Hi, my name is Imogen Inglis. I am 28 years old and one day, maybe a little naively, I decided to take on Challenge Wanaka Ironman. I have always liked the idea of doing an ironman and ticking it off my bucket list, the actual concept of completing the training to ensure I was “match day fit” wasn’t even a consideration.
I have done a few marathons and the Kepler Challenge. However, I have quickly learnt that training for an ironman is quite a different kettle-of-fish. Now, approximately 2 months out from D-Day, I believe the rumours. The social life and weekend sleep-ins are out the window. I have a cupboard full of training equipment, I see the sun rise most days and I am chronically tired (some may say grumpy and emotional). New traits that haven’t been appreciated by family and friends.
The professionals say there are three important pillars to completing an Ironman: Training, Sleep and Nutrition. Sacrifice I think should be included as the fourth. Below is what I have learnt so far about these pillars. Essentially the same principals apply to any sporting quest, so hopefully the thoughts that follow might help you with your own endeavours.
Make life easy. Get a coach. I spent hours trying to figure out my training schedule for the coming week by looking up different websites whilst also juggling a full time job and general day to day living. In the early stages of training I had the mentality of “more is better” and was out there day after day smashing myself. Now I have a coach that does it all, he is the professional who ensures the correct training is done to prevent injury, optimises each session to get the best results and essentially will make sure I have done what is required to get over the finish line. All I have to do is tick the boxes each day by doing what is prescribed. Of the three disciplines to juggle and master: swimming is where I needed to seek further help to improve my technique.
Maximize it. Sleep whenever you can, especially on big training weeks. It is hard when working and trying to fit in training. Some days I will be up at 5am and in bed by 11pm. It is short lived, you will be tired, but sleep is your friend and it is important for recovery, so try to get as much of it as you can.
Practice makes perfect. Training nutrition or even race day nutrition isn’t something I have never really placed any emphasis on during my little flirts with various running events. I have always managed to get through by loading up on gels on the day. It was during the Kepler Challenge that I experienced the consequences of bad race day nutrition and realised that “on the day nutrition” isn’t the correct way. Approximately 45km deep in the Kelper I was overcome with excruciatingly severe stomach cramps that left me crippled over a tree thinking “this was it”! Obviously, I winced through and got to the end.
Practicing race day nutrition regularly is very important, and knowing exactly what type of nutrition you should be consuming at the different stages of your training day is crucial, to not only your performance but also your recovery. Again, seeking guidance is extremely beneficial – you simply don’t know what you don’t know. Trust me; you don’t want to end up crippled over a tree mid race. I sure as hell don’t want to be crippled up over one after the sacrifices I have made to date.
Get used to saying no. I hate saying no to things, especially if it means a night out or weekend away with the girls. But the reality is there are limited hours in a day, especially when juggling a full time job and fitting in a double training session. Be prepared to spend your day focusing on training, sleeping and nutrition… that plus working, doing your washing and other general household chores will consume all your available time. The last thing on the list includes a wine with friends. If you’re going to commit to an ironman then commit and put it first and ignore the excuses not to train. Doing an ironman is also expensive, I thought I would save money by not going out, but instead I am spending on bikes, wetsuits, swimming training, warm up events … it goes on and on. For me a real sacrifice has been how and what I am spending my money on.
So long story short, the decision to take on the ironman has also meant taking a more professional approach to everything, sacrificing the social life, waking at hours I never thought I would, mastering the art of power napping, buying bikes and wet-suits opposed to dresses and shoes, getting a good training program and most importantly getting nutritional advice to ensure I focus on consuming the right food to fuel my body.
I may sound a little negative, but an ironman isn’t designed to be easy, it is a huge mental and physical challenge (as I subsequently found out), and knowing what I now know, I would still definitely take it on.
Make sure you keep posted, during the countdown to race day I will continue to share the lessons I learn along the way.