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Ironman ambitions - Part 2

by Paul Hayward
Tuesday 4th November 2014
Tags  IRONMAN   |   Triathlon   |   Paul Hayward   |   Scott Farnell

Our obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward has been inspired to become an Ironman, but as training begins, he is gripped by doubt

I know I am out of my depth attempting to complete an Ironman and I am going to need help. This knowledge did not actually prepare me for my first swimming lesson with Scott, where the realisation came crashing home to me. I am only in week 1 of my training for Tenby Ironman and the task ahead of me seems huge.

Before even getting into the swimming pool I was in trouble with Scott, due to my choice of swimming attire. Scott asked me, whilst shaking his head, if I had any "boarders" (cue the confused look) or "speedos" instead of my choice of appropriate wear. Clearly my Ted Baker flowery shorts did not give the impression of someone trying to swim seriously, let alone one training for an Ironman.

Ironman ambitions - Part 2

On swimming a few lengths and inhaling/drinking a lot of water, Scott asked me to stop and played back the video of me swimming. I was coming out of the water like a dolphin (although not that graceful) jumping through a loop for air every few strokes and generally crashing through the waves. My arms were everywhere, my legs were dragging me down and my breathing was not graceful at all.

I think he was being nice when he said that it was “not that bad”.  

After doing a twenty minute test of how far I can swim, to have a starting point to measure progress by over the coming months, I can honestly say I was ready to give in. I was exhausted, felt sick and the idea of making it through a 2.4 mile swim seemed crazy - if I cannot do front crawl for 20 minutes, how can I hope to improve enough to do it for up to two hours straight?

I was a bit of a state at the end of my lesson, my thoughts were everywhere and walking to the car I felt as though I had drunk the majority of the pool to clock my starting distance of 550 metres. I was a little despondent, a feeling that was only mitigated by being beyond hungry as I feltas though I had not eaten all day!  

Despite the messages from Scott later, saying I did well, I just could not shake the feeling that I am setting myself up for a massive fall in front of family and friends. I just cannot swim and for the first time since signing up I went to bed quite sad that evening.

Ironman ambitions - Part 2

Fortunately this feeling left me and hope was restored in some form at the weekend, when I managed to get on the bike with my friends James and Steve. Feeling a bit down, I was really pleased to have their company and the sun, hitting the Pangbourne and Whitchurch hills to get rid of these sad feelings.

Having not cycled since the London Triathlon, I felt rejuvenated and within 20 minutes I was shouting at the others that we should go faster up the hills and our pace needed to be better. I felt free and I felt that the training had really started now, I felt excited again.

I realise now that my friends were being supportive by coming out with me and were not asking to be broken by some madman on a bike, but the combination of some steep climbs, horrendous descents and opportunities to hit some decent speeds, made me think that if I make it to the cycle stage of the Ironman, then I have got a chance of that red carpet finish. A chance of that feeling at the end of the run that I saw in Tenby.

By Tuesday my thoughts were filled with "if I can make it past the swim in two hours, I have eight and a half hours on the bike". Sadly this excitement only got worse after going out running with my running club and clocking a five mile personal best of 39 minutes.

I don't know what is happening, all I can think is that the excitement [ed: Ironman fever?] has gripped me.

So one week in and I have gone from thinking that I am beyond mad to attempt this, to thinking that I have a shot at it and that it is doable. I am not sure how I can swing so much already, but it's October and believe that if I can swim by February, then I could do this. I could be an Ironman.


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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