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Wales inspires Ironman ambitions

by Paul Hayward
Tuesday 21st October 2014
Tags  IRONMAN   |   Triathlon   |   Paul Hayward   |   Ironman Wales

Whilst volunteering at Ironman Wales in Tenby, our obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward has been inspired to become an Ironman himself and he will be sharing his journey through his column

Ironman ambitions

In this article he describes the moment when he first felt he just 'had to' give it a go and explains some of the initial challenges and fears:

In between a busy Obstacle Course Racing season and some mainstream running, I have always pretended that I 'can do triathlon', taking part in one or two sprints a year.

I can run and I can cycle, however I just cannot swim. To the point that I am pretty much the last person out of the swim and I spend the next hour chasing everyone else. I shamelessly accept it and I am used to being one of four bikes left in the racking. My front crawl is embarrassing and I resort to breast stroke far too often.

This is all going to change now. On 13 September 2014 I decided to take a weekend’s break from competing in Tenby, Wales and volunteer at the Ironman. I only know one Ironman, Run247's Paul Shanley, and we rarely discuss it. However I would be lying if I said that I had not thought about becoming an Ironman myself and let it fill my dreams on more than one occasion. I wanted to see the event from the inside. I wanted to get an understanding of it and see what these athletes go through.

Tenby captured my heart, with its picturesque location and amazing local support, from the start. I had been hiding behind the excuse of not being ready to be an Ironman, until being beside the red carpet at about 10pm that night. Some 15 hours into the event, when the elites had gone through, and the people that had given their all were coming through on mass.

Ironman ambitions

The competitors were flying/walking/crawling through the run to the red carpet - all looking broken, all in tears, but all smiling. As those emphatic words "you are an Ironman" echoed out through the finish line I was in awe. I became this mad person screaming and clapping in everyone of them. I was absolutely captivated and I witnessed something magical; it was from that moment that I knew that I was coming back to Tenby in 2015.

For once I let the emotion overtake me and I fell in love with the idea of making it to the finish line by midnight. I thought I could do this, despite not being able to swim and hiring a wet suit for the last two years of my life.

I want a chance to experience that moment, a chance to run up that hill and see the crowds, see the red carpet and hear those words.

To me competing in this event will not be about a time. I just want to get there and feel those emotions. I want to be on that carpet on September 15, 2015 - or at least,I want a shot at getting there.

As the rose tinted glasses have fallen away, after paying the money to sign up, the realisation has kicked in of just what a huge task I have ahead of me. More importantly the scary thought of: "What if I do not finish; what if I DNF?"

Ironman ambitions

I am scared, I admit, that I will let myself down and those around me, that I'm lucky to call friends and family, that support me. I have read some of the DNF stories and found myself shedding a tear on a train in the morning, at the pain they have endured to get there and the heart break when they have failed and also knowing that the danger is only too real.

First things first, I need to be swimming and swimming well. It will mean a lifestyle change, fitting training around my commute to and from work and it will not be easy - but I guess I knew that when I signed up for the Ironman.

I have asked a few friends if they know of anyone and I am lucky to have been put in touch, through the power of Facebook, with a chap called Scott Farnell, who is head coach for Abingdon Vale Swim Club.

When I first met Scott, some of the doubt and some of the concerns were lifted. When he asked how bad I was, he wasn't scared by the response of 'horrendous'. He just smiled and said "We need to get you swimming. Then you can ride and run."

So that is my swim coach sorted, which is huge weight off my shoulders, as I had thought this would take ages.

Ironman ambitions

The next step is my choice of gym; I'm going to have to leave CrossFit and my PT, friend and inspiration Zak Mundy, and get into the pool regularly. I need to find a gym that offers swimming, coupled with good facilities, such as weights and spin bikes. I'm sad about leaving Zak, as he has always been near, but I hope he will be proud of what I've achieved with him and help me still.

Although I start swimming next week - in the interim I have to decide how I am going to train or at least have some form of working idea. I am going to need a "winter bike" and I've ordered "Be Iron Fit" to work a training plan out. There are probably a hundred other things I need too that I do not know or realise yet, and I need to look at “warm up events”.

I have spoken to Paul as well, which I'm probably going to do most weeks now, to ask him questions about it all. Mostly I expect my questions will be centred on how long I need to be on the bike for at weekends and what I should be doing.

On speaking to both my coach and Paul it appears the plan is to get a good grounding of swimming by February, keep the cycling and running up and then train as hard as I can for September.

It is not going to be easy, there are going to be some dark times and some good times, but I'm hopeful that I will make it through with their help and that of my friends and family. I've never wanted something more to be honest and I have never been so scared of an event. Scared of failing and not making that red carpet.

This is my journey and I hope you will share it with me.

Ironman ambitions


About The Author

Paul Hayward

I am 33 years old and spend the majority of my life within an office environment. Whilst I played football, I never really took an interest in sport let alone athletics. In 2011 I joined a gym as I was slightly concerned about my weight. However I was, like an awful lot of my colleagues, coasting and I considered spinning three times a week a workout.
This changed when I took up a circuits class and found myself entering Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest London in November 2011. I was assured by my friends that this was a good idea and would be a “challenge”.
I had never entered any form of competitive event before and training for this run changed me. I listened to my personal trainer, who assured me that if I quit drink I could be dangerous, and sorted out my diet, stopped drinking so much and focussed my training. I completed the race in just over an hour and I was instantly bitten by the racing bug, I loved the challenge the event offered. 
Nearly two years on I have completed a half marathon in 1hour 49 minutes, came 6th in the Rat Race Horseplay 5k event and usually come within the top 30% at Obstacle Course races. I am also a part time triathlete and I am lucky to find myself in a running club where we have a great coach and the focus is on members. If I am honest - I came to running through these events and I am not alone.
My aim through Run 247 is to promote, discuss and publicise Obstacle Course racing. It is becoming huge and over the coming months we will cover all of the major races and the new competitors entering the scene. 

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