When I signed up to Challenge Roth, one of the most popular iron distance triathlon events on the planet, I had a bit of a surprise in store.
“After I signed up, I didn’t sleep for about a week!”
I uttered today, shortly after imparting the news to someone that I’m signed up for Roth. The line garnered a couple of jovial laughs – one from the recipient of the information, followed by one from me.
Thing is though, it’s true… I was bitten by classic 3am thinking – and perplexed by how afraid I felt, given I’d already done an Ironman.
Challenge Roth is an iron distance triathlon held in summertime in Germany. Organised by the Challenge family, who do races really flipping well, it also just happens to be one of the fastest courses on the planet – and it’s where Chrissie Wellington still holds the world record. Legend has it that there’s even a rope running along the bottom of the open water swim so you don’t even have to sight for buoys…. a revelation that most triathletes will gasp with sheer joy at.
Life After An Ironman
After July 2015, I’d settled cosily into life after my first (and only, so far) Ironman. Once my race tattoos had worn away – despite attempts to leave their sticky remnants on my limbs for as long as possible, even after bits of hair and fluff had started attaching themselves to me – I was left with Post Ironman Glow (PIG). This dangerously can-do feeling lasted well into 2016, and rendered me believing, much like a Maya Angelou quote, that I could do anything.
300 hours of training plus 14 and a half hours of racing – in the rain – in Bolton, changed me from a lass who was unable to cycle down a city-centre hill without jumping into a bush to cry, to somebody who:
• Runs the Paris Marathon without eating breakfast.
• Vomits on herself during crit races.
• Cycles from Paris to Bristol the day after running a marathon.
• Runs 60 country miles in two days, sleeping on a hard floor in between.
• Drives herself to an iron distance duathlon involving running up a mountain at dawn.
My PIG mind was, I think it’s fair to say, not always aligned with my body’s suggestions. The results from my newfound ability to essentially believe I was hybrid of Dean Karnazes and Emily Chappell varied from the good: trophies; to the bad: crutches; and perhaps my least favourable result: acne accompanied by prolonged physical exhaustion. Over the frenzied months post-Ironman, I learned the importance of respect for my body, and thereafter, the successful employment of a more relaxed approach to sporting activities; a 5k river swim here, a half ironman there.
18 months on, the unthinkable happened. I was offered the opportunity to go to Challenge Roth. The race that thousands of triathletes enter the ballot for – and fail to get into – every year, had been handed to me on a silver platter. Ok… a modest IKEA plate; I still had to fork out five hundred smackers for the thing.
A complacent enjoyment of swim, bike, run – and if I’m honest, that nagging feeling that my fitness was sliding away, as mornings on the bike started to look an awful lot like Guardian crosswords, was being called into question.
Time was up, I was in front of the triathlon jury being asked, are you still in the game? Well?
*Sound of tapping foot*
What Happened Next.
Aaaaaaand, we’ve gone full circle. The reason I didn’t sleep for two weeks is because, yes, I only went and signed up for the thing. On Friday 3rd November 2017, a new iron journey began. A journey that would bring six months of early alarms, sweat, tears, protein powder, and lactic acid to my life.
And if you think that all this talk of journies is getting cheesy, I’m only just getting started, ‘cause I’m about tell you about what happened next – I needed to find my ‘why’.
Finding My ‘Why’
Great endurance athletes of our time, them ones with the stuff wot legends are made of, will often cite finding their ‘why’ as a vital ingredient in the delicious recipe for a finish line or podium. I realised that if I was going to have a chance at sticking to the training plan for Roth, six months of the thing, I probably needed to find mine.
Thing is, locating my first Ironman ‘why’ was easy peasy lemon squeezy, I wanted to be one! I wanted permission to get one of those leg tattoos but never actually get one, and moreover – I wanted to know if I could do the thing; to experience how it would feel to reach my limits, then give my limits a weary thumbs up, then shuffle right on past them.
But the Roth why? Call myself a triathlete, eh. It wasn’t so clear.
The thunderbolt excitement of Ironman 2015 had gone out on an extended lunch break. In its place sat good old fashioned fear. Entropy had set in since the Post Iron Glow.…my PIG had worn away. During the sleepless nights after booking Roth, it became quite clear that I felt scared of the idea of doing it again, and I didn’t know if I had it in me to take on the training.
The ‘why’ wasn’t the one I was expecting. Instead, it was ‘why the heck am I scared? This is ridiculous’. I mean, sure, I’d learned about balance the hard way after the first one, but building up to an Ironman in itself should be balanced, with a ‘sensible’ incremental build over six months. The event itself is a big thing, sure, but I’d be ready for it, and I’d rest adequately afterwards – and – I’d already done one. My fear was unfounded.
But… it’s ok to be scared and do it anyway. It’s almost never how you imagine it will be – it’s true what they say – the hardest bit is getting started.
“It’s true what they say – the hardest bit is getting started.”
Curiosity won the day. I knew that there was little chance I could embark on a six month training plan, culminating with one of the biggest triathlon events in the world, without discovering some cool stuff, meeting some cool people, and getting some brilliant experiences along the way; and that’s even before the experience of Roth itself.
In lieu of a robust reason, or desperate want, I decided to embark on a plan, and figure the rest out along the way. Six months of training, building a solid base with balance, this time including healthier eating, vegan protein, yoga, strength exercises and lots of writing – and I decided that it would be fun; because in the end, isn’t that what it’s all about. Course, I’m not silly, I got race insurance. You know, in case I change my mind.