In April of this year I set out to complete my first 70.3 Ironman. In an effort to raise money for Beyond Blue and help those battling with mental health, I initiated the day where I would complete a 1.9km swim, 90km ride and 21.1km run. Beyond Blue was an important charity for me as I face my own mental health battles. I ended up finishing the event in just over 5 hours. I couldn’t have been happier with my result, and felt all my training had paid off by finishing significantly faster than anticipated.
By CSSM Sponsored Athlete Angus Wood
But what was next?
I had my eyes set on Melbourne 70.3 Ironman on 13 November 2022. From April till now I have learnt a lot about myself and the sport of triathlon. Coming from a high out of my last race, all I wanted to do was get back into training and prepare for Melbourne. This was one of the first mistakes I learnt in this training block.
My key takeaways from training:
Stop training too hard
Completing a 70.3 Ironman is not an easy feat and takes a big toll on the body. After doing so well in my first ironman, I had the bug for the sport and went straight back into training. The Monday following my Ironman, I did an easy swim to loosen up my body, and on Tuesday completed a very easy run. This is where my ‘recovery’ ended, and I went straight back into a full training load. I pushed to complete runs at the same pace and intensity that I did in the previous weeks, and pushed hard on the bike trying to hold a certain speed that I deemed ‘good.’ My body couldn’t keep up and I found myself struggling more and more. It took me far too long to admit to myself that I needed to rest and listen to my body. We have all heard the saying ‘run slow to run fast’. I found that to be true now more than ever.
I knew I needed to listen to my body, not base my workouts purely off times I deemed to be good, and had to learn to enjoy the sport I fell in love with. It was now August, and I felt like I had taken 100 steps back since finishing my first Ironman, but at least now I had a better mindset to get ready for the next race.
Consistency is key
Whether we are training our body or our minds, one of the most important things I have found is being consistent. Throughout the training for my first Ironman, I didn’t drink any alcohol. I wasn’t craving a drink throughout the training but thought I would enjoy a more relaxed approach to start this next training block. Unfortunately, my ‘relaxed’ approach to the start of my Melbourne 70.3 Ironman prep was a little too relaxed. Whilst juggling university and work, I found that my training was lacking, and I was completing workouts when I wanted to and not following a structured week. I hadn’t been on a decent long ride or run yet, and was confused about why I couldn’t complete workouts with ease like I had in the past. I was lacking consistency. We follow programs because they are designed to help build up the required load that our body needs for race day. Our long runs help build our low aerobic base to help with our endurance. This then helps push us further for longer in our hard interval sessions. All our training is there to help build our fitness and by missing key workouts and being inconsistent with my training it made it nearly impossible to become fitter and faster.
Consistency in training is as important as consistency in recovery. The more I listened to my body the more I realised the importance of stretching, ice baths and myotherapy. Getting the appropriate work done with the practitioners at CSSM was key in this recovery process.
Just have fun
One of the biggest things I’ve learnt about this sport whilst getting ready for my race in November is about having fun. I started running, swimming and riding because I loved it. Getting out and exercising fills me with joy and puts a big smile on my face. The combination of inconsistent training and then pushing myself too hard led to me losing interest and enjoyment in my workouts. I was getting so caught up in numbers and data that I forgot why I started training in the first place. I no longer enjoyed a run when they were 5 seconds slower per km than I wanted. Instead of feeling accomplished from workouts, I was putting myself down unnecessarily. My mental health was being affected by the very sport I had turned to. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back in these tough moments and realise why we started everything. I originally turned to training to improve my mental health, not deteriorate it. No one ever said training for triathlons and an Ironman was going to be easy, and nor should they. But forgetting to have fun and not enjoying your time is going to make it one of the hardest challenges of your life.
Throughout this journey I have been fortunate enough to not have any major injuries, and I am thankful to have had the support of CSSM along the way. We are now around 4 weeks out from Melbourne 70.3 Ironman and I’m in one of the best head spaces I have been in months. Am I as fit and as fast as I’ve ever been? No. But I am happier and more mentally prepared then I have ever been. All these challenges I have faced have given me the ability to understand what this sport requires from me, and what I need to succeed in it in the future.
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