Its been over two months since Ironman 70.3 Western Sydney 2019, and this is the first time I’ve wanted to start writing about it. I think the delay has been purely based on my disappointment at my race result, combined with the need to take a rest from 5 months of intense training, amongst everything else – family life, work commitments, social engagements, and a nice little trip away over Christmas.
As of my previous post, Ironman70.3 Western Sydney, 2018 was the year I completed my first Ironman70.3 and I was very happy to have completed the event, albeit I knew I could achieve a better result with more rigorous and structured training. I achieved a result of 5:27:50 in this race, and I was looking forward to improving on this result in 2019!
Since the race in 2018, we have had the arrival of our daughter, Lilly. An unbelievable experience, and besides breathing, possibly the most natural thing I can do as a human being, having a child.
Having a baby in the house has obviously changed the way we live slightly. Priorities have shifted quite dramatically in fact. Less time to spend on our own hobbies and interests, and more time spent getting Lilly to sleep, feeding, changing nappies, dressing her, chasing her around, and everything else. But most of all, watching her grow up and enjoying family life. Finding the time to train for endurance events has certainly been impacted, but I have just become better at managing my time. I’ve also become good at not do things that don’t get me to where I want to be in 12 months, 2 years, or 5 years time. Drinking alcohol, for example, now a waste of my time, no interest in going out drinking anymore. It just isn’t going to get me where I want to be. Simple.
My point here is that a lot has changed in the past 12 months since I completed my first Ironman70.3. Being competitive and ambitious and wanting to compete in endurance events is tough when you’re a father with a full time job and no family on this side of the world to help with childcare, but its always possible. Perhaps other fathers in a similar position can relate to this post. Maybe it will enlighten you or give you some ideas on how you can work towards taking part in endurance events. Maybe 90% will sound like bullsh*t, and the other 10% is something you can apply to your training, your week, your life. Whatever the case, I hope you can take something from it.
Its never easy, but its always possible!
Training with a baby
I’m just going to take a working day out of my week and dissect it a little for you, so you can compare your day and see if it correlates at all. Below, was a typical Wednesday throughout my 70.3 training between July 2019 – November 2019.
Wednesday: 4:30am wake up – shower, breakfast, out of the door by 5:10am. Bus into the city at 5:17. Arrive at work at 6:00am. Work 6am-2pm. Walk to the swimming pool at Hyde Park arriving at 2:30pm, in the pool by 2:45pm. 1 hour session – back out by 4pm. On the bus back home and out of the city by 4:20 – home by 4:50pm. Straight to pick up Lilly from day care. Home with Lilly by 5:30pm. Feed Lilly while Jordanna makes her way home. Spend time with Lilly and make dinner while Jordanna exercises. 6:30/7pm bath time. 7:30pm baby bed time (often could take 30-45 minutes to get her to sleep, and often still does). Eat dinner 8-8:30pm. 30-60 minutes to wind down before going to bed ourselves. Repeat.
If we take the above and factor in how many times Lilly wakes up in the night screaming and crying, that’s pretty rough. And no, nobody has to have a baby and go through all that parenthood brings, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that its exhausting at times. All the more reason to have your days structured as lean as possible to allow you to maximise your output in the time you have available for yourself.
It is hard, however, when you’re physically and mentally drained from work knowing that you still need to run a 10km tempo session in the evening once you’ve picked baby up from day care and started prepping for dinner. Its certainly important to understand how you’re feeling and knowing when you need to take some rest and recovery. Plenty of sleep and rest, when possible, is essential for any athlete, let alone time poor fathers, and the like, who need to be focused on their day job and family before going out running for an hour, even 20 minutes!! I definitely made myself a little unwell at times by not resting enough during the training period before this race. Rest being something I’ve learnt to incorporate into my training and event prep moving forward.
The intensity was tough. It certainly wasn’t easy to train at such an intense rate, months at a time, but it helped me to become more efficient and effective with my time. Don’t get me wrong, we still found ourselves watching Netflix at times on an evening to switch our brains off; we’re not machines. But, if we take a look over the course of 4+ months of training, this was pretty rare. To be honest, I don’t really care about watching TV, spending hours scrolling through social media, or watching movies. I become disinterested pretty quickly and I’d rather be doing something more productive. But that’s just me. No wasted hours (or as little wasted as possible).
