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Cant get rid of this itch! Another zero – Iron Man post

Its another zero – Iron Man post (although I am not quite at the zero stage).   I guess you probably get pretty sick of these threads so hang with me

So why am I here?   I know at some point I am gonna have questions (especially over the format and technicalities of triathalon on which I am currently clueless) and I thought it better to have my own thread where you might know my back ground and aims better (if you read this essay!) Plus – once the goals is written down – its more likely to happen in my experience!

A bit of background on me – Im 33, 6ft, currently 17st 10 with a decent amount of muscle mass.

I have always been active and sporty but have had a weight problem most of my life.   No excuses - Im educated enough to know what I need to do to control my weight  -I just havnt always had the discipline for it.   Im competitive and driven but my chosen sport was lawn bowls(which I played at a decent level).   Unfortunately it is one of those skill based games that requires you to play every day of the year and has quite an unhealthy drinking and lifestyle culture attached…. This saw my weight peak at just over 20.5 stone at around 26-27 years old…I was smoking pretty heavy and in a piss poor state looking back.

I then got into weight training and lost 4.5 stone with no cardio involved at all.   I was training at a mates home gym and when he moved away I stopped training….Then I yo yo’d for a couple of years and crept back up to 19.5st.   I then started doing some short bike rides on a mountain bike, which turned into a commute once or twice a week, which turned into buying a hybrid, joining a club, buying a road bike and then from nowhere came an audacious plan to cycle solo and unsupported from Lands End to John O Groats for cancer research in memory of a good friend.

I had never cycled more than 15 miles and I trained pretty hard for my Lejog and again got down to 16.5 stone and completed it successfully in 2014 raising over £4k.    Then I had nothing to train for so I started to creep the weight back on again.   I eventually decided I needed something else to scare me into action so I looked for the toughest one day cycling challenge I could find and entered coast to coast in a day sportive 2015 …. 150 miles and 15000ft of climbing including Hardnott pass and its nasty brothers.    Once again I trained pretty hard and although I didn’t lose as much weight (I was 17.5 st on the day) I had enough climbing and miles in my legs that I completed it in 14 hours (an hour under my schedule)

Cue the weight creeping back on again over the bowls season. (there is a theme here).    The end result of this experience is that I know I need to be focused on a goal that scares and excites me or I drift.   I currently work 5 days a week and have a second job at the weekend as I have a partner and 4 year old  and we are trying to save for a mortgage while renting.   My jobs are office based, not bad pay and I get looked after very well – so I take no stress or work home with me…. This means I am more than happy to train before work and after….I finish at 4.30pm and have no big commute so I have plenty of evening time free.  My work is 7 miles from home so its rideable, runnable and we have wet room so I could run in my lunch hour too.




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    My partner, child (and parents) are great and recognize I need to have this focused effort in my life or im no good – she is fully supportive in terms of time, money and spirit but equally I do not want to take the piss.  I don’t have much spare time – but I am prepared to make time to pursue this…My technique with cycling was to get up at 4am at the weekend and get a century in before the important women in my life were out of bed!   I am planning to work a second weekend job until May next year so I will have no weekends free during that time.

    So why am I here?  Iron man scares me, but it also interests me massively.  Im 35 in 2 years time and its calling me.   I cant think of any other event that has the same pull for me so I need to pay it attention.    I also now really want to take the weight loss serious – im not drinking much alcohol currently(maybe a bottle of beer or 2 a week and a night out once a month, sometimes less).   I know cycling alone is no longer shifting the weight so cross training and diet is key.

     Im a decent cyclist for a fat lad – I have done back to back, hilly centuries in the last few weeks and im on for 4000miles this year.   I can do 20 miles in an hour solo and im competent in a group.   Ive done 2 150 mile rides this year and multiple centuries.   I train on a single speed and have a brand new genesis steel, equilibrium compact road bike which is my all year around do it all bike.  I am used to cycling for up to 15 hours in one go and I can push myself when required.  


