Top 5 tips to making your Ironman a reality

Racing your own First Time Ironman

The Ironman is a 3.86km swim, 180.25km bike ride and a marathon raced in that order without a break. I pondered for 10 years about entering the Ironman, but my fear of not being good enough proved to be a  great  mental block. I remember the day I made the decision to overcome my fear. It took one second and started an incredible journey all the way to the finish line of the Switzerland Ironman.

 

Since completing the Ironman I have encouraged, empowered and assisted several first time Ironman athletes to complete what they call the greatest achievement of their lives. My book, First Time Ironman was published this year www.physical-edge.com and my blog was voted Top 10 Blog by Newtotri.com.

 

Completing an Ironman is more than a physical race. I learnt how to develop an athletic body and transform my nutritional habits. I developed a strong mind-set to win and mastered how to achieve unimaginable goals. I created empowering new beliefs which changed my life forever.

 

Top 5 tips to making your Ironman dreams a reality

 

Making the decision

Nothing is worth starting until you have entered the race. Once you have entered you will feel a weight lifted off your chest, as the decision has been made. I can guarantee everything will then fall into place.

 

Team is everything

Having a team of professional coaches work for you is like having a family supporting you along every step of the way. Working with humans and not computer programs gives you better flexibility with training, as it can be adapted to what is happening in your life on a day to day basis i.e. work, family, injuries, illness. Most people like talking to people when things really matter and training is no different

 

Family, Friends and charity

Your training is your own responsibility, but when it comes to motivation, fun and inspiration  on the day of the race, family, friends and having a greater cause to race for, is everything. Hearing cheers and giving high ‘5’s will boost your spirits for another lap of the race course. People will want to support you on your challenge and a charity helps those people who cannot be at the race feel involved.

 

Passion

Let passion for your new challenge drive you to learn and enjoy your sport even more. Talk to other triathletes, buy good quality equipment and be disciplined in training. The race will become a proud part of your identity. Capture the race with photographs and video.

 

Visualisation

Successful athletes use visualisation to enhance the enjoyment and success of any race. You can work with a mental conditioning coach to visualise your entire race; from pre-race, race and post-race. You can imagine yourself getting through the tough times in the race; what you say to yourself, what you do and what it feels like to get through it.

 

Use these top 5 tips to race an Ironman successfully. Remember to enjoy the journey and if you would like help to race your first Ironman get in touch with us at www.physical-edge.com and don’t forget to read First Time Ironman also available at www.physical-edge.com. Remember: Dreams = Action = Life.

 

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Interview: Rhys Chong about First Time Ironman book

First things first – completing an Ironman Challenge is no New Years Resolution. When did you suddenly realise that you wanted to become an Iron Man, after no prior training?
 
The Ironman had been a dream of mine for 10 years. The distances in an Ironman seem impossible but this made it more exciting. I saw athletes in there 70’s and 80’s complete the race, athletes with half a functioning kidney fight to the end, and amputee athletes limp over the finish line.  I keep videos of these hero’s on my website http://www.physical-edge.com They all inspired me and I decided it was time for me to step up and stop thinking about it. I had a friend who became my coach and he promised to help me. Knowing I had his support, I made the decision to do the Ironman and entered. 
 
What do you think planted the seed of the challenge in your mind?
 
I worked in a gym as a Physiotherapist and there were two personal trainers who did Ironman. I already wanted to do an Ironman, but with their coaxing and hearing their stories the idea grew more and more. The more questions I asked them the more I got excited about the idea.
 
Why did the Ironman challenge draw you in?
 
It was a challenge beyond my comprehension. It seemed totally irrational and inhuman to do, and yet by watching the youtube videos (www.physical-edge.com) I was captured by the enormity of the task. Watching  Ironman athletes cross the finish line in total euphoria was incredible. I wanted to do that and I wanted to be an Ironman.
 
You’ve had – and have – an amazing career in physiotherapy – you recently started your own physiotherapy business in 2007 Why that line of work?
 
