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10 things I learnt on my journey to Ironman

  • 4 min read


Bobbing up and down at sunrise in a lake surrounded by just over one thousand other people I have to admit I was apprehensive. Many hours of hard training had gone into this one day. Ironman was the impossible challenge that I didn’t believe normal girls like me could achieve. Today I was defying my own definitions I had always placed on myself. I was trying to see if I too could become an Ironman.

It had been a long road and thirteen hours and fifty-seven minutes later crossing the finish line would become one of the best experiences of my life. I was an Ironman.

It took seven long months of working hard to achieve the impossible. This is what I learnt along the way:

1. Anything is possible
Why can’t a super busy, self-prescribed ‘average Jane’ do Ironman?! If I can do it: anyone can do it. Nothing is impossible – don’t count yourself out!

2. You don’t need to spend hundreds to be a triathlete
When I stood on the start line of my Ironman race I was in a wetsuit I’d got for free (won in a Facebook competition), in a trisuit someone on Twitter gave me, on a £300 racing bike bought from Halfords with tri bars and bike shoes bought second hand. My wonderful Tribesports running kit saw me through the marathon while wearing my much-loved usual running trainers. Triathlon doesn’t have to cost the earth.

3. You’ll need to meticulously plan your time
I work roughly 50 hours a week, spend 15 hours commuting, need 56 hours a week sleep and spend 5 hours a week at church. Never mind the two hours or so needed a day for eating, washing, dressing and cleaning – another 14 hours. There are 168 hours in the week so that leaves 29 hours. 20 hours training and a good 4 hours spent volunteering at parkrun on a Saturday and just like that you have 5 hours left. Holding down a relationship takes some of those hours and just like that I’ve got a few hours for seeing friends a week. It’s really, really tough.

4. The hardest thing is the training
Waking up at 5am on a weekday to squeeze in a long hard session before heading to work is not my idea of fun. Sacrificing my Sunday afternoons to long bike rides spent working hard in wind, rain and baking hot sun isn’t my perfect afternoon. Sometimes the lure of staying in bed to a more normal time is extremely appealing. Committing to so much training is hard.

5. Get your friends and family to buy in to your dream
There are SO many hours of training that are invested in this journey so if you intend to hold down a full-time job and put the necessary 15-20 hours training in a week you need your friends and family to accept you aren’t going to have as much time as usual. Having your friends and family backing you, supporting you and ideally cheering you on – both on the day but also through the training is one of the best things you can do.

6. You’ll be shocked at how much washing is required
Flipping heck, I’ve never run the washing machine so much. It seems daft to mention but I train 10 times a week and usually at high intensity or recently in high enough temperatures that every time you need to wash your kit. Suddenly that volume of kit adds up. No one has enough kit to get through that amount of training. Washing washing washing. It’s like the 4th triathlon discipline.

7.People will tell you you’re mad
I’m not sure why people think it’s ok but it happens daily. “Has anyone ever told you you’re mad?!” Yes actually they have. It’s not helpful but you just have to shut your eyes, take a deep breath and remind yourself your big impossible dream is bigger than this one person’s view of what is possible. You can do it.

  • 8. You can physically change your body in 9 months
  • My body has changed so much on this journey it’s remarkable! I started off feeling relatively fit and over the course of the last 9 months I’ve gained muscle, lost weight (without even trying I’m 6kg lighter) and really toned up. There are certain hilarious things about my body changing – the enormous quads I’ve developed and my super lean calves but there are some more serious things I’ve learnt. A couple of years ago I thought my body had settled where it would always be. I’d lost weight through Weight Watchers, maintained it, learnt to run and was just about comfortable in a bikini. To see what my body has become through this process and the results I have got out for the hard work I’ve put in is really exciting.

    9. Inspiration is all around you
    There are so many people who go on the journey with you and without the amazing people around me I doubt I would have even made it to the start line. My friends have been on long bike rides with me, encouraged me to get out of bed and told me time and time again that I can achieve my ‘mad’ dream. Find a community: be it parkrun, a club or even just the wonderful community online. Inspiration is everywhere.

    10. Normal people do extraordinary things
    Look up the Iron Nun on YouTube. Watch a video of Bailey Matthews crossing the finish line of a triathlon. Follow any of the amazing Paralympic triathletes competing at speeds I couldn’t hope to sustain. If it’s helpful remember that I, a totally normal girl who couldn’t run for 2 minutes without walking and feeling out of breath 6 years ago, finished Ironman in under 14 hours. Ordinary people have the ability to be extraordinary. You too can achieve the impossible.

    Check out Fiona's blog

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