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    I could never run(stitches, shin pain, knee pain – near heart attack)  Well at least I couldn’t whenever I tried before – up until I quit smoking 4 months ago and then tried again last month after the last few years of cycling.   To my surprise I jogged 5 miles at 12min/m and actually enjoyed it.   I realize this is not how you are supposed to start and I don’t tend to carry on like that… I know there are muscles and techniques that must be built slowly to avoid injury.   Since that first run I have completed 5 more runs of the same length with some walking spells added in.   So suddenly im running and Iron man started to come into focus again.   Ive also had my feet checked and got a decent pair of running shoes which is a revelation.

    The reason I have started trying to run is because winter cycling isn’t really my thing – I find the long base miles tedious and faster HIT riding in the cold, wet and dark is dangerous.   I have a turbo but man those things suck.  Plus im hitting a plateau … I need some cross training to help me out and ideally it needs to take less time and faffing than cycling does.   I can still commute on my single speed and do a club ride on a Thursday evening to tick over.  I have a very steep short hill nearby which i used to train for coast to coast in a day …i climb it up to 30 times which gives me over 3000ft of training in a couple of hours.  

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    I havnt swam since passing all my badges as a young’un – From what I understand from tri friends the best thing to do is get lessons straight away so I dont build any bad habits.  I do now live 30 seconds walk from my gym and pool which is another hint that maybe this is time to cross train.

    Again this summer I gained weight during the bowls season (poor diet and lack of focus)  and come September time I was back to 18st 10.    Since then I have made some changes – I am not playing bowls next year.  Firstly I just havnt got the time or money to put into it and mainly because I want to have a full summer at cycling (and maybe running and swimming too)  I am using my fitness pal but not counting my exercise calories (I find myfitnesspal allows me to eat too much if I put exercise in too)  From experience I know if I keep under 1800 per day and do exercise as an extra then I will lose fat…and indeed Ive shifted a  stone since July(in the same 3 month spell that I quit smoking!)

    Oh – and for added incentive (and so you know I am serious) I am doing an unsupported 11 day LEJOG in May next year(this time with 3 more complete newbs who I am helping train)


    Im not really sure what im asking at this stage  - its very early stages of a plan forming.    I just wanted a place to log my thoughts and training (and hopefully progress) and be able to ask questions when needed.

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    Being able to cycle is a big help.

    Basically - if you say 2 hours to do the swim - that should be plausible for 99% of people.

    Then allow 8 hours for the bike - that sounds ok for your ability ?

    And you have 7 hours to do the run. You should be able to walk it in that time - I know I've marched it in less.

    Its not easy - but if youre prepared to put the effort in - you should succeed. Your lejog will give you great stamina.
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    That's interesting when you put it like that ,... Do many people walk the entire marathon?  Im guessing no one plans to walk it but it can easily be a matter of survival...yes 8 hours for the bike sounds very doable - but ive no idea at this stage  what my cycling will be like after a swim.

    Do most people have marathon experience before an Iron man?   For me the bike part doesn't hold much terror -  although its still a big ride and I would like to get much quicker over a century during this training.  Its not like I currently finish a big ride and feel up to running - far from it - I often come home in a bit of a state, but its the bits either side which are complete unknowns and therefore scary.

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    I think its mainly injuries that make people walk all of the run - but the vast majority run/walk.

    The swim shouldn't take too much out of you.

    Most people graduate to IM after marathons etc so most people will have run marathons - but not everyone.

    Losing weight will be a big help for you.
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    Yeah - im really trying on the diet now and im in a weight loss competition with my colleague at work too which is helping us avoid treats in the office.   Luckily I like all the right food (as well as all the wrong stuff) and last time I lost lots of weight I basically cut out the crap and ate a clean diet of meat veg and salad with as few carbs as possible.   Diet is tough because I do not want to dictate to my family what they cook when it is their turn - so I find intermittent fasting the best option.  That lets me eat more calories in one go without going over the top in a day.   Bizarrely cycling made this kind of diet nearly impossible as I just bonk too easy on rides..... so im hoping I can keep to intermittent fasting and calorie control while getting my baby steps with running going.- I find running on an empty stomach much more achievable than cycling

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    Get some swim lessons sorted. Pronto.

