Postmortem – My Ironman Training

It’s been a week since I did Ironman UK and thankfully the aches and pains have subsided. The memory of finishing is still etched onto the back of my brain. My post race rest has been interesting, after a day of doing nothing on the Monday, then travelling up north back home on the Tuesday, Wednesday I was on my way to Rome. A lot of walking and eating has helped me stretch and refuel after last Sundays efforts.

It has also given me time to think and ponder about the race, the lead up and the training that was put in before.

365 days ago I pre- registered interest in the ironman UK after thoughts of endurance Triathlons and reading books on other people’s Ironman journeys inspired me to contemplate doing one myself. 358 days later and I became an ironman myself. The journey wasn’t easy and at best you could call my training intermittent but I got there.

When I pre-registered I had an injury, my Left knee was suffering from ITBS and had been for some time. This I thought would heal and wouldn’t prevent me from running for too long.

A year ago, I’d not cycled more than 50km, nor swam further than 2kms in one session. I had, however when my knee was good ran a couple of marathons. So you could say I had some endurance training. All this was fine as I had the best part of a year to get in shape and most training program’s were 30 weeks so in reality I had until Christmas 2012 to get myself injury free and at a level of fitness to start the training program.

August 2012 and I took part in a middle distance triathlon as part of a team. I would do the run, 21km would be the distance. I had been on rest until then to help the injury recuperate.

Needless to say after 10km my injury presented itself. Not surprising really. It was frustrating and I managed to finish the race in 1:32 slower than my PB but good enough.

I had a standard triathlon in a few weeks after that and again, my running was letting me down.

Strathclyde GE Triathlon turned into a duathlon due to the water quality which meant an extra 1500m run to start on top of the 40km bike and 10km run to finish. The first sprint went ok from what I remember the cycle too. 5km into the 2 loop 10km course I could feel the ITB rubbing on my knee. I ran through it after stopping to stretch. After 8kms though I’d be running pain free but with a stitch. Masking the ITB maybe but I finished my first duathlon.

After September I had no races except an ultra I’d entered. I decided early on in October that the ultra would be put aside now that I’d forked out to enter Ironman UK. I had to rest the leg and not run if I was to get this injury better.

Fast forward to December. I was starting Physio at the NHS after being told that the MRI scan showed no issue with the knee apart from increased vascularity (blood flow). No signs of inflammation either. What was wrong with the ITB failed to be understood by both GP and Orthopaedic Consultant. I was starting to clutch at straws.

Christmas and then January came and I’d promised to keep myself off the running so I could give my injury time to heal. I also had a lot of eating to do. This also coincided with the start of the training proper for ironman. 30 weeks before the race coincided with 1st week in January. I was going to start this on the back foot.

One thing I did have was the ability to swim. And this I did. I followed the training plan and also did extra on Wednesday nights with the Tri club.

For a while, or rather ever since I started with the Tri club I was a weak Swimmer due to only getting back into it in march 2012. However due to the increased training I’d gradually got better, faster and stronger in the water.

While this was encouraging I really needed to get my HR up on land. I’d put off cycling and running in January to help with this ITB recuperation.

January was long, it was also cold and wet and therefore not the best weather to entice me out to train but I still longed for a run or ride outside.

I’d promised that in February I’d start to run. This happened mid feb due to other stuff happening. I managed a slow 5k without sign of injury. This was encouraging. Another few 5ks and I was hopefully on the road to getting to be a runner. I got confident again and was even starting to do longer runs with Tina. Starting to get on track with the training plan.

The cycling had been going on too with a few 50-60km rides out in the country. There’d been a niggle in right knee that seemed to plague me but not enough to stop training. The niggle was behind the knee cap and I put that down to incorrect bike fit.

I got an official bike fit at the local Tri shop. A bit underwhelmed by it as they only moved my saddle up 3cms. Nevertheless I continued riding but this niggle would preset itself on each ride.

Then, one ride down in York on a snowy and hilly ride the knee finally gave me some serious pain. Enough to stop and rest for a week or two.

This was march and I was still behind in the training but being encouraged by my iron buddies that I could still catch up I rested for a bit. I knew I couldn’t afford to be injured again so I took it easy the first day back.

I was even seeing a Physio who eventually diagnosed that it was a patella tracking issue, caused no less by the right ITB being too tight and my right quad not being strong enough.

Still seeing the NHS Physio for my left ITB I had two physios each giving me exercises for both ITBS. This was not a good situation to be in. I kept telling myself there was time and I’d be ok. I was however miles behind training and the guilt and worry was building.

