I'm an Ironman (x 2)

Last Sunday was the toughest physical endurance challenge of my life. 

Two years ago I flew to sunny Mexico and competed in my first Ironman - on the island of Cozumel. It was 35 degrees, flat and windy. Shortly after I finished it, I decided I'd one day like to complete Ironman Wales in my home county of Pembrokeshire. So on a winters evening in January this year me and my best mate Jo signed up for the race. Along with my husband Ross and my little sister Jaz. The four of us didn't quite know what we had got ourselves in for but trained hard, with grit, tears, sweat and blood. This determination got us to the finish line last Sunday but not without a battle on our hands. 

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.
— Isak Dinesen

In classic Pembrokeshire style we were treated to a colourful forecast to say the least.

 

Throughout the day we experienced gusts of up to 40 mph from the WSW (head wind to Angle and tail wind to Narberth) an horizontal rain. There were oil spills and other challenges along the way - in the chaos of transition I left my swimming ear plugs in for the first 10 miles, on the 2nd loop of the 112 mile bike I got a flat tyre which I sorted but without co2 or a track pump didn't get the pressure above 50psi... and I threw down ibuprofen and paracetamol to ease the pain of my left IT band on the marathon.  Although I did my first Ultra in June, my self inflicted knee injury meant that for the 5 weeks leading up to Ironman I didn't run more than 7 miles. Not ideal in preparing for a marathon. 

They say if you finish between 11pm and midnight then you finish in heroes hour because you have been going the longest. Our race started at 7am and I crossed the finish line after 16 hours and 6 minutes... at 11:05pm which I guess makes me a hero??! Nice. I was pretty beat coming into the 'Athletes Village' and was treated to a 10 min sports massage which I could have enjoyed all night, a hot chocolate, a slice of pizza and a hug from Ross and eventually my sister too. 

Our fans lined the course in most villages we passed on the bike ride. Seeing familiar faces peppered between crowds of strangers all shouting "Go Alice Go, you got this, you're going to be an ironman, well done Alice, keep pushing Alice, nearly there Alice, one more lap Alice.... Alice Beese You Are An Ironman".... it was all super awesome. 

Why did I do it? You don't get many opportunities in life where you push yourself really, really hard. Most things come easy and you float along on the comfortable day to day hum drum of life. When you sign up for something like this all your free time goes into training - morning sessions in the pool, long days on the bike and short, medium and long runs - sometimes fast sometimes steady. You work so hard for something and then you test what your body can achieve - and if you let it, it will often do much more than you might ever have imagined possible. 

So much of the Ironman journey is a mental one - and 15% of the competitors didn't finish the race last Sunday, not surprising given it's the 10th toughest Ironman course in the world and the worst conditions they've seen in the 7 year history. Still I made it to the finish line with 55 minutes to spare before the midnight cut off and felt so proud to receive my medal - couldn't bear the weight of it though what with the rash on my neck from the swim and my weary legs. 

 

I did a 38.5 mile running race. It was called the Mozart 100

I was at my girls weekend at I managed to rope in my mate Zennor to coming to Salzburg in Austria with me to run a 38.5 mile race through the mountains. We both did it and finished with smiles on our faces. It was an awesome experience. Running is amazingly simple - one foot in front of the other, pump your arms and off you go.

 

You can run half a mile, a half marathon or run around the world. Hell I never thought I would be running 38.5miles but it's amazing what the body is capable of. And let's face it, at my novice level i didn't run the whole thing. You power walk up the side of the mountains, jog along the top and run down the other side, and do it again. And again. All the way to the finish. There were regular aid stations serving all sorts of calorific, salty treats. I remember reaching the point where we had run a marathon. And still had a half marathon to go. 

Looking very happy here

Looking very happy here

I wore my little light weight back pack with a water bladder filled to the brim, I had snacks and a sun hat. My Saucony running shoes were amazing and although I had compeed on my arches I was surprised not to get one blister unlike poor Zennor who got a corker. 

Ironman is in September. Exciting times. 