    3 * 1 hour sessions (1 as a lesson) will be more than enough.

    Bike. Ticked.  

    Run. Yes you can walk all of the marathon. (I have done so a couple of times, but there were exceptional circumstances)

    Another good cross training is aqua jogging. people may scoff but will give you a workout whilst having virtually zero impact on the legs.

    As for the diet - cut out the "crap" - but you will still need carbs for long stuff or you will bonk... little and often may be a better option ? every one is different. Maybe a chat with a nutritionist could be as important as a swim coach

    Good luck. 

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    How much roughly should I be paying for swimming lessons?... Im  assuming group adult improver lessons with one of the young assistants at our pool are not going to be as good as one on one tuition or a proper coach?   Could the generic group lessons even be harmful to technique?

    Open water worries me and is foreign to me  - Im assuming front crawl is the go to stroke for everyone?   There are loads of guides for couch to 5k and cycling a century but im struggling to find a guide for nothing to distance swimming?   Presumably because its more technique based than just increasing the distance each week?

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    I would recommend reading Don Fink's book Be Iron Fit. It will give you a lot of info to get you heading in the right direction

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    If you can find a tri club in the area - they often do great swim coaching.

    Front crawl is the best - but people do breast stroke it too.

    I went from being able to do a few lengths to swimming for an hour once I'd got it sorted. (to get good you need a lot of practice, but you can get round if you've got a basic grasp of it).

    When are you thinking of doing IM and where ?
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    I was thinking 2017  - with a go at some shorter running and tri distances next summer ...maybe a relay effort too so I can see how things work.

    No idea where I want to do the Ironman .... Wales looked pretty impressive from a mates facebook who completed it... Hilly bike course but that wouldnt put me off necessarily.   I don't fancy Bolton for no other reason than it looks a bit grim!

    From what I understand there are IM distance events and then branded IM?   I don't want a t shirt or a tattoo so I have no preference on which one.... I would like the transition all to be in one place so its not as spread out for me or supporters...and I would like it to be somewhere with a bit of atmosphere and a big event vibe to it ..... im very open to suggestions.  I think it probably needs to be in the UK.... and I live near Oxford so im pretty central to all areas.

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    I'd think the Outlaw would tick all of your boxes. Its a very popular one and sells out almost straight away. Great atmosphere.

    Same distance as the IM branded races - but a lot cheaper as you don't pay for the brand.
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    what time of year do entries open?

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    +1 for Outlaw. 

    And as Cougie says - get down to a local Tri Club for swim coaching


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    Or if you were asking what time entry opens for entering in 2017, I believe it is around September time but I'm not 100% on that

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    What you should do is volunteer for helping out at outlaw so you get an idea of what you're putting yourself up for.
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    Outlaw was my first (and only so far) Iron distance, so I'll +1 that as well. I ended up shuffling (you couldn't call it a run) the first half of the marathon and alternating shuffle and walk for the second, but it was the first time I'd attempted a run over 13 miles. So you certainly don't need to be a trained marathon runner just to finish. I'm hoping to do a bit better next year!

    I'd take run training slow and ramp it up as the weight comes off - its probably the easiest way of injuring yourself, and that drops you back into the I'm-injured-so-I-can't-exercise-so-I'm-putting-on-weight-again cycle. As Cougie says, if you're within range of Nottingham come and volunteer in the summer and you'll learn a lot about what goes on - I certainly wish I had.

    Good luck with the training!

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    I did a count up yesterday, Outlaw 2016 seems to have 50 places left...