I believe people are gifted with certain natural talents which do or do not fit with his/her chosen career. If you can find out what you do best and choose a career which matches your talent, then everyday you wake up and are excited about going to work. I had wanted to be a Physiotherapist since I was 12 years old. I naturally enjoy being around people and hearing how well they are doing in life. I have good sense of touch which is important in Physiotherapy and I love sport. These Olympics are dangerous as I find myself glued to the television all day.  I enjoy helping others and having my own business allows me to be creative in how I work as a Physiotherapist. I was going to be an Artist or a Physiotherapist, so having a creative outlet is even more fulfilling. You can see a video on http://www.physical-edge.com which gives more insight into my passion for Physiotherapy.
 
How did your line of work influence your decision (and success) in completing the Switzerland Ironman?
 
I have treated professional athletes in sport and work with amateur athletes. I have a passion for endurance events like the Ironman and Tour de France. In these events there are many injuries. I like the “buzz” of having an injury to heal in a tight time schedule, as happens when an event is coming up. Endurance athletes often get injured when they are doing their longest training sessions. This can be 3-4 weeks away from a big race. This is when the pressure is on to perform as a Physiotherapist. My contact with endurance athletes excited me and increased my desire to race an Ironman.
 
 
How did you stay focused and commit to the challenge once it had been finalised? 
 
The best way to commit to anything is “burn the bridge behind you”. Once I had made the decision to enter the Ironman I entered online immediately. I made the commitment by paying £450 and registering for my first Ironman. The bridge was burned and I could not go back. Once I was committed, all I could do was look forward and find a way to make it all happen. I think the greatest driver to keeping me focussed was the fear of not finishing the Ironman.  Everytime I thought about the race it frightened me and spurred me on to train and stay focussed.
 
What drove you to complete the challenge?
 
Every Ironman believes he/she will do anything to finish the race. I was committed 100% to get to the finish line no matter what happened. The pain was bad in the last 20km of the race but I was not going to stop running. I think this belief is developed in long hours of solo training in the cold and wet months of winter. I forced myself to train hard in these conditions and if I had made this sacrifice then I was going to get to the finish line of the Ironman.
 
What were you thinking from one stage to the next?! Did your mind wonder to what you were going to have dinner, or did it focus on the pain?!
 
My mind was focussed on my race plan. I had worked with a mental conditioning coach prior to the race. I had created a visualisation of my entire race, including breakfast and celebrating at the end. It is a type of hypnosis and I knew exactly what I had to do for each stage of the race. I only focussed on what I had to do next, so very short term. If I did have a moment to relax e.g. on the bike leg, I took the opportunity to enjoy the moment and really appreciate the fact I was actually racing the Ironman. I wanted to enjoy the race and capturing the scenery in Switzerland was breath taking.
 
Your words when you crossed the finish line?
 
YES!!!!!!! I was euphoric. I sounded like I was about to charge the enemy in war. The crowds were cheering and I was ecstatic. I screamed a war cry all the way down the finishers shoot to the finish line.
 
Was there ever a moment during the challenge when you worried about the lengths you were stretching your body?
 
At one stage on the bike my left knee kept subluxing, as the muscles on the outside of my leg had got so tight it was pulling my knee cap laterally with each stroke of the pedal. It was sharp pain and I had to keep my leg moving in a straight line to control the knee cap. I was worried about running the marathon next.
 
Your book ‘First Time Ironman’ launched this month – a tick in the box, life long ambition, or did you write it ‘just because…?’ 
 
I wrote the book because I now help business men and woman, entrepreneurs and celebrities train and complete an Ironman in 1 year. The book was designed to give first time Ironman athletes an appreciation of training for the race and the race itself. I wanted to know what it was like to train and race an Ironman and I know others would to.
 
What would you like your readers to gain from it? 
 
