Oh No! – The Ten Week Ironman

A Lighter Week

Well sometimes reality doesn’t meet expectation but this week did, spectacularly so.  As you may recall last week I said I was expecting a much easier week leading in to the Interclub State Championship race on Sunday.  That was certainly what was delivered but not in the way I would have liked.

Monday Morning

Monday was greeted with a bit of a lie in, well perhaps not to most but getting out of bed at 7am is pretty luxurious based on the last several weeks.  When I got up though I just felt a little off.  Sore legs, sure but that’s been pretty usual for a Monday morning, it was more of a foggy head than anything else.  The ironman panic sets in…please don’t be getting sick!

Of course it was a rest day and there’s not a lot you can do about illness, and better now than in a week’s time.  Rest up, drink lots of water, eat well and wash your hands a lot.  Give yourself the best chance to fight it off quickly if it is something coming on.

So, Sick or Not?

Tuesday comes around and nothing much has changed.  Legs still very heavy, head foggy but no development of symptoms.  Maybe it’s just a hint of over-training?  Not a whole lot to be gained by pushing through though and a lot to be lost if it goes wrong so second rest day in a row it is.  Wednesday was crazy busy at work with a two hour meeting with a key client who had pushed back our meeting from Monday, unfortunately because he was sick.  Not ideal, rest day #3…

So by Thursday I was a bit sick and tired of not knowing whether I was sick or just tired so I jumped on the trainer for an hour.  Not much effort, basically an aerobic ride with a couple of little builds in to see how the body would respond.  Physically there were no ill effects, and I slept much better for having done something.  I guess I could sit around and beat myself up that I hadn’t found this out earlier by doing this sooner but that’s not going to do any good, just put it behind me and move on by getting up early on Friday to be punished by coach Brian in the pool

My Favourite Race Weekend

Now don’t get me wrong, I really love Ironman Western Australia (and the Busso Half in May) but the WA State Interclub Championships really get me excited.  You see, I’m not a huge fan of taking races too seriously.  We mostly do this stuff for a bit of fun so when I see people at races that seem to be not enjoying themselves or putting too much pressure on to perform I get a little cranky.

Interclubs love (photo credit – Monica Borrill)

Don’t get me wrong, Interclubs are serious business and I probably push myself as hard there as I do anywhere (while telling everyone I’m just going to go Ironman race pace) but success is measured by team success not the individual.  For some clubs that means winning one of the two trophies on offer while others might consider building team morale to be far more important or even simply getting some club-mates through their first attempt at a sprint distance race.  To borrow a cliché, everyone can be a winner.

So we all managed to dodge the wet weather which set in not long after the race was over and as a club we had some pretty impressive performances.  I think there were a number of race PBs (personal bests) in the group and a great feeling of camaraderie not just within the club but between everyone there.


Interclubs serves another purpose for me.  I’ve done the race all bar one year before tackling Ironman WA and I’ve found the ratio between my result there and my final time a week later always falls within a fairly narrow band.  Now I’m not going to suggest that I have a goal time for next week as there are simply too many variables that are out of my control but I can at least be fairly confident that it won’t be a terrible race for me.

The Training by the Numbers

So leading into my one week taper (given this week’s effort I feel like I’ve already done it) I thought I’d take a look back to see how the training compares to previous attempts at this race and the results were somewhat suprising.

The numbers don’t lie

I don’t have records for my first attempt in 2011 but you can see that in terms of the eleven weeks leading into taper I’ve actually done okay compared to normal.  In fact it’s almost spot on my second best lead in which ended up with my best result to date.  Of course that sub-12 hour result was helped greatly by excellent conditions on the day and the consistent training that I’d already put in prior to that build so there’s no suggestion it’s in danger of being bettered.

I guess the other thing this might hopefully tell some of you is how achievable Ironman can be within a relatively normal life.  I’m certainly no great natural athlete, as a child I had to attend Horse Riding for the Disabled because of a sever lack of co-ordination.  What I do have come race day though is a bit of pig-headedness and a will to just keep moving forward.  There’s no magic or rocket science to finishing, it’s just one stroke, revolution and footstep after the other until you’re done.

This Week

It will all be fairly easy training and all determined by how I feel until Thursday when we head to Busselton.  After that I have a little training routine that I try and follow, one that is almost second nature to me now.  I also use the week down there as an opportunity to catch up with a lot of people that I don’t see too often and to socialise.  The work is done.  The result can only be negatively affected from here on in if you do too much or let the nerves get to you.  It’s time to relax and enjoy what we’ve built.