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    The OP is looking for 2017... but thats good to know (as I still havent got to the startline of my local IM distance race!)


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    Yeah im looking at 2017 for sure.   My event budget for next year is taken up by LEJOG in April/May.   I think I need at least a year to get 'comfortable' with the running and swimming distances too.   Ironman distance is clearly pretty nasty and much about survival...but I would like to have enough training behind me to know I could have some confidence of getting around in one piece.

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    Don't tell anyone.. but its not as hard as it looks image

    I reckon if you did a 4 week crash swim course, you could get round one in one piece 


    As an aside, Outlaw have just tweeted the same numbers, Alibear, so you could have saved counting image

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    Hi REJ,

    Late to post as I've been away a few days. As has already been said, it sounds like you're already in a pretty good place. The phrase "it's all about the bike" exists for a reason, and it definately sounds like you've got that covered. The only thing I'd say, is be prepared to drop your average speed compared to your normal rides so that you have something left in the tank for the run.

    Sounds like you're also being sensible about the run training, and know you need to build up slowly. I'm one of those that had never run a marathon before the IM (and actually due to injury and walking the whole thing, have still never run a marathon!image). I think it helps with confidence and the run fitness it can provide, but it isn't a necessity - depending on your goal times.

    So that leaves swim, which is where you say you need most help. The first place I'd point you is at the swimsmooth website ( There's plenty of information on there for free on what good technique looks like etc. However, if you find it all a bit scary because you haven't started really yet, then definately get some coaching. There's a couple of swimsmooth coaches that operate in your area that I'm aware of (Abingdon Boys swimming pool / Berinsfield lake), so might be you can contact them and see what they offer for a complete beginner. It might be they're better at developing technique rather than starting from scratch though, but I guess there's no harm asking the question.

    Drop me a PM if you're interested and I can give you some contact details for you to ask some questions etc.

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    Thanks for the swimsmooth link - will definitely investigate that more.


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    Get myfitnesspal downloaded, get some scales and be honest and the wait will come tumbling off mate.

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    Yeah I have it - I find I have to ignore exercise calories on there as it over estimates calories burnt - at the mo I'm just sticking to 1800 calories and not logging exercise
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    Yeah I agree unless I was doing  big session such as over 60 miles on the bikes or over 15 on a run and then I'd eat back some of those calories with something like a smoothie or chocolate milk.

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    Weigh in day and another pound lost takes me to 17.6 (1lb loss in the week).  

    Exercise log for the week =

    Fri - 20 mile hill rep ride with 1500ft elevation (evening)

    Sat- 5 miles run in 57min (morning)

    Sun- 5 miles run in 61min (morning)

    Mon- 5km treadmill + weights

    Tue- 3 mile lunch time walk

    Wed- 1 hour fairly unstructured turbo trainer footy watching session (half hour high cadence/ half grinding a big gear with some messing about with saddle height)

    Thurs- Rest day(fireworks and sausages)

    The running is definitely helping as im pretty sure that those runs would not have been replaced with the bike if they were not there.   The hassle of getting into winter cycling gear for an hour or twos ride is just not worth it.   I need to get back on the bike commute soon but with running being new to me - I am feeling pretty tender at times so I want to have the rest too.

    I also need to get my new bike on the trainer and work on position.   Ideally I need a bike fit but for the time being I am gonna measure up my old bike and mimic all the settings as close as possible with the new one on the turbo.   My old bike was very relaxed geometry for a road bike and while the genesis is by no means very aggressive - I am in a slightly more aero position so there may just be an adjustment period.  I am finding 2 hours at a fast pace on the new bike and my lower back is becoming uncomfortable.   Im pretty sure its a position issue rather than my core breaking down but I havnt managed to rectify it.   It also doesn't seem to be happening on the turbo - its only when im on road that im struggling.


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    There have been bike fits on groupon or amazon local in my area recently (derbyshire) so maybe look out for them in yours.

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