By Rob Cummins
When we (I rarely think of this as my Ironman. I think of myself and Ais very much as a team) first set out to qualify for Kona back in 2011 we took on the guidance of a coach.

The first eight days under his guidance I did 28 hours of training which culminated in a sprint triathlon. I placed third overall and won my age group (it was a small race) I’d never done either of those things before and I felt like I’d just been let in on “the big secret”
If you want to get fast you just have to do a shit-ton of training. In the beginning it’s not as important what type of training you do so much as just doing a lot. When you go from an average of 6 hours a week to a 28 hour week just the massive overload will cause all of the adaptations you could hope for.

Either that or it’ll break you.

I’m still not 100% sure what he was trying to do that week, kill me and prove I couldn’t do it or he just did what I asked for and gave me a Kona persons program and I’d be responsible for the consequences.
The following months I was constantly swinging from one extreme to the other. I was training so hard I’d regularly push myself over the edge and not be able to get out of bed, never mind train.
When I lined up at the start of Ironman UK four months after we started on the journey I had no idea what would happen.
In my first 2 (and only other) Ironman races I had finished in the last 20% of the field. 1200th at Ironman France and just inside the top 1000 at Ironman Switzerland.
Now I somehow thought that with four months of the hardest training I’d ever done I’d suddenly move up into the top 50 and qualify for Kona. I pushed the fear and doubts aside and just set about doing what I could.
It was only as I came into T2 and found it almost empty that I actually believed for the first time I could and might actually do it. I went on to run myself up to 26th place in the age group race and 7th in my category. Only missing out on a Kona slot by one place and two minutes in the progress.
I continued to train and attempted again the following year and qualified. In my third attempt I qualified again.
I don’t tell this to impress. Rather to illustrate the most basic lesson I’ve learned in Ironman. If you do a massive amount of training you will get faster. That worked until I attempted to qualify last year. I tried to do what had worked a few years earlier but for some reason it just didn’t have the same effect as previous years.
That was reflected in my racing results in Ironman Mallorca and Brazil. But something has changed again this year. It (the training) is working again. I can feel the physical changes and adaptations that were missing last year even when I did the big hours and hard sessions. I can feel the strength coming on the bike.
I’m starting to feel good when I run and I feel reasonably ok in the pool (swimming is always the poor relation for me, sorry Patrick)
Aisling changed her approach to my program this year. Starting the early months with reduced volume with the aim of going into the final three months fit, strong and with very little fatigue.

The idea that I would then be ready to introduce long hard weeks. But irrationally it made me very nervous. I understood her reasoning and logic but I was afraid of going away from what had worked for me before, months and months of as much volume as I could handle. This was despite the fact that it seemed to have stopped working last year. It turns out Ais has been right (of course I should never have doubted her) and things are going pretty well.

If you want to back and get caught up on last weeks post you can do that here

Anyway on that note let’s get onto the weeks work.


Monday 28 :30 (1)

Run :30 5k easy

Energy 5/10
Motivation 5/10
Work —
Sleep 9 hours. Good


Tuesday 29 3:45 (2)

Swim 1:25 4000m
Bike 2:20 59k

Energy 5/10
Motivation 6/10
Work —
Sleep 8.5 hours. Good


Wednesday 30 1:20 (2)

Run 1:05 14k
S&C :25

Ais gave me two instructions for today’s run. The session was to run 6×1 mile repeats off two minutes recovery. I was to go full gas for the miles but not so full gas that I would fall apart. In other words push as hard as I could sustain so that all six intervals were done in the same time.
I then asked what time did she think I should be running the mile repeats in.
She thought for a moment and said “six minutes”
I panicked a little inside and nodded while I frantically tried to convert miles to kilometres. I then had to convert how fast I thought I could go in kilometres back into miles. Despite doing this a couple of times I seemed to be coming up with a different number to Ais.
A slower one.
Definitely not six minutes.
Maybe I’d done the math wrong I thought hopefully.
While I was redoing my mental arithmetic Ais added that the time per interval was less important than doing them all hard and all in the same time “after all your legs are tired and sore after the last weeks hard training, just go hard and don’t blow up”
I wasn’t sure if she could see the panic on my face and felt sorry for me or if she was just making sure I knew how to do the session.
Regardless I knew that I was now aiming for six minute repeats. That number became the target. Like a dare, or a challenge.
Tired, sore legs be damned. Not actually able to run that fast be damned. Afraid of going out too fast and falling apart be damned.
I’d do the session hard, I’d hit six minutes and I’d hit it six times.
It’s like I was six years old and I’d been told I wasn’t able to jump off a wall. I was not going to back down even if jumping off the wall might result in a broken leg. Or worse.

The next morning I woke up tired and did not want to run. I think that part of the reluctance was the fear of the impending session and the very real possibility of failure.
I spent almost an hour finding things I needed to do instead of getting out the door and in the end almost left it too late to fit the run in before work. Ais chased me out the door and I ran a couple of k’s easy to warm up before starting the session. I was going to do most of it on a flat lap in a local park. I told myself it was so that I could pace it properly but it was really because it was the fastest local lap and offered the best chance of hitting the times.
I started out at 3:45/km pace which is currently just faster than I can hold for 5k. I reasoned that the intervals are only 1.6k so that pace should be possible, I conveniently ignored the fact that the total of all the intervals would be 10k so I was running faster than I could hold for 5k and I intended to do that for double that distance. Maybe this wouldn’t go so well.

