When it comes to running I’m pretty much covered. A marathon is no mean feat and certainly not to be taken lightly as the final part of an Ironman but it’s an event I’ve done 7 times before in an 18 month period as well as 4 ultra marathons so I’m well experienced and prepared. Something that can’t be said for my cycling or swimming capabilities.

When I signed up for Ironman UK I’d never really done any proper swimming or cycling. I’ve since signed up for some swimming coaching and borrowed a bike from a friend.

Straight away my lack of knowledge in both sports became apparent. I felt a little silly having to ask my swimming coach if I needed goggles and what sort of shorts would be appropriate to wear but I genuinely didn’t know.

Before my first session I went to my local pool to have a little test swim. I managed just over 1,000 meters in a 45 minute period which involved several rests and a combination of breast stroke and a pretty horrible front crawl technique.

I followed this up with my first bike ride. I set out with no real idea of how far I could get but I have around 2 and a half hours to find out. I felt great early on before realising I couldn’t change gear. This made the ride a lot harder going than it should have been, especially on the hills (of which there were plenty). The cold was also an issue. I knew I’d be working hard so was expecting to be getting hot and sweaty as you do on a run. Only the first part of that thought process was correct. As I picked up speed the freezing January winds swept though me and my lack of clothing quickly became regrettable.

30 miles later, tired and chilled to the bone I was back home with a hot bath running and the kettle boiling. I was fairly encouraged but know I have to get a lot longer distances in and the worry of not having the free time to do this is now my biggest issue.

A few days later my lack of experience and knowledge was highlighted when I found out that there was nothing wrong with the bike’s gears, I just wasn’t using them correctly. This was further appeared on my next ride when 7 miles in and 5 and a half miles from home I got a puncher. Did I have a repair kit or a spare inner tube? Of course I didn’t.

I spent the next 1.5 miles running with my bike on my back (at least all my training carrying a sandbag and the tyre was coming in handy) to my sister in law’s house where I left it and ran the remaining 4 miles home.

It was then time for my first coached swimming session. Apparently my front crawl technique wasn’t actually as horrible as I thought it was but learning when to breath was the most testing part by far. The pool was only 17 meters long but I was finding it a real struggle to get more that a couple of lengths without needing a break. Like anything though, the more I practiced the more comfortable I felt and after two more sessions and one solo swim I had felt I was ready for a crack at a time trial.

I signed up for a gym membership as it meant unlimited use of a 15 meter pool and set out to do half a mile, which was a daunting 53 lengths. I got there in 27 minutes, all in front crawl using my much improved breathing technique and felt confident enough to continue. I ended up reaching a full mile in 55 minutes. I was really pleased to have swam this distance and felt I was getting stronger as I went on.

I have now signed up for a duathlon (10k run/ 40k bike/ 5k run) as I feel the experiences of the transitions and running straight after cycling will be very valuable. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more about my strength and weaknesses on the bike too so look out for my next update and race review.

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