Train (or taper) safe,

Coach Trav (aka Stikman)


*Missed the series?  Head to back to week one

*Continue on to race week

Last Push – The Ten Week Ironman

One Last Push

I normally only taper for one week leading into an Ironman but the truth is I normally don’t train as consistently as I have been.  I think that this might be the reason that managing fatigue, by which I mean feeling totally drained not just a little bit tired, has been a bigger issue during this lead in.  As you read last week I fell into a little bit of a hole so with wanting to make sure that I can race at the State Interclub Championships at the end of next week and still come up fresh for Ironman the week after this really was my last opportunity to put in some big sessions.

Weekly Goals

While you want to keep the focus on the big picture it’s always handy to start the week with a few key sessions or goals that you want to tick off before Sunday night.  This is especially true for those who have trained for a much longer period than I have for this one, where the pay-off always seems so far away.  Life isn’t perfect and if you judged yourself by whether everything went to plan, disappointment would be inevitable, so by setting a couple of important aims you can be sure to tick them off.  A little like the Pareto Principle though likely with a much lower hit rate.

Two Big Sessions

I needed more time in the saddle and particularly spending time on the aerobars at a reasonable level of effort so knocking off another five hour session on the freeway path was a non-negotiable.  My fuelling and hydration plan is tried and tested through several races now but things can change so it was important that I include that as part of the ride.  I never judge these rides by speed or distance as weather conditions can have too great an influence, it’s just a case of riding for time.

Simpler than it looks

The second key for me was a swim session that I’ve been doing for the last few Ironman races that gives me confidence and an idea of my likely race swim time.  It’s a double pyramid (well really a reverse pyramid because pyramids get smaller as you go up!) of 100, 200, 300, 400, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100 and repeat.  It’s not a straight swim though, every second rep is done with moderate sized paddles and pull buoy.  When I look at the results of this session I can pull it apart to see how a few different components of my swim fitness are at that point in time.  It might be too late to do much about it but forewarned is forearmed they say.

A Good Week

The training week started, as you should all know by now, with a rest day on Monday before joining the intrepid Perth Hills crew for the interval session at Woodbridge on Tuesday.  Normally when I’m coaching I like to just coach but as we had longer intervals it was a good opportunity to get my run in while also observing and encouraging them.  Wednesday was my double day for the week with a ninety minute trainer session in the morning, starting with a virtual race, and then knocking off the aforementioned 5000m swim in the evening.

I was up early on Thursday for a pure aerobic trail run, including short walk breaks where necessary to keep the effort in check, and then again on Friday to join in Coach Brian’s club swim session.  For those club members that haven’t yet made it to one of our morning swims I highly recommend it.  Lower numbers mean individual attention and you get it out of the way early making you feel smug all day.  From a coaching perspective it’s also good to get in the lanes with the athletes once in a while to see what they’re doing under the water, it’s not always easy to tell from the deck.

The weekend started pretty softly as I met Karen and Carolyn, who I am coaching to the half-ironman, at Port Beach in Fremantle for a bit of open water swim familiarisation.  Very little swimming was done by yours truly but I hope the ladies got something out of the tricks and tips I had to offer.  We probably spent more time drinking coffee afterwards and talking about the race, plans, fears, goals and the like.

Sunday was the big day this week.  Simone and I met Sam (refer last week’s Kings Park catch-up) for two and a half hours south before trying to catch the tail wind back.  The legs felt good and I gained a lot of confidence in being able to hold my aero position, at one stage not coming up off the bars for 90 minutes straight.  I’m afraid I couldn’t hold Sam’s draft though, way too strong on the bike.  I am really looking forward to seeing him live his dream in a couple of weeks, if I’m off the bike before he is done!

Oldies (like, really oldies) but goodies

Sunday afternoon was finished off with a free concert in Kalamunda at Stirk Park where Simone and I met my parents and were entertained by Normie Rowe and Johnny Young.  Some of you around my vintage may remember Normie as the guy that took a swing at Ron Casey in front of Ray Martin on national TV many years ago but of course he was also a huge pop star back in the sixties before he was drafted into the army and sent to Vietnam.  Dad tells me (and everyone else) that Normie’s long locks of hair were pinned up on the army barber’s wall when he got his own cut as Normie had been in the intake before and they wanted to show the lads that there were no exceptions!  Of course most of us know Johnny Young from his days hosting Young Talent Time decades ago but he too had a rock and roll career before that.  I had forgotten that he grew up in Kalamunda, living in Hummerston Road (which we shall never, ever climb on a bike!)

