirely separate blog post and it is my intention to post this soon.  The second reason is down to one man, Mr Trevor “Tufty” Payne.

Trevor runs two Triathlon training sessions at a gym here in Portsmouth.  The first one is a mobility class, perfect for improving my flexibility and mobility (which is something I sorely need).  The second session is a Bike/Mobility/Swim or a Bike/Run/Swim session.  Lasting 2.5 hours, this is an intense workout and is absolutely superb.

Bushy and I have been attending these sessions for over a month, with Curry joining us recently.  Trevor is an ex professional Triathlete, specialising in Iron distance races during his career.  He is a superb coach (even if he does take the piss out of Bushy and I rather a lot) and I find his sessions hugely inspirational.  He has given me exercises to do at home which I do every day, agreed to write me a training plan specific to Challenge Weymouth and is generally a huge asset to my training.  

So to wrap up this post I would like to say a thank you to Trevor for his help so far and for his excellent training sessions that I love attending.  I was never really a believer in having a “coach”; however I am very glad I met Trevor and can’t wait to see just how fit he can get me ahead of Challenge Weymouth.  I must also mention a special thanks to Josh Smith, who is one of the readers of my blog and was the person who put me onto Trevor in the first place.  Look forward to doing some training with you when you are back in the UK Josh.

Finally to all of the readers of this blog and to those of you who have sent me nice comments about it, a huge thank you to you all.  I’m really starting to love all this training and am pleased that as the winter progresses I will be able to share with you my increasing fitness and join as many of you as I can for a run/swim/bike, or perhaps just a pint!



PS – If any of you are looking for a Triathlon or Fitness coach please check out Trevor’s website.  You won’t regret getting in touch with him.

Barefeet – the way forward

As some of you who read my blog and others of you who have seen me do it will know, I recently converted to running barefoot.

My reasoning was sound.  I have suffered running injuries for years and was searching to understand why.  I read some books, converted to barefoot running and have been injury free ever since.  Granted I haven’t done mega mileage barefoot, but I have done enough to be confident if I continue this way I will strengthen my feet and be a lot less injury prone.

I am intending on doing a big write up on this with links and information in the next few days.  In the interim (and to whet your appetite) here is an article on how to choose children’s shoes that will get you thinking a bit.



It’s a real mixed bag of emotions in the Ironsnook camp

It has now been about 10 days since I signed up for Challenge Weymouth, my first ever Iron Distance race.  By way of a reminder and for those people new to my blog, an Iron Distance race is consists of a  2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run raced one after an other.  There is a cut off time of 16hrs and 30 minutes for Challenge Weymouth.  I am predicting a time around 16hours 29 minutes!!!

In the last 10 days I have veered from one emotion to another regarding this incredibly daunting race.  Initially I was terrified.  Can I even get fit enough to complete this?  Is a year long enough to train?  Will I be one of the unfortunate souls whose kidneys shut down during the race and require hospitalisation (yes Mum, this does happen to a few people!)  Will I even make it to the start line?  Will injury prevent me from competing?

Added to this fear is the pressure I feel. The reason I am doing this is far greater than one man wanting to become an Ironman.  There is nothing wrong with taking on this challenge just because it is there. 1000’s of people do just that ever year.  My calling to become an Ironman was nothing to do with a burning desire to train and exercise.  If anything I was quite happy being a couch potato.  The fact that I am racing to raise money for The Chestnut Tree House hospice, who have provided such outstanding support and care to my friends during a horrid time in their lives heaps the pressure onto me.  Nobody is putting this pressure onto me other than me.  It is an internal drive and desire that I have rarely felt before.  With this comes the realisation that if I fail and cannot complete the race I am letting so many people down.  I am not a religious man, but I am tempted to start praying that I am able to make the start line in reasonable condition and haul my arse round the course in less than 16hrs 30 minutes.

