Swim, bike, run, write.

7 things I've learned while training for Ironman #2

Training for my first Ironman last year gave me a schooling. From the importance of taking enough water out with you when there's a heatwave and you've got a 20 mile run to do (I came dangerously close to drinking out of a very questionable stream) to the restorative properties of chocolate milk. Ironman training is more of a learning rollercoaster, than a learning curve, and the lessons have most definitely continued while I've been putting my body through its paces for Ironman number 2.

7 things I've learned while training for Ironman #2

1) There's no such thing as too much chamois creme
It's all fun and games until you're walking like a cowgirl who's soiled her chaps. When you're riding a time trial bike with a saddle that's unforgiving (at best) the chafe situation is real. If you think you've applied too much chamois creme, get your paws back into that Assos pre-ride tub my friend - you probably need just a touch more.

2) Ironman mood swings are like PMS on steroids
I've trainer harder than ever this year. Which has meant that one minute I'm feeling good: I'm fit, I'm strong, I've got this. The next minute I'm trying not to have a little weep in the supermarket because I can't decide what I want for dinner and my legs aren't quite up to the effort required to push a trolley after whatever torture - I mean training - I've inflicted on them that morning. With countless hours of training to balance alongside showing up to work, keeping the house vaguely clean and remembering your own name, it's a balancing act and sometimes it'll all get a bit much. My advice? Have a cup of tea, a sit down and remember why you signed up in the first place. It will all be worth it. Oh, and if you're like me with an incredibly patient significant other - apologise for your grumpiness once in a while. It's not you, it's Ironman training.

3) Never underestimate the power of a snack - especially on a long, solo bike ride
Feeling tired? Have a snack. Need to break up the long hours of cycling ahead of you? Schedule your snack breaks: "20 minutes until my next bit of flapjack" is great motivation to keep going. When you're out on the road for hours, on your own and trying to get your brain to stop repeating baby shark for the millionth time, you can find yourself getting into a bit of dark place. Don't despair. Sit up, have a fig roll and crack on. Chances are you're just in need of a sugar rush.

4) You'll end up having to remortgage to keep up with all the nutrition purchasing
Speaking of snacks... you'll end up single-handedly funding the sports nutrition industry. Your bank statement will just be a long string of Wiggle orders and no matter how often you purchase them, you will always, always be running low on hydration tablets.

5) You'll start to give Carol from BBC news a run for her money on the weather-watching front
Never mind that you're yet to develop the required Jedi mind powers to control the weather - when you've got training sessions to complete, obsessive forecast checking becomes a daily ritual. Wind speed, air temperature, water temperature. You know the lot. Throw in an upcoming race and you may as well be working for the Met office.

6) Just when you think you've found your body's limits, it'll show you it's got more
I've lost count of the number of times I've gone into a training session with a little seed of doubt in the back of my mind as to whether I'm actually going to be able to do it. Throughout this training cycle, my body has kept surprising me. From the time I went out on a pre-breakfast 10km tempo run only to return with a new PB, to taking a good 8 minutes off my previous best half-marathon time, to my most recent ride with my coach where I finally managed to stick with him up my least favourite hill and held an overall average pace I could only dream about not so long ago. Look after it well, give it a chance and your body will show you what it's capable of and then some.

7) Ironman is transformative
Training for an Ironman challenges you and changes you in the best possible way. It's more than just sturdier quads, slightly broader shoulders and semi-permanent goggle marks. It's strength and resilience beyond the workouts. I've written about the ways that triathlon has benefitted my mindset, and why I even tri in the first place, before. But this year in particular, I've found myself ready and willing to challenge myself outside of swim-bike-run. Suddenly, I'm not so afraid to speak up - to put myself forward. And I owe it not just to Ironman (because as I often tell myself - if I can cope with 140.6 miles of swimming, cycling and running, I can sure as hell cope with a gloomy Monday morning) but to triathlon as a whole. The community, the challenge, the spirit.

Oh, and 7.1) Never, ever leave your swim kit to fester in your backpack
You will realise 5 minutes before you need to leave the house for your morning swim session, when there's no time to rectify the situation, and you will have to go through the trauma of putting on a soggy cossie with eau de mildew on a Wednesday morning at the ungodly hour I like to call pre-coffee 'o clock. Not cool.

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