Weekly thanks time! Isabelle from Goodgym, who has given me a hot tip on a cocktail bar in Stockholm that I fully intend to explore in depth post-Ironman muscle massacre; Anonymous, who is evidently a Chaser but that doesn’t really narrow it down; and Anonymous, who prefer to remains 100% nameless and clubless. It’s okay, your secret is safe with me. Loose lips sink rubbish swimmers or something like that.
I also owe a massive thanks to Pritesh, Goodgym’s social secretary, for inviting me to the monthly Goodgym social this Thursday gone not just as an attendee, but in order to fill a brief guest speaker spot and explain a little more about Maytree as a charity and the Ironman thing as a whole. Not only had they set up a donations box, but another Goodgymm-er, Vicki, had done surprise baking. There is nothing like baked goods to guilt trip into chucking a few quid into a box, so that’s awesome (and the chocolate/raspberry muffins were incredible, I think Goodgym Lambeth’s 2016 Bake Off has a strong early favourite).
It was remarked upon by a few attendees on Thursday how it was great that I was able to stand (sit) up in front of a room of people and talk so openly and with such confidence about a subject that generally people shy away from discussing. This is only half the truth. In all honesty, I was terrified – hence the sitting down, because I have that nervous thing when talking in front of people of not really knowing what to do with my hands, so they either go in pockets and look a bit unengaged, or do that weird talking-with-the-hands thing where they dance drunkenly about in front of me like a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tubeman. But, to my credit, this wasn’t so much a result of the subject matter, so much as it was due to me being a very introverted human being. Also not being a sociopath because only sociopaths enjoy giving presentations to crowds.
It was actually okay to be talking about the Maytree, and having spent time, and why, and the rest of it (albeit briefly, I don’t think I was talking for anything more than five minutes). That’s a stark contrast to when I was actually at the Maytree, or in therapy, when I was very reluctant to talk about anything at all. I don’t have the actual quote with me, because I’ve yet to receive my box of sentimental guff from the old house – the world’s most protracted move is not going well – but Anja, one of the staff at the Maytree, was generally worried on the first day that I was going to abscond overnight, I seemed so uncomfortable being there. That’s a good kind of progress.
Monday: Rest day to prepare myself for what was to come
Tuesday: 1 hr 10 mins turbo
Wednesday: 1 hr 5 mins swimming
Thursday: 1 hr 35 mins running
Friday: 1 hr 25 mins swimming
Saturday: 4 hrs 50 mins cycling, 25 mins running
Sunday: 45 mins turbo, 3 hrs running
Coming into my last week of solid training, I made a quiet resolution after last week: I would hit every session, and I would hit it as designed. No quitting. No whining, no whinging, no bitching. An Ironman would do none of these things.
Well, would you just look at that. Greener than a Welsh valley, that. This week was a stunning display of tenacity and resourcefulness that I wasn’t aware I had. Everything was going well up until Thursday – Tuesday’s turbo was survivable, although I can’t unrecommend the Warcraft film enough; and on Wednesday I had a very strong swim, a continuous three kilometres (actually a bit over because my watch didn’t count a couple of lengths and I was too busy thinking about unicorns to notice) and above my target pace for Sweden; albeit, that sighting nonsense is less required in a pool, but still, I was going strong.
Thursday, Thursday was when things started to unravel. As I had the Goodgym social in the evening, I’d decided to get my set in and run to work. Initially without my lunch, which meant I had to loop back over some uphills I’d really rather not be doing any time before noon. Or any time. Ever. Why do I always end up living at the top of a hill? It’s really just unnecessary. Then my favourite Ashmei socks died valiantly defending me from a pursuing bear in Battersea Park. They did not deserve their fate. Then my hip went, because I’m a geriatric now, but I struggled through that one. I have a massage booked for tomorrow, so maybe they can do something wondrous to it then.
Friday was the worst effort of the week: a key swim set (thirty lots of 100m intervals at Ironman pace) turned out to be far harder than just the constant three kilometres I swam on Wednesday. Weird, that; apparently I don’t do rest well when swimming? But, gritting teeth and swimming about five seconds slower per hundred metres, which is pretty significant, I plowed on through the set, the breastrokers, and the traffic that usually might have sent me packing. Also Lido pools are a grim place to be in the evening when there’s lot of schoolkids about. Everything tasted… salty. There may have been threats to imbibe bleach when I got home.
I set off at about quarter to six on Saturday on my last major bike ride before Kalmar – sans heart rate monitor, which I’d discovered had run out of battery on Friday. This meant I had to ‘just eyeball it’ and ride entirely based on feel rather than any concrete metric of how much effort I was exerting. Fortunately, I seem to have done this okay, which my speed more or less on a par with my usual rides.
This ride was also where a spot of quick thinking came in handy. I’d decided to chuck by arm rests for my aerobars in the wash, as they’d started to squelch any time I assumed a tuck and that’s just disgusting. This, unfortunately, meant that one one of them the velcro backing came loose from the actual sponge bit, which was left flapping precariously in the wind any time I wasn’t riding aggressively (through towns, up hills etc).
My solution: well, you know how drips of energy gel go rock solid when they are left exposed to the air? Yeah. One of my arm rests is now glued to my bike with Zipvit’s finest blackcurrant energy gel. I’m like a millennial MacGyver in lycra. Captain’s top tip: always carry spare nutrition, you never know when it might come in handy.
Okay, prepare for the cheesy photos.
Well, obviously this is the bit everyone’s been waiting for. This morning’s set, the final blast before taper, was done dressed up like a kid who just got their club’s replica kit, socks and name/number included obviously, for Christmas. I had to try it out, didn’t I? Quest Sports Wear, run by the guy who did Blenheim sprint for twelve hours solid this year have been absolutely great with getting this ready for me in time for Ironman Sweden. Yes, I have broken my careful blue/white colour coordination. Shocker, I know.
I mean, they had to deal with vague descriptions of the design I wanted like – actual quote from the email I sent John – “attacked a by a series of paintbrush armed drunk toddlers with consecutively darker paints” (I may have been drunk). It even has my name in the right place – above my goddamn ass, where it should be. I’ve spent hours on that thing, it needs the attention.
Three hours is the furthest I think I’ve ever run in one shot, and bloody hell I can feel it now. It didn’t help much that the last half hour was pretty much one long uphill drag, but such is life. I still managed it at a pace that would give me a three hours twenty minutes marathon, so that’s a big confidence booster. I even got around to practising the last third of the run fueling with flat coke, which is about time – it does figure into my race strategy for Kalmar once I’m at the point where I can’t stomach any more energy gels. Never would have thought that flat, warm coke would taste so good as it does after two and a half hours of running.
Like that, training came to a close – no fanfares, no celebrations, just a sweaty but very attractively dressed guy dragging himself up bloody York Hill clutching a bottle of lucozade sport. Eight months and three days after my official training plan with Coach Dan started, I have graduated. I’ll save my thoughts on this for next week, but right now: relief. Kind of looking forward to having a little more time to get my life in order, because I’m still sleeping on a sofa bed and living out of boxes (mainly of bike parts).
Now I can sit back and enjoy a week of taper – starting with a date with many varieties of cheese in about thirty minutes – a week of travel, and then a very drawn out and emotional victory lap.
Also, part of the reason I’m doing this is to raise funds and awareness for The Maytree Respite Centre, a small charity in North London that provides support for people going through a suicidal crisis – so if you’d like to support my fundraising efforts, please click here. Thanks so much!