I want readers to see that racing an Ironman is achievable even with running your own business and having relationships. If you commit to racing the Ironman the rest will fall into place. It is key to have a great team of coaches and medical staff to help you. The book gives you an insight into how I used my team not only to have a great race but also a fantastic experience. 
 
How did you find running your business whilst simultaneously writing your book?
 
It was tough at times but being super planned made all the difference. I worked with my coach on a weekly basis to get the timing right and when my work got too much we altered it. 
 
It’s a pretty intense life you seem to lead! Hows the social life?!
 
Social life did take a back seat but when I did go out everyone wanted to hear about my training and were inspired by my plan. They wanted to donate to the charity I supported and in some ways I met people I never would have met without doing the Ironman. My coaching team are now great friends and they all came to my wedding.
 
What do you do to unwind in the evenings, or is unwinding unnecessary?
 
I will watch television or a movie and eat good food.  I enjoy life so I actually like doing things to relax to. I find working on my business and being creative or cycling 3-4 hours relaxing.
Your Ironman team helped Diccon Driver finish his Ironman challenge despite awaiting a kidney transplant.
 
How did it feel to a part of that monumental achievement?
 
Diccon is an inspiration to us all. His story is immense. I am proud to say I trained with Diccon and I think he will be the first Ironman who has had a kidney transplant. I am honoured to help Diccon and I am excited about his future race plans.
 
What are your plans for the future? Any more challenges?!
 
I have just had a baby so my new Ironman is taking care of her. This is an Ironman for life. I still go for bike rides and race team triathlons but my days of racing long distances have to take a back seat. I would love to do another Ironman with my children one day. Maybe when I am really old I will inspire them to race an Ironman.

Physical Edge Tri Team completes first ever Olympic distance triathlon

27th May 2012

The Physical Edge Tri Team completed the Nuffield Health Olympic Distance Triathlon at Dorney Lake  (2012 Olympic venue for Rowing). The team consisted of Stacey Millett-Clay, Anna-Maria Skucinska and Rhys Chong. It was the first time the team had ever raced together, and it was the first triathlon Stacey and Anna-Maria had ever done.

The weather was beautiful and the scene was set for a fast race. Stacey started the swim; she had left her goggles at home and had to borrow a new pair from Rhys. Down the first leg of the swim the goggles filled up with water twice; she trod water to empty the goggles and then started again. The swim field consisted mostly of men, and so Stacey had to swim most of the race alone. In the final straight towards the finish her calf cramped, but she was determined to finish and so swam mainly with her arms. It was a gutsy performance for Stacey to finish. She limped out of the water to hand the timing chip to Rhys for the beginning of the bike leg.

The bike leg was 8 laps around  Dorney Lake. The wind was strong against the riders down one half of the course. Rhys used the wind to his advantage leaving the start-finish line, reaching 35 -40km per hour; however returning to the start-finish line his speed dropped to 25 – 28km per hour. He paced himself for the first 7 laps to leave himself enough energy for a strong finish in the final lap. He timed it perfectly and rode strongly down the final straight towards the finish line against the wind. He overtook several riders and ran into transition with his bike to hand the timing chip to Anna-Maria.

Anna-Maria had been nervous all day as she was the lynch pin of the team running the final leg. She took off quickly knowing that she needed to finish within 54 minutes if the team were to complete the time of 2 hours  50 minutes, which they’d set before the race. In the first 2 laps she was running at the required pace but on the third lap the heat got to her. She had to walk twice on the way out from Dorney Lake because the heat was suffocating. She pulled herself together to finish strong on the way back towards the finish line. She crossed the finishing line exhausted and dehydrated.

Stacey, Anna-Maria and Rhys enjoyed the day. The race kept everyone on their toes and each person pushed hard in their discipline for the triathlon. The team however did not know at first what times they’d achieved for each individual discipline. Before the race Stacey said she would swim 1500m in 36 minutes; Rhys said he would ride the bike leg in 1 hour 20 minutes; and Anna Maria said she would run 10km in 54 minutes. That made the total time for the race 2 hours 50 minutes – and if we added in each transition of 1.5 – 2 minutes, the total time estimated to complete the triathlon was 2 hours and 54 minutes.