Here we are crossing the finish line, 11 hours later

Here we are crossing the finish line, 11 hours later

Training program

We have been following a format a little bit like this (sometimes more // sometimes less) 

Day 1  - 90 minute Bike + 60 minutes Cross fit

Day 2  - 45 minute Swim + 60 minute Run 

Day 3 - Rest day 

Day 4 - 60 minutes Hot Yoga 

Day 5 - 60 minutes Cross Fit 

Day 6* - 5 hour bike (70 + miles)

Day 7* - 1 hour swim, 2 hour run 

***Repeat*** 

* these started off much smaller distances and have been building over the last few months. 

We started training on July 19th with four months before the race. It feels like plenty of time. We feel like we've certainly been getting stronger. If we had had more time we mightn't have taken the training as seriously. 

I've not been really taking it that seriously to be honest with regards to making the goals specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time based. I just sort of go out, try hard and try harder, faster or longer distances the next time. If I'd had a personal trainer keeping an eye on me I would imagine my training would have been worlds apart with specific things to work on in each session. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Chrissy Wellington's book A Life Without Limits. Totally awesome read for anyone and everyone. In it she talks about the training sessions being slow & steady (for distance training), race pace (faster but not total burn out) and faster than race pace (all out short, sharp training sessions). 

Given that you are on your own during the race with no music it is helpful to have a wild imagination and a memory bank full of ideas to help you keep going. Families, friends, places and faces, music, smells and sights you've seen. 

I'm looking forward to seeing how all of this training comes together on race day. November 29th. Less than 40 days from now. 

The talk...

In my last blog post I talked about the event that inspired me to enter an Ironman in Mexico next month. 

Here is the actual talk that made me want to do it. 

In his talk he says we all act like we think we have loads of time. We think we know when we are going to go. But we don't. We act like we have a sand clock of time left on earth. 

But we don't. And he started to point at people in the audience...

"Do you have a sand clock?"

"Do you?"

"Do you?"

"I don't". 

"What would you do if your time clock said you had a year left to live? Or a month? Or a week? What would you do differently? or the same? What if you only had a day?" Now that's something.

Here's the talk in all it's glory. 

"Pick Yourself" Isra García is a marketeer and a word reference advisor for disrupting innovation and business transformation for the new economy. Isra shares his deepest secrets on how he decided to turn around his life when he was 24 when Isra took the courage to change his present and move from a 12 hours job at a textile factory to the UK. Becoming nowadays a leader on social media thinking, Internet, innovation, productivity and lifestyle. Don't miss the philosophy he applied to live as intense as he works, pushing his abilities far away from his limits.

WARNING: It make inspire you to take on a challenge that will change your life!

 

"IRONMAN COZUMEL. NOVEMBER. YOU CAN DO IT. MAKE IT HAPPEN"

IRONMAN COZUMEL. NOVEMBER. YOU CAN DO IT MAKE IT HAPPEN
— Isra Garcia

Isra Garcia was a speaker at The Do Lectures Costa Rica. 

I watched his talk and was super inspired (this is not at all surprising given that's the whole point of the Do lectures)... so, I went up to him afterwards. 

"Isra, Hey, I'm Alice, thank you so much for the awesome talk. I've been thinking of doing an Ironman for a while now with my husband, it's been on our mind... I just wanted to let you know that I am all fired up after listening to your story" 

"When you do it?" With a very strong spanish accent. 

" I don't know" 

"Ironman Cozumel. November. Do it. Make it happen". Period. I was like what, that's it. No discussion as to whether we could do it in time, no background check, just do it. 

He suggested I go home and with in a week, buy two tickets, one for me and one for Ross to Ironman Cozumel. 

So that was it. I told everyone around me for the rest of the weekend about the conversation I'd had with Isra. Was he for real? Could I actually do it? 

This was my face when I shook hands with Isra and told him I was going to do it. 

And so that was it. I went home. Told Ross what had happened and with in a week we had signed up for Ironman Cozumel in Mexico on November 29th.