I’m not going to waste peoples time sugar coating everything, trying to make training, family life, work and everything look perfect like all these Instagram fitness influencers portray. Training for an Ironman with a baby in the household is really, really, really, really f*cking hard. Reading this blog may seem like its not that tough, perhaps that’s because I’m purposely trying to give you a bit of insight into how you could do it, or maybe its just genuinely not hard for you, I don’t know. I guess a lot of it comes down to your own situation. What freedom you have through your job, maybe you drive to work, do you live in a city or a suburb, do you have grandparents/family living locally, the list goes on. All kinds of factors can influence your ability to train for an endurance event. Nevertheless, training is still hard work. If you want to participate in endurance events you have got to alter your mindset and decide what your biggest priorities are so that you can filter out all the unnecessary sh*t and get on with smashing out training in preparation for the big day.
Preparation is key
Let me just be clear. Just because I’m writing this blog and giving you guys advice about how to train effectively while maintaining a healthy family life and optimising your time, it doesn’t mean everything runs smoothly for me 100% of the time. Far from it.
To be honest, I give myself a rough training structure week by week based on what I know I can fit into my week. Low and behold it gets to Tuesday and I’ve planned a long swim, but for whatever reason I have to stay at work for an extra hour or two and now I’ve lost two hours and I’m in a rush to pick Lilly up from day care before making dinner, and I’m now swapping my swim session for an evening run.
We have to remember that you can prepare as much as you like, you can have everything detailed down by the minute.. BUT obstacles do get in your way at times, it just happens, f*uck it, you work with what you’ve got. However, being prepared and then having to alter that preparation in some way is far better than not having a plan or being prepared at all, right? So, when something does get in the way and everything doesn’t go to plan, its important that we don’t stress, we relax, and find a solution to the problem as quickly as possible. The more time you spend sobbing about how you couldn’t get to your swim session, the more time wasted because you’re too busy wiping your tears, picking your nose, and making dumb excuses. There has to be a solution. If human beings can send guys into space and land them on the moon, I’m pretty sure you can figure out an alternative way to get 30-60minutes of training in. Get home, go running, job done, no excuses.
The week leading up to Ironman70.3 Western Sydney was certainly not my best week. It was a taper week, of course, so training wasn’t particularly intense, but I just had a busy long week at work. 4:30am wake ups every day, broken sleep, long days on my feet, training. I was just very tired all week. Even packing the car on the Friday afternoon felt rushed and tiresome. I was hoping for a relaxed week of getting everything ready for race weekend. Friday evening came round and Lilly was a little under the weather. We were staying in a two bed cottage with my training partner, Hugo, and Grace. I had nowhere to sleep besides the bedroom with Lilly. Night one – terrible night sleep.
Up and out early in the morning to take a look around the venue, warm up swim, view the course, and all the other race weekend sights. Very busy day walking around, not ideal when I’m preparing for a race the next morning. I also didn’t eat very much during this time, another error. All my own fault, not good enough. Poor preparation for the day before the race.
That evening, Lilly was still unwell, and slightly worse than the night before, fever, irritable, AWAKE. Another night of poor sleep, but this time I had to be up and at it by 3:30am to set off to the Regatta Centre. I could already feel that all my preparation over the past 5 months was becoming more and more irrelevant all because of the last 48 hours. I was going to have to dig in hard today, harder than I originally thought.
We arrived at the Sydney International Regatta Centre at around 5am. Before we began our day of mental and physical pain, we still needed to rack our bikes, pick up our timing chip, and get settled and warmed up ready to start at 6:45am. 1hour & 45 minutes sounds like a long time when you’re just trying to complete three tasks, but when you have to think about traffic, hundreds of other people trying to do the same thing at once, nerves, warming up etc its nice to have that time before hand just to gather your thoughts and try to relax.
Hard to stay relaxed when all your training has come to this moment. Athletes train for months for one event and it is of course often their full time profession, I imagine they’re used to all the race day action. But for us guys that work full time while training, taking care of the family, and everything else, it’s a f*cking big deal standing there waiting for your wave to be called up to start the race. How many times have you woken up at 4:30am to go for a run, go to work, take on a 90km ride, or swim for an hour in the pool after a long day at work??? Today is the day you’ve been talking about to your mates for the past 4 months. All you can do now is give it everything you’ve got.
