Athlete Journal: Andrew Read, Entry 35 – Pigheaded Stubbornness

This week of training was a lesson in stubbornness. The only thing keeping me going is tons of food, naps, and the thought that there’s only a few weeks of hard training left before the taper starts.

Click here to read other journal entries and articles by Andrew Read, and look for his new journal every Monday as he trains for Ironman Melbourne.

Athlete Journal Entry 35: Pigheaded Stubbornness

I can honestly say that I’ve never done anything that has brought so many highs and lows, and all so close together, as training for Ironman.

While it seems an eternity ago, I did a half ironman only six weeks ago. At the time the furthest I had run was 15km, and that was the week before. The run for that event was three laps, so as I started the final lap I was breaking my own distance record every single step. What makes this funny now is that I routinely run the same distance as my regular Saturday morning run. How does what used to be my record become “normal” in such a short time?

But with that sudden increase comes problems. My lower legs are a mess. When I get out of bed first thing in the morning I hobble like an old man. My Achilles are so sore it’s almost funny. I wonder what people must think of me as I wince and hobble along when I start to run. After a few minutes the pain seems to go away, or I get used to it and my stride evens out and I can run normally. Last week I set a ten-minute PR over 10km, yet I spent the first ten minutes wondering if I should turn back because it was so painful.

With thirteen sessions each week now, there’s plenty of room for good and bad. One good session can leave you uplifted for days, but a bad one can be just around the corner. They say that out of every five sessions you’ll have three mediocre ones, one good one, and one bad. That means I’ll have three bad ones each week. Three blows to the ego. Three sessions that make me doubt my ability to complete the Ironman.

On top of that there’s fatigue. Actually, make that F-A-T-I-G-U-E. This isn’t the fatigue cured by a short nap. This is the fatigue that makes you so tired you feel like crying at the thought of putting your runners on again. This is the fatigue that made me think before every single session last week, “Fuck this. I don’t need this.” Only to be met by that deep-seated sense of loathing I feel for any quitter, which pushes me out the door.

Sunday I was so tired I really couldn’t face training. Sunday is the long ride day – over five hours of riding and running. But when I got up it was raining. Knowing that meant another massive trainer ride and that I didn’t have to finish early before the Sunday drivers came out, I decided to go back to bed for a bit. Four hours later I woke up. Let’s call that a sign of fatigue.

The end of last week was tough mentally. Friday I got up, taught class, then went back to bed for two hours. After I woke up I went to the pool and swam, then went to sleep for another hour and a half. To be honest, I don’t recall much of Friday afternoon, as I was pretty foggy. I slept nine hours Friday night, got up Saturday at 6 AM, and ran two hours. Then I went to work and ran a workshop for three hours, followed by another half hour run and a swim for recovery. I slept nine hours then had my world’s biggest nap Sunday morning. The thought of training had made me contemplate slitting my wrists late last week, so I took that as a sign and took the whole day off. I had another nap and watched two movies and was in bed early again.

The biggest mystery to me is how people accomplish this Ironman thing when they have kids and a demanding job. The only thing keeping me going right now is tons of food, naps, and the thought that there’s actually only a couple of hard weeks left before the taper starts. I can put up with just about anything for two weeks and as long as my Achilles don’t get any worse I can put up with that too.

I’m not sure it’s a great lesson from this week, but pigheaded stubbornness can get you through a lot. Whether that’s worth it in the long run remains to be seen.