Ironman: Why Ironman?

Doing something the average person doesn't do

I wanted to complete an Ironman in the year I turned forty.  Initially I intended to do it when I had actually turned forty, but once I was bitten by the idea I didn't want to wait that long.  It's a compelling need to do Ironman.

I started triathlon in 2010 when, as a former swimmer who had recently taking up cycling and running, Mr TOTKat said he wanted to do another triathlon after doing one a few years back and I looked around online.  I found a "civilised" one where the swim was in a pool and it wasn't that far from where we live so would be quite easy to get to.

The Thames Turbo Sprint Triathlon races are held at Bushy Park/Hampton Open Air Pool - a half hour drive from our house.  Thames Turbo Triathlon club is one of the oldest and largest triathlon clubs in the UK and "...can count three World Champions and other elite athletes amongst our alumni: Stuart Hayes, Spencer Smith, Richard Stannard and current World Champion Tim Don have all been Turbos on their way to the top!"  Their sprint series is geared towards introducing people to the sport of triathlon and every race the question is asked "how many people are here for their first race?" and so many people raise their hands... the races are excellently run and marshalled, with firm but fair application of the rules.

In 2010, we entered the whole race series and I ended up having to miss the first one having injured myself skiing earlier in the year and was signed off from running by the physio.  I cheered Mr TOTKat on at the first one, while freezing in insufficient clothing on a cold Easter Monday morning that started as the alarm went off at 04:45.  All of the races are on bank holiday mondays and for the first three races of the series in 2010, it was utterly freezing cold and we suffered horribly with the temperature both when waiting and when spectating.  We made a lot of mistakes in the first couple of races, but learned and got better, stripping down the equipment in transition to just bike shoes, running shoes, bike helmet, race belt and sunglasses.  Makes for nippy transitions (and oh boy was I glad of that at the British Super Series race at Blenheim - I was way up the field in the fourth discipline there thanks to that learning at the Thames Turbo races).

The field of competitors at the Thames Turbo sprint races is asked to estimate their overall race time and their 400m swim time.  The field is then split, roughly at the 01:20:00 mark and those who estimate over that time for the whole race go in the first half, and those who estimate a faster overall time go in the second half.  Those halves are then seeded by swim time to determine the order in which you start in the pool.  This stops a lot of congestion in the pool and works really well, it also means that the slower athletes aren't the last to start in the morning and left to finish last, extending the race duration out for a very long time.  As a former swimmer, it's my strongest natural discipline and I seed early in the swim starts, but until 2011 I was in the first half of the field of competitors.  There's a great advantage to that on a bank holiday monday morning in that there's almost no traffic on the roads, and that's a big plus for a race where the roads aren't closed.

Over the Thames Turbo races in 2010, we improved and we did a couple of 10K races too.  Come Christmas 2010 we were sure we wanted to do more and, in a night of tipsy foolishness, we registered for all of the Thames Turbo races for 2011, all of the British Super Series races (some of which had a choice of sprint distance or Olympic distance and I decided to take the plunge and sign up for one Olympic one), most of the Clapham Common 10K races and the Speedo Hampton Court Thames swim.  And over 2011 we started working through the races, having the odd injury niggle, missing the odd race because of it, signing up for a couple more races here and there, a half marathon, a 5km swim... and then someone started me thinking.  I can't remember how Paul seeded the idea into my head, but he did.  And it sat in the back of my head.

I bought a few books, read them, looked at all of the courses and decided that heat was a bigger enemy than hills.  And the decision was made.  I'd wanted to do an Ironman race when I got to forty, but the race calendar was against me for the end of 2012 and I didn't want to wait any longer. Mr TOTKat asked whether I'd be OK with him doing this too.  So.  Wales is the choice at the moment and we're signed up for Wimbleball Half Ironman already, which is at a good time in relation to when Wales will most likely be scheduled in 2012.  We're volunteering at the first Ironman Wales to get an idea of what the event will be like, and the course and the area.  If all goes well, we'll register for Wales Ironman 2012 while we're there.

There are two hard things at the moment... not getting over-excited and starting a training schedule too soon, and getting my head around how I'm going to fit all of that training that will be required into my life.  There will probably have to be changes and sacrifices made.  Ironman isn't a walk in the park, it isn't easy, it's not called "ironman" for nothing.  Otherwise everybody would be able to do it.  But.  It's not something the average person does.

Books I read that inspired me... in the order in which I read them.

How Triathlon Ruined My Life by Darren Roberts.  A chucklesome read of a non-typical person's introduction to Ironman.  Darren is one of those people who does really well right at their first race with seemingly little effort.  This is probably because of the job he has and the people he is surrounded by in that job.  I'm not sure that very many people would have the same sort of experience as Derren, but it's a good enough read to get the inspiration piqued.

Can't Swim, Ride, Run - From Common Man to Ironman by Andy Holgate.  This is a light-hearted account of a tubby librarian's induction into Ironman and some of the highs, lows, trials and tribulations on the way.  Without wanting to spoil the story, we're now awaiting Andy's second book which is due for publishing imminently.  It's a nice read, much more "normal" than Darren's book and probably easier for most to identify with.

Andy keeps a blog (and replies to every single comment on his posts!) and can be found on Twitter.

Ironstruck... The Ironman Triathlon Journey by Ray Fauteux.  A more po-faced approach with some American style big talk.

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