The team printed the results out from a computer and were keen to see if the way we felt about our races was a reflection of how fast we had actually been. The results read: Swim – 36 minutes and 57 seconds; T1- 1minute and 22 seconds: Cycle – 1 hour, 22 minutes and 23 seconds; T2 – 55 seconds; Run – 55 minutes and 13 seconds. The total time for the race was 2 hours, 56 minutes and 51 seconds.  The Physical Edge Tri team had only come 2 minutes and 51 seconds outside the time they’d set before the race. It was a surprise to us all that we were able to finish so close to our estimated time. It was a great success for the Physical Edge Tri Team; the benchmark has been set for following team triathlons from Physical Edge.

If you would like to get involved with triathlon, or enter a team as an individual for an Olympic distance triathlon, email us for information at mail@physical-edge.com.

Toby (age group Triathlete) races Dorney Lake triathlon

Dorney Lake – Olympic Triathlon

Like all good triathletes I decided it was time to throw money at the sport. I had been eyeing up a certain type of bike and thought if it came up on ebay in my size I’d look into it. When it did, I thought I’d put a practise bid on. This turned out to be the only bid so I became the owner of a much better bike than I had previously owned with bits of kit I didn’t fully understand yet. It’s first outing was a 10k-40k-5k run-bike-run duathlon which I came 6th overall and 1st in my age group. This is when I first suspected that despite Lance Armstrong insisting ‘it’s not about the bike’ that it might be a little bit about the bike.

Even though I’m 39 I am racing in the 40-44 age group as I turn 40 before the year is out. According to most of the other triathletes I’ve met, this is my year apparently. At Dorney, the start time ended up being 2.10pm on a day where temperatures touched 29 degrees. Lovely day for a swim, a shame to spoil it by tacking a bike and run on to the end of it. 

As it turns out the swim wasn’t so good. My goggles were not working for me. Within 50 metres it became apparent they were leaking and nothing I could do would stop them filling up. A rookie error I suppose, I’m still not sure if it was due to wearing them incorrectly with a cap, or if they were just set poorly to begin with. I had never been fully confident with them in the first place so next week I need to make another investment in kit -new goggles- but most importantly check them thoroughly before racing with a warm up swim. As a result I had to stop every 50-100m to empty them out or try to tighten the straps. Very frustrating and left me unable to get in to any sort of rhythm. 

T1 went without incident, fortunately I was only about 50 metres from bike in/bike out so no need to try the jump and hope style of mounting the bike with the shoes already clipped in. I saw another guy struggling to get his first shoe in 300m after T1 and decided I had definitely made the right choice. I intend to give it a go in September at the London Triathlon as it is a much longer transition and slippery floor so worth a go…I hope.

Earlier on in the day I had seen the guys from Physical edge racing in the team event. Rhys was doing the bike leg and sharing bits of wisdom each time he passed by at speed…something about the wind direction – I’m sure it would become apparent when my time came!

There was certainly a breeze on the bike leg but it all went fine, off the bike and onto the 4 lap run course seeing the same drained faces passing up and down. The main heat of the day was beating down and lots of people were struggling. A tough day on the course but I ended up coming 3rd in my age group so was very pleased.

Overall time: 2.29.12

1.5k Swim: 31:36
42.4k Bike 1:10:55
10k Run 43:44

Toby Sullivan is planning to do an Ironman next year. Follow his route to the big race; his decisions about training, experiences and advice

My name is Toby Sullivan, I’m a Physiotherapist and as of 2012 I’m a triathlete.

I decided that 2012 was the year that I went from someone who does triathlons to ‘a triathlete’. I entered my first triathlon about 6 years ago and have probably done 10 since then but training has always been along the lines of run sometimes, cycle to work a bit and swim…if needed. It has never had any structure. The hope is that by upgrading my status to triathlete, entering a few triathlons and setting goals for this season and beyond will give me more motivation to undertake a (slightly more) specific training program.

