Until two weeks ago, my biggest race was IM 70.3 Wiesbaden in mid August. There were also some important but some shorter sprint and olympic distance events in the months leading up to it. As an end of season dessert, I was also contemplating doing a first Iron Distance in the guise of IM Wales but was uncertain about this.
Then something immensely exciting happened: I won an entry to Challenge Roth. This race is the biggest iron distance triathlon in Europe, it attracts thousands of spectators and competitors each year and is world renowned for its atmosphere. Add the Bavarian atmosphere to the mix and you’ve got an incredible event that sells out each year in less than 3 minutes. In short, it was pretty awesome to have a Roth Slot generously offered to members of Team Zoot Tri Europe who could enter a competition to win it.
This means that in mid July, I’ll start my day with a 3.8 km swim followed by a 180 km bike ride in order to warm-up for a 42 km run. The twist in Roth is that you have to complete the race in less than 15 hours rather than the usual 17 hours in all other iron distances. Yes the course is fast and Roth is the place where world records are beaten but still, it’s two hours less.
Since my longest triathlon so far has been the Alpe d’Huez long distance (2.2 km swim, 115 km cycle and 22 km run), I didn’t just enter the competition without a little bit of thought first. The condensed version of these thoughts being: “I always put Challenge Roth at the top of the list of iron distances I could imagine myself doing” and “I might not be ready today but I can be in four months”.
When I learnt I’d won I first exhausted myself by jumping up and down and running around screaming. But besides feeling immensely privileged and lucky, I still had to do some serious mental work to get over the impending iron distance/marathon combo. Why? Because as a kid I was traumatised by:
a. the story of Pheidippides dying at the end of the 1st ever marathon,
b. Julie Moss’s performance on Big Island in 1982, which I watched as an 11 year old from my tropical island and couldn’t believe that anyone could get themselves in such a state. Unlike others, the images of the end of her race didn’t inspire me at all.
So at a young age I’d promised myself never to do either a marathon or an iron distance… But doing the Alpe d’Huez LD last year made me realise that maybe I’d function “just fine” on longer distances so I’d started revising my views. Also I don’t like self imposed limits. So I decided to fully embrace this incredible opportunity and registered for the race as soon as possible. Signing up made it both irreversible and real!
Once I’d signed up I realised that Challenge Roth would bring a few “firsts” for us and we like these. Mr Tiger will sign up to one of the shorter races before the actual challenge and this will be his first sprint distance. It will also be the first time he spectates an iron distance triathlon, so in his own way he will also be an “iron maiden”. The Cub will also race a kids’ triathlon and it will be her longest swim distance. She’s made a whole training plan to bring herself up to scratch for the big day…
Then my daily routine officially changed. The first thing I did was, of course, getting my hair cut. What’s more rational than that? A symbol of renunciation to outdated ideas… And also very practical when considering how often hair gets wet when you’re training for triathlon.
Then I started addressing various logistical issues as my training needed to shift from a maximum of 14 hours per week to around 20 hours with a lot more hours on weekends.
Having had my hair cut I made a list of things that I’d need to address quickly:
Easy: I dug out the Trisutto iron distance training plan from the Alpe d’Huez last year, and added it to the folder that contained the 70.3 distance Trisutto training plan bought this year for Wiesbaden. I put a divider between the two, so now one half of the folder is Mr Tiger’s and the other full! is mine… Voilà…
Well, not quite. The training plan is 16 weeks, it would take me directly to Roth but I learnt last year that taking some advance on the plan is a very good idea. This gives a bit of a buffer to absorb unexpected issues that are likely to appear at some point. So I counted down from an Olympic Distance I’ll do before Roth and dived straight into the plan on week 3. I reckon I’ll survive.
Again, easy: there’s under four months to the event, it’s long, it’s hard. I’m not willing to take shortcuts (hair cut already done). So I’ll do it all, swim sessions included.
Last year when training for the Alpe d’Huez, I used the excuse that the long distance tri isn’t an iron distance and didn’t follow the plan as strictly as I could have. I remember clearly how it felt to do the Alpe d’Huez felt and I know that this approach just won’t work for Roth. Yes, fear can be an excellent motivation.
With a 9 year old in the house you just don’t impro-squeeze two training sessions on most days and some really long ones on weekends. Understanding on her behalf and planification on mine are key. First Mr Tiger wrote down the weekend training days on the shared family calendar so that everybody could know what to expect and when. Then, under the pretext of an “apéro”, which gathered all members of the household around drinks and peanuts, we held a council of war. I explained to The Cub that I was going to do an Iron Distance. Then Mr Tiger looked suspiciously happy when he announced that from now on, mum would be training all the time and that she wouldn’t be seen.
I’ve also become very antisocial with earlier and earlier bed times!
From now on the home trainer is MINE, all mine. I also renewed my pool membership. Mr Tiger kindly helps getting me out of the house quicker by remembering to charge my GPS.
I’m vegan (most of the time), have been for a long time and find I function better like this. Considering the training load and time constraints, I must get organised if I don’t want to live on bread only. The solution is batch cooking of pulses followed by freezing a portion and preparing the other half so that I have nutritious things for a few days in the fridge. I don’t mind eating the same thing a few days in a row. We also cut down on shopping time by ordering food online once a month and having it delivered. It all works.
This year I wasn’t planning on spending too much on gear. Racing on a long course, in conditions I’ve never experienced puts a new twist on this situation. We made a prioritised list of things and put it in the training folder, in case the tri-fairy stumbles on it:
I’m also thinking about racing shoes for the marathon. The shoes will need the right cushioning for me around the metatarsals and also should be wide enough. I prefer to run without socks so I hesitate between a pair of Makais or my current favorites: the Solanas.
I had already a few races in my scheduled but now find that I’ve got a perfect excuse to sign up to a few more. These extra races would act as stepping stones and milestones but above all, the real reason for signing up for these is that it’s fun and I really like racing. So I’m now looking at a few extras.
That’s about it so far, being back on a big schedule is fun and exciting… How does training affect your day to day life?