The Week Ahead

Well this biggish week (about thirteen hours total) has left me feeling a little drained and so I’m expecting to have a light week in the lead up to the most important race of the season, the State Interclub Championships.  I always race this before Ironman.  When done at race pace it’s a relatively gentle workout and fantastic opportunity to test everything before the big dance.  As I’ve said to others numerous times before, these two weeks are 100% about getting to the race fresh, uninjured and well.  Whatever it takes.

Coach Trav (aka Stikman)


*Missed the series?  Head to back to week one

*Continue on to week nine

Overstretched – The Ten Week Ironman

What Goes Up…

Coming from a really low base this little exercise was always going to carry a risk of overtraining and this week I think that risk might have come to fruition.  Last week wasn’t huge in the context of Ironman training, only thirteen hours, but with half of that crammed into a couple of days it proved to be a bit much.  My usual Monday rest day wasn’t enough to freshen me up properly but come Tuesday I decided to just push through…big mistake.  A hard bike session on Tuesday morning with a threshold run that afternoon put me in a hole.  I needed a proper rest.

Time Off

Your head messes with you a bit with this stuff.  I knew that I was doing what was best by taking a couple of days completely off mid-week but the little demons keep telling you that you’re losing fitness, undoing all the good work and just simply being lazy.  As a coach I know this is just ridiculous but when your academic self comes up against your emotional self, especially when you are a bit exhausted, the right team doesn’t always win.

If I had have been coaching myself, I would’ve given me a third day off but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Instead I decided to do a tough but short session on the wind trainer to keep me mentally going and give me a little confidence, so a ramp test it was.


The Test

A ramp test is pretty simple, you start at a particular power (measured in watts using a power meter) and then you gradually ramp it up at a particular rate until you physically can’t push any more.  For me it’s over and done with in under twenty-five minutes, a better rider will take longer, but it only REALLY hurts for the last couple.  At the end of it all you get a few numbers (power and heart rate) that can be useful for monitoring progress and prescribing future training.

The results were a significant improvement on six weeks ago though a long way from where they would have been at my peak.  Still, this gives me a bit of confidence that I’m heading in the right direction and it’s not going to be a total disaster come race day.

A Dad Weekend

This weekend I was on dad duties and Simone was working so opportunities to train were limited, but having already had an interrupted training week I just had to make it work.  While Leila can now ride the bike next to me when running it can be a bit of a chore so I figured the easy solution was to get my long ride in on the trainer…over three sessions in two days.  It’s not fair to go effectively missing for four or five hours leaving her to look after herself and the cumulative effect isn’t too far different.

Racing Again

In one of my sessions on the trainer I decided to do a virtual race on Zwift.  Basically, you sign up and start with a bunch of other people somewhere in the world on their trainers and race them.  Everyone is seeded by their ability (self-seeded mind you) and put into divisions accordingly, a bit like age-group racing in triathlon but allowing you to stand half a chance.  I seeded myself in D-grade (the lowest) and after half an hour of utter suffering came a creditable fifth.  It probably wasn’t great training for an Ironman but it reminded me that I occasionally have a bit of a competitive instinct in me.


A Great Finish to The Week

Sunday morning, I finished off the third session of my long ride and noodled around for the morning doing my coaching duties and not much else.  In the afternoon I had arranged to meet a friend in Kings Park for a chat.  He has a young daughter and it was his weekend playing dad as well so it meant the kids could play together while we had a deep and meaningful conversation.

This mate is a triathlete too and has always wanted to do a full Ironman since he first saw the sport decades ago but simply hadn’t had the opportunity (or didn’t think he was ready) to tackle it.  He’s such a genuine bloke and amazing father that earlier this year a bunch of people organised a free entry and coaching for him to go around at Busselton.  He’s been incredibly diligent and dedicated but has been struggling a bit with belief in himself along the way and the enormity of the task ahead of us.