Race 1

Paris Marathon – April

Not a triathlon I know but to run a fast marathon you need a fast 10k so it’s got to help a bit… The plan started late in 2011, a friend Tim and I who raced our first marathon in Berlin 2010, decided to enter marathon number 2. My first winter of training was surprisingly easy. Being mostly a fair weather athlete I was surprised how mild the winter was (when I was out training anyway) certainly nothing leggings, gloves and a hat didn’t resolve. It was also inspiring to see a huge number of people out running presumably preparing for their own Spring marathons.

I managed 2 months of base training in October and November building to 2-3 10k runs a week. I also managed 6 x 100k+ cycles during these 2 months as well as the usual 6 hours of weekly commuting by bike.

December was wiped out with injury, illness and Christmas so the formal 14 week marathon program started on January 9th.

In 2010 I finished Berlin in 3h19m, I ran it with no idea of pacing but fortunately I started at the back of the 4-hour group so was held up in the crowds for the first 10k. As a result I felt relatively fresh towards the end, there was no wall and I ran the second half a bit faster than the first half…. This style of pacing was definitely something to try to take to the next race.

For Paris I found a training program that was light on mileage and I made it even lighter. I settled for 3-4 runs a week. The 3 essential sessions being (in simple terms) one slow, long session, one fast session and one really fast track interval session. In technical terms this is meant to correspond to endurance building, lactate threshold pace and VO2 max.

The more I looked into training schedules the more it seemed you pick your marathon target time then work backwards to find training times and schedules (within reason). I thought 3 hours which equates to 4.15/km would be a nice round number so I began training for that.

I built the long runs up to 20 miles and completed 3 of these all within 10% of marathon pace – approx 4.30/km.

I completed weekly tempo runs which ranged from 8-15km. Generally these were to be completed at 4mins/k pace.

To see how I was doing along the way I entered a few races or 10km, 10 miles and half marathon. These gave me an accurate (looking back at my time) indication of how my training was going.

My race times were as follows:

10k 38.22
10m 1h04
HM 1h26.13

Each of these when put in to the race calculator, there are many out there, I used one called MARCO. It put me just outside the 3 hour mark and they were right!

I finished in 3h02m25s

The running was good, next the cycling. Having managed 6 long rides in October/November subsequent cycle training consisted of commuting. So to make it useful I would incorporate interval sessions. On one commute there are 3 or sometimes 4 sections where you can blast it between lights and get an open run for up to 3 minutes so this is where my intervals come in!

Last 1.5 weeks of training before the Etape de tour 2011

The last week of training was a killer. My coach had me train 4 days in the week and a combination of long rides, time trials and medium distance rides in big gears to make my legs work harder. I then travelled to Switzerland to watch the Ironman and have come back to another 2 hour bike session.

I certainly hit my biggest weeks of training on the last two weeks and with cycling there really isn’t such a thing as an easy week. My coach had me ride 2 hours this week to keep my legs going and the day before the race there will be another 1 hour ride. I was tired at the end of last week and still feeling the affects of travelling to Zurich and getting up at 3am for the race preparation and race day.

It was good to get back on the bike with my riding partner yesterday and push hard. My body seemed to forget what pushing hard on the bike felt like.

I still need rest before the race and I have been crabo loading. My appetite has increased significantly with the amount of training I have been doing. I am eating pasta and rice with simple toppings to keep it easy on my digestive system. There will be a pasta pasty the day before the race and I am looking forward to eating well from here on in.

My racing bike is now in transit to France. My riding partner is taking it on the back of his 4×4 vehicle as he has a house in France. I am packing tonight and then off early to get to the airport on time. I have made a list of everything I need to take. It is vitally important to remember my medical certificate otherwise I would not get my race number to ride. I also arranged travel insurance with Snow Card. There are few companies providing full medical cover for bike races.

