Last year I watched my wife Kathy complete a half Ironman triathlon in foul weather in Weymouth.
The children and I didn’t arrive in time to see her swim but watched her coming into the transition from bike to run. She was bitterly cold. She was looking forward to the half Marathon so she could warm up!
I was impressed by her fortitude; she successfully completed the race.
The next challenge
In the following weeks she casually mentioned she wanted to do a Full Ironman. For those who don’t know, this is a 2.4 mile swim, 115 mile bike ride, followed by a 26 mile Marathon run.
I was amazed and full of doubts. “But what about your dodgy knee? But what about the metal rod in your leg?” Sensibly, I kept these doubts to myself!
As her resolve grew, I became more and more impressed. In fact, more than impressed, I was inspired. I fleetingly wondered whether I was capable of doing an Ironman.” But I can’t swim” I told myself.
So as a coach, I thought I would try and coach myself.
Is it true?
I asked myself “Is it true that you can’t swim?”
Well, no, not really.
I had been a lifeboatman for 10 years and in my 20s had taught windsurfing. Now, neither of these pastimes meant that I had to swim great distances, in fact, if I had to swim great distances whilst being a lifeboatman or windsurfing instructor something surely had gone quite wrong!
It was true that I had only got my 100 metre swimming badge and I have never had any desire to swim up-and-down a pool.
So I told myself “Okay, let’s start swimming.”
After 4 lengths of the local pool I realised two things:
- I wasn’t swim fit and
- I would need some help.
My ultimate target was 152 lengths. 3,800 metres.
I called the children’s swimming teacher. “Can you help?” I asked. “Let’s take a look,” he said.
He told me I have ‘a good catch but lazy legs!’ Not really having any clue what he was on about I just responded by asking “What do I need to do?”
He asked how often I could get to the pool. When I said five times a week, he replied that three is OK. “Very few turn up five times a week.” “Well I will,” I muttered under my breath.
I set myself the target that if I could swim 50 lengths by Christmas then I would enter the Hamburg Ironman event with Kathy, which was scheduled for the 28th July 2019.
Just 3 days before Christmas I slowly dragged myself out of the pool, exhausted but pleased that I had achieved the 50 length target I had set myself. It wasn’t fast, but I had done it.
Overcoming the next obstacle
So whilst on holiday at Christmas I entered the event. My race number was 2006.
Whilst all this swim training had been going on I had been having investigations into a foot injury that I suffered playing hockey in October. As I hadn’t been able to run I had been replacing my run sessions with bike sessions. This continued until March when the specialist and my physio concluded in was plantar fasciitis – which is painful but not debilitating.
With this diagnosis I started running again. Pretty soon I realised that I had missed a significant part of my training by being off my feet for so long.
The warm up …
In May, Kathy and I took part in the beautiful Swashbuckler Triathlon in Beaulieu. This was a half Ironman distance: 1,900m swim, 56 mile bike and 14 mile run.
I had a great swim, nearly as quick as Kathy! Feeling over confident, I then managed to ride my bike into a hedge at 20 miles an hour within the first two miles! Battered, bruised and with some angry gravel rash I got back on. I made the transition into the run phase in OK time but that was where the pain began.
I saw Kathy in the bike/run transition where she cheerfully said she was just popping to the ladies whilst I started running. Ten minutes later she breezed past me taking time to check I was OK, shout encouragement and say that she would see me at the finish.
They were long, slow, hard miles, the last three especially but I completed my first Triathlon. My amazing wife won her age group! And I was placed in the final few.
So onto the main event. Training upped to 14 hours a week with one long run and one long bike ride every week. Kathy and I juggled our responsibilities, played tag team with the children trying to fit in school events and client events where we both needed to be in attendance.
Then last weekend we arrived in Hamburg to the sweltering heat that had spread across Europe, although the weather Gods blessed us on the day. The forecast for Sunday was 28 degrees which was much better than the previous high of 37. We booked into our Air B’n’B and preparations started for the culmination of 8 months’ training.
Sunday came around quickly. We got up at 4 am and wolfed down our porridge before setting off for the start line. Having checked on our bikes and transition kit, we headed off to our swim start lines. This was it.
What I learned from my journey to Ironman
Well it wasn’t easy but I still enjoyed it. Both Kathy and I found the fuelling of our bodies difficult to get right and made too many trips to the on-course port-a-loos! But we did it!
Kathy finished in 13 hours and 2 minutes and I finished in 14 hours 13 minutes. That’s a long day! The supporters were brilliant and I ended up running the last 10k with an inspiring chap called Luis Alvarez who was completing his 166th Ironman!
As I reflected on the last 8 months I realised how similar this journey has been to Financial Life Planning.
- We need inspiration and a dream.
- We need to get encouragement from our friends, family and peers.
- We need a plan.
- We need a coach.
- We need someone who believes in us.
We will hit obstacles along the way that make us adapt and find a way to overcome them. Though if we stick to the task and turn up everyday, we will eventually succeed.
Dream, plan and then execute on the plan. It won’t go smoothly, but that contributes to the sense of achievement.
Sunday was hard work, but the real hard work was done, bit by bit, over the previous 8 months.
If you need help in finding a dream, creating a plan and having someone to cheer you on, I’m available! Dream, plan, get a coach and execute. Good luck!