We spent maybe three or four hours, a lot of it just talking crap not in any way related to triathlon, and went from one end of the park to the other.  Hopefully the few hours we spent helped calm the sense of expectation and will ease the rest of the journey to the start line.  I know that his enthusiasm, fear and excitement helped get me in the right mindset.

Next Week

I’m playing it a little bit by ear at the moment but I expect that I’ll get one last proper big ride done, a decent run and get back to the pool.  You might have noticed that I didn’t mention swimming this week.  Other than that, there isn’t a lot left to be done that can make race day a whole lot better than it already will be.  From here on it’s about maintaining the fitness while not doing anything stupid or falling back into a hole.  Of course, not doing stupid things isn’t one of my strong points…

 Coach Trav (aka Stikman)


*Missed the series?  Head to back to week one

*Continue on to week eight

On The Downhill Run – The Ten Week Ironman

Halfway There

One of the benefits of a short build-up to a big race is there isn’t a lot of time to get mentally fatigued.  No sooner has the initial enthusiasm worn off than you begin the downhill run and can start ticking off the days in anticipation.  You don’t have that period in between where the race still seems forever away and it just turns into a bit of a grind.

The Big Sessions

This week was always going to be the time for the biggest run and cycle sessions.  Generally I’d aim for the biggest ride session to be a week closer to the race but because I have Leila next weekend it had to happen here.  Of course the session lengths don’t drop off a cliff any time soon so it’s not like these are a make-or-break situation.

There is a school of thought that these two sessions should be done on consecutive days to replicate the demands of the race, that somehow running on tired legs in training will make it easier on the day.  I don’t prescribe to this, in fact I believe almost the opposite.  By backing up difficult sessions together you lose some of the fitness you would gain in the recovery from the first and have a couple of days in between and getting the run out of the way earlier in the week with the lower impact cycle later.

Make It Work

Training time and family time doesn’t need to be a zero-sum game.  Doing more in one area doesn’t necessarily take away from the other.  This week being a bigger week it was important that I did what I could to ensure that Simone and I were working together to make it all fit.

Monday was my usual recovery day so Tuesday morning I was up early and on the trainer to get an hour in before Leila was up.  That evening I was coaching at Woodbridge so after I dropped Leila at tennis practice I headed there to get an hour interval session in myself.  Simone did the tennis pick up and she and Leila spent some quality “girl time” together which is also important.

What a place to train


Wednesday after work Simone joined me at the pool (she’s been doing great with her training on limited time too by the way) where I did a relatively easy set of 2500m, making sure I was ready for the next morning which was the first of the big ones.  Out of the door around 5:30am I only really planned to run for two hours, heading up the trail past Darlington and Glen Forrest, running to a heart rate target to keep the effort down.  It was one of those beautiful mornings that makes you feel great and you don’t want to stop…so I didn’t.  In the end it was two and a half hours and I finished feeling reasonably fresh, knowing that it wouldn’t be until tomorrow that I could tell whether it was a wise idea.

Up early again to coach at the pool from 5:30 I felt reasonably good and the legs weren’t too heavy though the knees were a little tender.  Before the intrepid crew had left the deck afterwards I made sure I was already in the water.  This serves two purposes:  firstly it shows a good example to them and assures them that I’m not missing out by coaching them; secondly, and more importantly, it makes sure that I don’t chicken out or get lazy and just head home.

A long way to go

Friday night was quiet and in bed reasonably early because Saturday was chosen as my long ride day.  This was so that I could spend some time riding with Simone to her work at Fiona Stanley Hospital before continuing on down the freeway and back.  She started at twelve so we left a bit after 9:30 to make sure there was plenty of time for her to get there and make herself decent for work no matter what cropped up on the way there.  With a kiss she headed in and I put my nose into the wind and headed south for another hour or so before turning tail and returning home via the same route.  In the end I was a bit disappointed, I had planned to go for five hours and thirty minutes in total but I misjudged the turn around point and ended up doing five hours and thirty two.  I must be losing my touch.

The week’s training was completed on Sunday with an hour long swim and the intent to do an hour or so on the trainer which turned into ten minutes when my legs told me they had had enough.  I guess you can’t blame them after thirteen and a bit hours in six days, my longest training week in exactly a year.