Eventually I got back to cycling. Steadily and without hills. My running was going fine until I took a hilly run up the Pentlands in the snow and the left ITB flared up! Damn! Things were going from bad to worse.

I gave up with the NHS Physio after she’d told me to keep to short runs over hills to keep up fitness. Pretty much bad advice since I’d told her it came back when I ran up hills. Or rather down the hills brought it back.

April had come and I made a decision. I recognised that running was causing me knee pain, the right knee would get worse after running which meant I couldn’t ride. This led me to say I’d do no run training until I could cycle without pain.

This decision left me wondering if I’d ever complete ironman.

I also made another decision that helped me mentally. Instead of fretting about ironman and whether I’d make it. I decided what ever happened I’d start the race. I knew I’d be able to swim but what I didn’t know then was would I be able to ride the 180km or run any of the marathon.

This helped me relax and fall into a training plan of sorts to get me riding without pain. The Physio showed me how to tape the kneecap to make sure it tracked correctly. I was doing short rides. I needed to do long rides.

End of may came and still I had no long rides in me, I’d not gone half the distance. I was falling behind. Another epiphany came and I decided to go for a ride and not worry about distance. So I taped the knee up and headed out following a railway line so I could at least reach a station to get a ride home if it came to it.

It did not, and after 100km I arrived home. Slightly knackered but ok.

I set to work to plan out a way of finishing this ironman bike course. With new found enthusiasm my plan was written which would see me attempt four more long rides until ironman.

Was this enough? Would it get me through?

The next two months involved more cycling keeping to three per week plus two open water sessions a week and more pool based sets. My swimming was in the bag. I’d managed a 3.8km pool swim and also was doing 3.5-4km open water swims. I was however not running.

My bike legs were good, knee was manageable in terms of pain and strapping it up. The longer rides though didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to. In fact I only managed a 135km long ride two weeks before ironman.

I’d run a 5km run as part of a sprint Tri at the beginning of June. The ITB injury was present after 4kms though I was running fast, finishing the run in 21min. This have me confidence that although I was in pain I could handle it and I’d not lost too much run fitness.

The taper was good, I rested more and ate a lot. The last weekend saw me do a very relaxed training triathlon. The 1500m ow swim was chilled, the cycle ride was all down hill and flat with ice cream stops included. I even did a 20min run which wasn’t encouraging due to ITB flaring up after only 1km. This was the 2nd run in over 3 months both with ITB pain.

I was gonna have to suck it up on the day.

The weeks leading up to the race was a worrisome time. Would I get injured again? Would I be able to finish the bike? I’d started to get adductor muscle pains after the long rides, my right leg adductor being incredibly tight potentially from over compensating for the other injuries. This led to me having even more doubts. A sports massage pinpointed the area and was extremely sore. Would this be the final nail in the coffin?

So after 9 months of proper training I’d only really done about 5 long rides of distances over 80km. My running was almost zero for the 3 months leading up to ironman. My swimming though was great seeing me do 3.8km in about an hour according to my Garmin.

This was not ideal prep for an ironman but what I can say is that I achieved my goal which was to complete one.

Yes I wanted to run the whole marathon, I count myself lucky I managed 13miles without stopping (except for 2 aid stations).

I almost bonked on the bike due to bad nutrition. I guess leaving my personal needs bag in the accommodation didn’t help but I also think if I had more long training rides in me my nutrition strategy would have been better and I would have known what was best to eat. That said 8 hours was my ideal target and that is what I did it in so I can be happy with that. My adductor being tight the whole way through and the pain in my lower back felt a week previous didn’t appear throughout thank fully.

The swim training I can’t fault. I had a great swim and the training was great too. Maybe I could have gone faster 1:09 was a bit slow for me but with my Garmin saying 4.2km for the ironman course I wonder if my ow training swims had been long enough.

In all cases I count myself lucky that I managed to complete the ironman. Carrying two injuries was tough, mentally and physically. I guess picturing myself in pain and how to handle it helped in my preparation for it. I don’t know how I ran 13miles ITB pain free on the day, potentially the other pain was masking that. Who knows?

Post race I’m happy to report my aches and pains lasted up until day 4 and that walking around isn’t much of a challenge as I thought it would be. I do occasionally get knee pains in the right and left knees but this surely was to be expected.

My focus now is on getting these injuries sorted once and for all. Then I’ll think about what’s next.

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2 responses to “Postmortem – My Ironman Training

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