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Ironman ambitions - Part 9

by Paul Hayward
Thursday 13th August 2015

Our obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward has been inspired to become an Ironman. With just four weeks to go until the big day, it looks as though six months of hard training are starting to pay off

Ironman ambitions - Part 8

On writing this I have four weeks of training left, then I am at the start line and I am unsure whether to cry or to be excited. Truth be told I think I could do a little of both. Over the last four weeks there have been a lot of positives from my training and I am feeling better and better about Ironman Wales. That being said, it has been a long six months and I am worried it could all go wrong in the swim or with one puncture!

I took a massive plus this weekend when I took on the “Olympic Plus” race at the United Kingdom’s biggest triathlon, the AJ Bell London Triathlon at the Excel Centre. I had been worried that I would not get my bike ride in, so I thought four laps of the new course, crossing from Excel into Canary Wharf, would give me 50 miles in the bank, as well as a 10k run off the bike and a 1.5k swim to get some open water practice in.

I decided to start the weekend with a spot of parkrun, followed by a steady two hours and half on the bike. I am now in the “peak” phase of my Don Fink plan, so I should be firing quite high, despite feeling so tired, but I certainly was not expecting to achieve a personal best of 21.22 at parkrun. Even now I am a little surprised by that time and pace!

This was a perfect start to the weekend and made me feel excited for the London Triathlon. On making my wave, with literally seconds to go to the start, I was at the back in the river Thames with the sun crashing down, meaning that I could not really see where the buoys were. On asking a marshal I was assured that they were before the bridge and advised to then aim for the A J Bell red pig and the second bridge before turning back home. To be honest it looked miles away and once again I had the fear that it was a long way to swim.

I let the speedier triathletes go and just started to front crawl. Surprisingly the water was not too cold, a pleasant 19 degrees, and I made the first buoy in no time. My sighting is still off, requiring me to breast stroke, but as I made my way past some other swimmers (and through one chap by complete accident) I felt better and better as it went on.

My Zone 3 Vision wetsuit was helping my legs stay buoyant and ensuring I could concentrate on my stroke and breathing. By the time I reached the red pig the next wave was released so I knew I was half an hour in and encouragingly I was nearly home.

On reaching the ramp and climbing up I saw my time of 40 minutes 56 seconds and I was ecstatic to be honest. I have always wanted to put in a good swim performance, due to years of being so bad, and I was so pleased that it had finally happened. I could not contain my happiness  and on seeing my girlfriend, I ran towards her and kissed her, much to the shock of the other people watching, who commented they normally get grunts. But I was so happy to have finally done this I wanted to share the moment!

I was smiling all the way through transition, where my bike was not on its own for once, and I was ready for the bike leg, which presented four laps of the new course through London Excel and Canary Wharf. I was secretly looking forward to this as I was pretty confident it was going to be flat and having covered some distance in my newly acquired cleats, I was looking forward to pushing it quite hard and being quick.

Sadly my lack of geographical knowledge came to haunt me once again and whilst the hills were not horrendous, they were enough to cause me to switch into my lowest gears and struggle on laps three and four as I went under and up through Canary Wharf. I quite enjoyed speeding through the tunnels and the speeds that the GB age groupers came past at were frightening but yet fantastic at the same time.

After a quick transition into my running shoes and newly acquired Outlaw Triathlon Visor I was off out on the run. The route in and around the Excel consisted of three laps, with a much needed water station and sprinklers enroute, as well as one fairly mean hill.  I was slightly nervous despite still feeling strong and worried that I may stop or need to walk, but I should have trusted in my training as I got round in a respectable 47 minutes and 33 seconds. 

On crossing the finishing line I was a little overcome. The memories of the Blenheim Palace finish line for the last two years came back and I remembered what it was like to struggle through the whole day and feel that I had just scraped through. For the first time, ever, I felt as though I had given a good performance. I was not the quickest but I had swam properly, cycled at a good pace and finished strongly in the run and on making the finish line my arms were in the air. I feel I have done myself proud and three days on I am still beaming.

Now I just need to put in two more weeks of solid hard training and then taper before Ironman Wales. Even saying this scares me but if the same triathlete shows up there that did London Triathlon last weekend, then I have half a chance of making the red carpet!

Ironman ambitions - Part 8


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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