Looking good…ish

Looking Forward

The race is now just four short weeks away but I won’t be focusing any further than this coming week.  If all goes to plan there will be another run over two hours and a bike around four and a half as my two key sessions, the rest will depend quite heavily on my recovery from this week with decisions made on a day-by-day basis.  The numbers all look fairly good and confidence is high so I need to make sure that I don’t ruin that by doing something stupid by pushing too hard for too long.  It’s an Ironman truism that more people ruin their race day by overdoing it in the lead up than ever do so by too little work.

Trav (aka Stikman)


*Missed the series?  Head to back to week one

*Continue on to week seven

One Step – The Ten Week Ironman

Every Journey

Starts with a single step, so they say, and the same applies to every training day.  Often the toughest part of each session is the first step (or stroke or pedal revolution) but this week I had a bit of a lesson on this front.  As you already know, unless there is something fixed in the week ahead that means I can’t train, Monday is my designated rest day for the week.  This week was no different.  Not only do I know that I need at least one total recovery day it also does me good mentally because it means that I can begin every week with a day where I execute the plan.  Silly I know but there you have it.

Knowing I’d had a less than optimal training week last week I was keen to get back into it come Tuesday and so I was looking forward to the club trail run that evening.  Unfortunately about an hour before it was due to start I got an alert from the DFES letting me know that there was a fire close to our start point so with safety in mind the run had to be cancelled.  Not to be daunted by such obstacles out came the trainer and an hour on the bike it was.

Getting Swift with Zwift

Inspired by Simone using it I have this week been giving the online bike “game” Zwift a trial.  If you have a controllable trainer it allows you to ride on virtual terrain with others, adjusting the resistance and speed automatically.  It’s kind of fun, at least more fun than staring at a wall, but it can often be tempting to chase other riders as they whizz past you.  Perhaps good for cyclists and certain triathlon events but probably not ideal for Ironman.  Still, I think I might keep it for the relatively small cost involved.

The Gambler

As Kenny says, “you gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em” and after a double day (run+bike) done a little too hard on Wednesday the numbers and my legs told me I needed to take it easy on Thursday.  I’d planned a longer swim but as swimming is my relatively stronger leg and I was going to swim on Friday morning after coaching I decided that a nice glass of wine on the couch with Simone was a much better option.

Be like Kenny

Up early on Friday I headed to the pool for an hour of coaching (if you haven’t come to a morning session you really should, the small numbers mean much more individual attention) followed by a threshold swim session.  No warm up and no cool down it was a pretty basic 3000m of threshold with both short and long intervals while the girl did her thing alongside me.

Westside Is The Best

Ali G was right, that’s why Saturday morning I set out to do my long(ish) ride for the week on the trainer watching Westside Story with Leila.  She’d wanted to watch it since we started a couple of weeks ago and had to cut it short due to bed time.  If we’re doing nothing else for her at least I’m confident that she’s getting a good cultural education with us.  We barely watch any telly but we make sure she knows all of the good comedy (Monty Python, The Two Ronnies, etc.), gets to listen to music from classic jazz to hard rock and appreciates the great movies.  I think she likes it all, at very least she tolerates our eclectic taste.

I’ve just met a girl

Sunday is Fun Day, Family Run Day

With Simone due to start night shift we had planned a morning long run around the river for the morning, with Leila riding her bike.  Leaving from Burswood we headed north past the new stadium, across the bridge (not the Matagarup one, Simone thinks it’s an abomination) then down around to the Narrows and returning via South Perth.  Running by heart rate I managed around 18km (including loop backs) in a touch over two hours which is my longest run since the half marathon in February.  Truth is that I rarely run more than 21km in a build up to Ironman anyway as the recovery just takes too long for me.  I don’t believe that anyone should run more than two and a half hours for this reason, there’s more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to getting distance in.  Frequency often gets better results without the risk and double run days are golden for a triathlete.

The Lesson

Did you catch it?  I know it was pretty subtle.  This week I didn’t have any problems at all with motivating myself to begin a single session because for each and every one I had someone else there to provide a secondary reason.  Whether it was just getting my head into the right mindset (Tuesday), to get my arse to the venue (Friday) or for company (Saturday and Sunday) there wasn’t a single instance where it was just about me.

Sometimes “I need to do this session because…” simply isn’t enough to get that first single step.  If you want to be a success in triathlon and life you need a decent support crew, whether they know they’re there to help you or not.  This week wouldn’t have been half the success it was without mine.

Trav (aka Stikman)


*Missed the series?  Head to back to week one

*Continue on to week six