220 column 4

So in 3 days time I’m racing Ironman New Zealand….

Am I ready? Not sure.

Am I excited? Yes.

Am I nervous? Always.

Do I feel underprepared? Definitely!

I entered this race a while ago. My boyfriend coaches the New Zealand kayak slalom paddlers so was going to be ‘down under’ for January and February. So I figured it was a great opportunity to miss the grey UK February, do some training in the sun and finish off the trip with a ‘holiday Ironman’ at the end. New Zealand is one of my favourite countries and I’ve wanted to race here ever since I came over here on a training holiday in 2008. If you like dramatic scenery and the outdoors put New Zealand on your bucket list. Each time I visit I tell myself I should emigrate!

The trip was always going to primarily be a training trip in the sun with a hit out at the end. But, as fate would have it, when I boarded the plane 4 weeks ago, having received a steroid injection into my ankle 6 hours before, my thoughts were that it was just going to be a training trip. I picked up an injury after Kona that stopped me running until December. Then, just after Christmas I picked up another one. And this one stopped me running until. Well, until 2 weeks ago. I kept thinking (hoping) it was better, only to try a short jog and end up back where I started. I kept telling myself ‘you can race if you can run for 6 weeks before’. Then I changed it to 4 weeks. And when I flew out, still not running and with a ban on trying for at least 10 days after the injection, I’d kind of come to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be able to race.

But 2 weeks ago I tried running again. And you know what – it didn’t hurt. I was tentative at first. 20 minutes, then 30 minutes, eventually working my way up to my longest run of 10 miles 4 days ago. So now I find myself lounging around in the Hilton in Taupo, getting ready for an Ironman that 2 weeks ago I wasn’t sure I’d be able to start. Ultimately I guess I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to do a race I’ve always wanted to do when I’m staying less than an hour away.

Yesterday I made the mistake of adding up my run mileage. Not a good confidence booster…Miles run since Kona: 250. On average less than 12 miles a week. And most of that has been at snail pace. In fact I wouldn’t say I’ve done a single run ‘session’. Just some jogging, all of which was much slower than my normal ironman pace.

Am I crazy even considering racing? Perhaps. Yet on the other hand, I’ve always said ‘it’s better to try and fail than to wonder ‘what if?’ If running doesn’t hurt I kind of figure, what is there to lose? What’s the worst that can happen? Ironman marathons are never easy. They always hurt. And if I don’t race I know damned well I’d end up wondering forever what would have happened.

Well, deep down I know what’s the worst that can happen. That I set myself back by flaring up an injury that hasn’t really settled down yet. So I’ve set myself some ground rules. Easier said than done. I know there will be an element of psychology to deal with – I may end up overanalyzing normal Ironman aches and pains and attributing them to injury (perhaps more likely if I’m having a bad day). On the other hand, adrenaline and overexcitement may mean I convince myself that the injury isn’t hurting and I run through the pain causing more serious damage with more long-term effects (I guess this scenario is perhaps more likely if I’m having a good day). So I need to set myself some rules that allow me to pull out if the injury is causing problems, but equally that don’t give me an excuse to quit when things start to get tough. It is an Ironman so of course things are going to hurt!

If I’m honest, I’m kind of intrigued to see what I’ll be able to do. How long does muscle memory last? How far can grit and determination get you? Can 2 hours on the stairmaster replace long runs (f you’re wondering I did actually do that twice and I promise you it was harder than any long run)? And equally, will I be able to stick to the rules I make myself. I’ve never pulled out of a race before and I don’t intend to now. Yet equally, I hope I’m mature enough not to do myself any long-term damage just to escape a DNF. It’s a tricky one – getting my head ready to race rather than participate, yet keeping at the back of my mind some rules that will safeguard me if things do go tits up.

I’m kind of excited to be entering the unknown again. I feel no pressure to prove myself any more – I did that last year. Who knows, perhaps I’ll surprise myself? In which case, my next column will be about training for an Ironman without running….!



As you might have guessed this was written a while ago. And as it turned out I could get round an ironman marathon with minimal running but blimey, it hurt!

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