In the last three weeks I have been having problems with a loud noise coming from my bike when I ride up hill. I had my bike mechanic come to my house twice to sort it out and to change my gearing to a 34 on the front and 28 on the back. He changed the chain and also gave the bike a new pedal bracket. I tested the bike yesterday morning and it was still making a noise so I took it to Sigma sports where my bike mechanic works to have another look.

The noise was not coming from the pedal bracket it was somewhere around the steering column. He chose to lube the entire headset and we thought it was sorted but then I tested it and again the noise was present. This was getting frustrating and I was worried as I was giving my bike over for transportation to France that day.

I was testing the bike and then another Sigma bike mechanic heard the noise. He said it had to be the front wheel axle. He lubed the entire area around the axle including the connection with the front forks. Magic, the noise was gone. It showed me how difficult it can be to judge where noise is coming from on a bike and to lube the bike if it has been in the rain or not been serviced for a long time.

I am relaxed mentally and I am looking forward to the entire experience. I will be with 5000-6000 other riders and having a riding partner makes all the difference as it will be along day. I am expecting to do it in 9-10 hours. The professionals rode stage 9 on the weekend and there were some serious accidents. The wet road can be dangerous on the hairpin turns so braking carefully and slowing down is important.

This is it I am about to do the Etape de tour 2011. It has been tough training as the rides have been so long and I have worked at the same time. I am glad training is over and now I am ready to race. On my website I am posting the entire Act II guidance booklet from my tour company. It contains everything a rider needs to know. On the following blog I am also putting the analysis of the Etape stage by an ex-pro cyclist. I asked him to break the race down as if he was doing it and his insights have been extremely valuable.

I will read over advice from cycle fit, look at the course and then watch the Tour de France to prepare. It is surreal knowing I am about to take on a stage of the current Tour de France.

 

3 weeks to go, preview of Etape course

I had an incredibly enjoyable 8 hour bike ride last weekend and felt strong. The training in Portugal set me up well for hill climbing. This week I went to cyclefit and Rapha preview of the Etape course held at the Charlotte Street Hotel in London. They have been out and ridden the course and have come back with tips for all entrants in the race. The evening was filled with mainly first time Etape riders and it was a valuable seminar to attend.

In the evening we learnt that the course is suited to the strongly set rider. It is a long course and is constantly undulating with the section between 90 and 154 kms being relentless up and down climbing. There is another hill at 190km which is 2km long and the first 90km is gradually up hill climbing. We were advised to “bank” sleep, nutrition and hydration the week before and plan for complete rest. On the day it is important to eat and hydrate well as the temperatures could be hot and it is going to be a 9-10 hour riding day. There is valuable information on the cyclefit website for preparation for a race like this. It is sensible advice on riding and nutrition and preparation.

This week I have had a physio course for 4 days and my training plan had to be revised. There were not enough day light hours to do a long ride. I did 2 rides, a 3.5 hour fast ride to boxhill and 10 hill repeats in Richmond Park. I can see this is not ideal but next week I am increasing my training again. I am hitting my biggest weeks of training and now is important to get it right.

My bike is needing maintenance. I am changing my rear cassette to have a 28 or 29 ring and the front small ring to a 34. I noticed the riding in Portugal was much easier than my riding in London so I have decided to  copy the same gearing as the bikes I had ridden in Portugal. I will also get a new chain and new brake pads.

At the moment my bike is making noises when I get out of the saddle and ride. I think the chain is getting longer and now it must be replaced. My plan is to have every thing planned from training kit to bike well before the event to test my gear and have less to think about closer to the race.

I am looking forward to training this week and maintaining my fitness. The cyclefit team said endurance fitness can be maintained for 7 days but strength and power can be lost in 3 days. I know my hill climbing strength is reducing at the moment but there are no long hills for me to climb and simulate the hills of France.  It seems my coach has me on fast training sessions to keep my power going.

Lets see how I feel at the end of this weeks training. The weather is glorious at the moment. I am very grateful.