I think that pretty much covers the fear element 🙂  

The other emotion I keep feeling is a sense of excitement and joy that I am taking on this challenge with two very good friends, the day itself will most likely be amazing and if all goes to plan I will raise some money for a very good cause and get to call myself an Ironman.  It is bizarre to feel so excited about something that also scares me to death.  The only similar experience I have had is when I became a Dad.  Exciting and terrifying in equal measure.  So far that seems to have gone OK, but to be fair it didn’t require me to train for hours and hours, week after week.  My wife did all the hard work on that one.

Lastly and probably most importantly I finally feel a real and deep desire to train.  I have never, ever felt this before.  I played football as a kid, but treated the training sessions as a bit of a muck around if I am honest.  I have dabbled with weight training at the gym, but never really put any concerted effort into it.  I have occasionally done a bit of running, then given up because I couldn’t be arsed.  Training for this Ironman seems to be entirely different.  If I am being entirely frank with myself, although I have competed in 4 triathlons this year I really didn’t put in enough training.  I was taking part just to complete the races and knew deep inside that I was fit enough to plod round an Olympic distance triathlon.  Because of this, I probably trained a couple of hours a week, with an occasional long bike ride thrown in just because I like riding the bike.  

All of this lackadaisical attitude seems to have melted away as soon as I booked up Weymouth.  I have bought a Turbo Trainer and love it.  For those of you who are not familiar with a Turbo Trainer, they are one of the best torture devices ever invented.  Essentially it allows you to use your normal bike as a static bike at home.  You get as much out of them as you put in.  Cycle hard on the Turbo and when you get back out on the road it all seems a lot easier.  That’s the plan anyway.  I haven’t yet been on the road since getting the Turbo.  Fingers crossed my master plan works.  

Anyway back to the plot.  I have written a training plan and have managed to stick with it quite well so far.  I have joined a gym where they run twice weekly Triathlon specific training sessions which I will be attending from Monday.  I even got up early on a Sunday to go for a swim!  All in all it is fair to say I am enjoying my training.  I do feel fitter and Cat already says she can see that the Turbo sessions are tiring me out less.  Time to put more effort into those I feel!

The only missing link is the running.  I am still in a very slow build up to any sort of reasonable mileage following being diagnosed with shin splints.  The plan is to get to 5k distance by the New Year.  Very slow progression, but this is the way it has to be.  I have also discovered barefoot running.  This is exactly what is says on the tin.  You run with no shoes and socks on.  Since starting running barefoot I have had no shin pain.  Am convinced it is the way forward.  I won’t be competing barefoot (at least I don’t think I will at the moment) but will continue to train this way.  Ken Bob Saxton is the main man for barefooting.  Anybody who has ever suffered a running injury should read his website.  It might just change your life.   Plus who wouldn’t be interested in finding out more about a man with such a superb beard!

So that is about it for the time being.  It is my intention to post twice monthly updates on how my training is progressing.  The first one of these will be in a couple of weeks.  In the meantime wishing you all much love and happiness.  Any of you Portsmouth based people, if you fancy meeting up for a swim, bike ride or a very short run let me know 🙂



Some people are just not born to run

I went out for a gentle jog last night.  It was my intention to do about 7km at a very gentle pace just to run the legs out.  2km in and the dreaded shin pain that I used to suffer with returned.  I was devastated.  Having been through physio and extensive time off of running, I thought that this pain was a thing of the past and that I would be able to push on with my run training, but clearly I was mistaken.

Running is by far my weakest discipline in Triathlon, and it is hugely demoralising when you compete and all that happens is people stream past you on the final run stage as you shuffle along like some sort of geriatric drunk.  I MUST improve my running.

I guess it is back to the drawing board.  Luckily I am going to visit my physio in about 10 days, and by coincidence I also have booked a run technique training course for that evening, so I will rest up until then, avoid all running, carry on with the exercises/stretches that I have been given previously and hope that this is just a temporary blip.

I am not, and never have been a religious man; however I almost feel that I need a bit of divine intervention to kick this injury into touch, and finally start to move on with my running.