Midlife Crisis – Signing up to become an Ironman

Overview:

A midlife crisis is something that happens to many people at the midway point of their lives, usually around age 40. Many have described it as a feeling of “depression” that affects 80 percent of people age 35 to 50.  Other symptoms are feeling of  hopelessness and low self- esteem and can lead to impulsive behaviour and irrational decisions like quitting the job, buying a Porsche, separating from one’s spouse, etc.

I decided to enter an Ironman distance Triathlon.

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The Outlaw

The Nottingham Outlaw consists of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim,  a 112-mile (180.25 km) bike ride and a marathon 26.2-mile (42.2 km) , raced in that order and without a break. Most Ironman events have a strict time limit of 17 hours to complete the race, where the Ironman race starts at 7:00 AM, the mandatory swim cut off for the 2.4-mile (3.9 km) swim is 2 hours 20 minutes, the bike cut off time is 5:30 PM, and all finishers must complete their marathon by midnight.

I had this dream of completing an ironman before I was forty, however, at a month shy of 38, (at point of writing), not  only do I want to realise my dream I want to stretch it a little. An Ironman next year and a second overseas in sunnier climbs before the fortieth milestone.

At 5’10, just, and with an average build I am never going to be a good swimmer, so that is going to be the key area of focus over winter. Swimming coupled with at least one long run and an epic bike ride a week. Given I live on the doorstep of the Peak District, challenging routes are not hard to come by.

Ever since I signed up for the Outlaw I’ve been hampered by various things either Socialally scheduled or minor illness (Man flu – a very fearsome strain) All of a sudden last Sunday I stumbled across what I needed to do; make a plan, get organised, remove my excuses and set some goals. None of this is revolutionary, I hear you all saying, in fact, I hear myself saying it every new year! Recently, I had the opportunity at work to move sideways for six months to a job that would enable me to commute to work by bicycle which provides a great opportunity to build on my core strength.

The Plan – to Keep Motivated:

If I have a goal in my head – I already have an excuse not to complete it. Writing it down makes it real. This is often really difficult to do, fear of failure, fear of what people will say, there are lots of reasons not to do it. However, as long as you keep it in your head you don’t have to think about it all the time. You might day dream about it sometimes but you don’t see it all the time. In my (limited) experience people have been universally positive when they see the early stages of my training goals and plan. It engages other people in your targets, they ask about it. You sort of feel like you don’t want to let them down. I am in the process of creating a training plan to cover the time period from November to the big day.

Explicitly linked to the point above is making the plan visible.  You can’t write it down and hide it away. Write it out, print it out and pin it somewhere you see every day. The fridge, your desk at work (my favourite place, right next to my monitor at work, you can’t get away from it). Put it somewhere where you’ll gaze at it and be forced to think ‘what have I done to hit that today?’ It’s a great reminder of why you are doing it.

Saying ‘I want to do an Ironman’ isn’t enough. It’s a big goal sure, but finishing isn’t the only objective. Doing it the best you can is. Write down some stretching goals at the start. Think that’s too much? Unless you have those tough specific time based targets you may well find you skipping sessions, ‘it doesn’t matter if i miss this, I just need to get round’. It gives you a little excuse not to push yourself as hard as you can. Even if the cut off time is you ultimate goal, set yourself targets for each discipline. Give yourself that extra reason to get down to the pool tonight even though you’re tired, you want to hit that 1:29:59 target you set.

My spreadsheet plan was 330 rows long. Seeing a plan that details exactly how you are going to spend the next 7 months is a little overwhelming. The answer? Chunk it up into monthly segments. Four weeks is not scary at all and every four weeks you get to feel like you are making a lot of progress by printing out a new copy. You need to know what your doing, your friends, family and partner needs to know too. Training is a bit of a pain for everyone else around you so don’t let the element of surprise cheese them off too (oh did I not tell you it was a 4hr bike ride today?). They are supporting you, make it easy for them! I kept mine in google docs to enable me to keep track of it everywhere. being an ‘Apple’ fanatic you can’t switch any digital devise on in our house without my plan popping up. On the paper version get a highlighter, when you do a session, mark it off. If you use it, flag it as done on your spreadsheet. Checking that horrible brick session off is a great feeling!

The Training:

I am a  morning person and need to plan sessions in before the day happens. Leaving it to later in the day makes it be in your head all day. Things happen, life happens, stuff will pop up to make you miss your sessions. If you do it first thing, that just doesn’t happen. So set that alarm early and get out of bed. You will feel great (and very smug) when you get to eat two lunches safely in the knowledge you’ve already kicked ass in the training sessions that morning. As mentioned earlier the bulk of my core training is going to be done without expending too much spare time by using the commute to and from work as key run and bike training sessions for the next seven months.

Planning your kit is essential and from experience you need a lot of kit for serious training. Don’t miss sessions because you have stuff in the wash, dont miss sessions because your shoes are still wet. If you are doing your sessions first thing in the morning, get your kit ready the night before. If you are running back from work, take your work clothes the day before and leave them so you don’t need a bag. Your plan might be pretty similar week after the week, so you will know what you have to do on each day.
I am fortunate enough to have the space and money to have converted my conservatory into my own little gymnasium – which means even the toughest of frost won’t be a deterrent to some form of training…I’ll just be warm and dry.

(Picture is a peculiar angle due to using the panoramic mode)

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I have been posting on this blog since 2010 (feel free to have a browse) but the next 7/8 months are going to focus on the ups and downs of my journey to fulfilling the dream………………….

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