Our wave got called and we ran down to the start line. We were sent off into the water in pairs, running down the walkway and diving into the lake. I had a good start to the swim, although I didn’t feel relaxed until around 1km in. Compared to last year, I was flying. No one seemed to be going past me, I just kept overtaking people, but I still didn’t feel that great. I think it was perhaps just pre race nerves knowing that I had to perform, but my prep over the past couple of days just wasn’t up to scratch.
I left the water, dizzy and tired, but I knew I had beaten my time from last year. Great result. I ran into the transition area, found my bike and got changed and on the bike as quickly as possible; again, faster than the previous year.
As soon as I started riding I had an immediate hit of lethargy in my legs. I just couldn’t get going at a pace I knew was competitive. After around 2-3km’s I had already begun cramping in both calves, and into my quads – disaster. I was extremely frustrated at this point as I obviously knew I still had roughly 3 hours worth of riding left at this pace. I had to just keep pushing through, slow down my pace even further and try and take on as much nutrition as possible while riding to see if that helped. I clearly hadn’t eaten or rested well over the past couple of days.
The rest of the bike course was just agony, cramping, lower back pain, and the thought of not beating my time from last year rolling around my head for 3 hours. That’s tough. I finally make it back on to the 5km home stretch ready to throw by bike in the lake on arrival, allowing it to become part of the regatta lake scenery. I got to the bike finish, ran through transition and just got too it on the run course. Here’s where I had to regain some time.
After 1km my whole right leg cramped up. From my calf, quadricep, hamstring, to my hip flexor, I just couldn’t run. As it was so bad, my first thought was that I was going to have to limp the whole 21km’s – that was going to be a long long course. Again, I decided to walk while taking on a bit more nutrition and wait for the pain to ease off before I would start running again. I did just that, and after roughly 5 minutes of walking, I was back up to race pace, now I had to pick the pace up even further.
Fortunately, the cramp never came back throughout the course and I was able to hold a pretty strong pace throughout. Of course, the run didn’t come without any further pain. There are plenty of people walking at this point and my legs did feel to be getting progressively more and more stiff by the minute, but I didn’t want to start walking when I had already lost so much time.
If anyone has done the Ironman70.3 Western Sydney in Penrith you’ll obviously know what the run course is like. After around the 11/12km mark you begin your course around the regatta lake itself. The cruel thing about this is that you run around the lake thinking the end is in sight, you can see the finish line in the distance and you are thrilled! But that’s only your first lap. The course loops you back round to where you came from to send you on another lap of the lake before finally entering the home straight.
I entered the red carpet frustrated, angry, pissed off. Jordanna was taking pictures of me running through the finish line. Last year I waved and smiled at completing the race. This year, I couldn’t look. Very disappointed at the finish line. I didn’t beat my overall time from last year and I just couldn’t accept it. I did, however, beat my run time by 5 minutes, which was a plus.
In the grand scheme of things, from a personal perspective you always feel what you do as a person is normal and that everyone could do it. So, when I finished the race but didn’t get the time I wanted, I was disappointed because I felt like completing a 70.3 was an average thing to do. But realistically, its not. Its massive. I trained for a long time while being a father and partner, while working full time, living on the other side of the world to any family, amongst everything else that life brings. That’s fucking tough, and I’m really pleased that I have now completed two Ironman70.3’s.
One of the biggest things for me when training for, and completing, an event such as this is that it allows me to feel like an athlete again. Its been nearly 10 years since I finished my career in professional football, having spent the best part of 10 years of my life from 12 years old to 20 years old thinking I was going to spend the rest of my life in professional sport. Completing an Ironman, Marathon, 10km race, or an open water swim allows me to feel like an athlete again, and that’s a pretty nice feeling. Perhaps you want to do the same?
Please do not think that doing all this is easy! It is not. You have to WANT to do it. I WANT to do the training and compete, but I don’t go out drinking and partying every weekend either – because I don’t fucking like drinking (anymore), so I don’t waste my time with it. I spend time training and with Jordanna & Lilly.
I speak to plenty of people and everyone seems to think they would ‘never’ be able to complete an Ironman. BULLSH*T. Of course you can, you just have to want to and be prepared to stop doing pointless shit that doesn’t get you to where you want to be.