I managed the first one in the 6 minutes but the pace slipped on the next and then I proceeded to fall apart just like I’d been instructed not to while chasing a number instead of doing the session correctly.

Stupid, amateur mistake.

And Ais wasn’t impressed either.

Energy 6/10
Motivation 6/10
Work 9 hours
Sleep 8 hours. Good


Thursday 31 2:35 (2)

Run :45 7k easy.
Bike 1:50 45k easy.

Energy 4/10
Motivation 6/10
Work 8 hours
Sleep 8.5 hours. Good


Friday 1 :30 (1)

Run :30 5k

Energy 3/10
Motivation 3/10
Work 10 hours
Sleep 8 hours. Good


Saturday 2nd 2:35 (1)

Run 2:35 31k
Inc 3x5k HIMP

Energy 9/10
Motivation 10/10
Work 7 hours
Sleep 8.5 hours. Good


Sunday 3rd 5:20 (1)

Bike 5:20 152k 28.7kph easy ride. Stormy wet ride
Energy 6/10
Motivation 6/10
Work 6 hours
Sleep 8 hours


Total 16:50 (10)
Swim 1:25 4000 (1)
Bike 9:30 256k (3)
Run 5:25 62k (5)
S&C :30 (1)

As I was getting out of the pool with 4000m done in last weeks only swim session Patrick made the point that for me to be comfortably swimming 3800m I really need to be doing more than 4000m in my long swim (he also pointed out on Saturday that if I ever want to improve in the water I need to swim more than once a week)
I have all sorts of excuses for why I only got to swim once last week. All of which sound genuine but at the end of the day they’re still only excuses. I still have this idea that I’m not a proper triathlete, more a bike/runner who swims a bit before the real race starts.
If I’m honest I still think that I can race competitively off two strong legs. The bike and run. That’s despite the fact that this approach proved to be a flawed not just once but twice last year.
But I have a plan. In the back of my mind I can hear Mike Tyson say “Everyone has a plan. Until they get hit”
But still I have a plan.

I think.
This year I am taking the swim more seriously. I’m aiming to at the very least get out of the water in good enough shape that I’m ready to start racing and not flattened by the first discipline.
Unlike last year when I had to work hard only to get out of the water tired after a weak swim this year I aim to be able to cruise through albeit possibly with a slower than optimal swim.
Flawed thinking?
A weak plan?
Maybe.
I need to take the swimming more seriously.
Anyway back to Patrick and his suggestion that my long swim should be 5k each week. I mentioned it to Ais afterwards and she thought it was a great idea so I texted Patrick to say I’d get my shit together and do it.
Patrick also went on to suggest that if I want to swim faster in a race then I need to swim faster in training. Of course I know this. But I find it very unpleasant. And in case you haven’t noticed I have a tendency to avoid the unpleasant stuff in the pool. Unless that is I happen to have Patrick kicking lumps out of me.
In a perverse sort of way I enjoy it on the bike and run but for some reason have yet to fully embrace it in the water.
Patrick sent me a 5k session that included 12×100 off short recovery (there’s no messing with Patrick. It’s work hard and go long or go home)
So I got up this morning with the intention of doing the 5k session he set but (insert any weak-ass excuse here) got delayed on the way to the pool and only had time for 4300m in the end.
I had 800m done by the time Patrick arrived and we finished the warm up before starting the planned 12×100 main set.
We were swimming long course meters but not having done short, hard stuff for a while we weren’t sure what pace I could hold in the 50m pool. So he suggested I aim to come in each 100 on 1:45 and go on 1:55. This meant I’d have 10 seconds recovery.
It sounded quite do-able and not too painful but I didn’t tell Patrick that.
This would turn out to be my first mistake. But unfortunately not my last.
Patrick failed to mention until 3 seconds before push off that we were doing the session side by side in the lane so I wouldn’t have the benefit of drafting behind him.
Shite.
The numbers just got a little harder to hit. But not catastrophically hard.
We started fast and I came in with a 1:38 for the first 100. I didn’t know whether to panic or celebrate. Had I started way too fast? Or was I just swimming better than we’d expected?
The pace on the second 100 settled and I came in with a 1:42 affording myself a luxurious 13 seconds of recovery. The next 4 intervals were all within a second of that one and I was feeling strong and I was still getting a longer recovery than planned so the 100’s felt good. Really good. So I pushed a little harder and the pace went to 1:40, then 1:39 and I felt even better.
I felt strong and my breathing was getting harder but still under control. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that I briefly felt like a swimmer. I kept pushing for the last few and came into the pool wall after the last one feeling quite chuffed and waiting for the compliments on my prowess in the water.
“Patrick will be impressed with that” I was thinking to myself. As I touched the wall though he said we’d gotten the times wrong. It had been too easy for me and we’d keep going.
Shit! My second mistake was showing off.
We pushed off again. And again. After the next one Patrick decided it still wasn’t hard enough so we were going to shorten the recovery and go off 1:50. That meant I’d have about 6-8 seconds recovery after each interval.
He still hadn’t told me how many I was doing. My head was starting to panic. How long was Patrick going to go on for? Maybe six extra I told myself hoping but not really believing.
I was still holding 1:42-1:44 for each hundred but it was starting to get harder as my recovery was cut. Then the next one slipped to 1:47. The water was feeling really heavy and I was starting to hurt. And I only had 3 seconds recovery before pushing off again. I was at the point of backing off, of “minding myself”.
Maybe if my splits slowed further Patrick would ease off and the pain would end sooner. But I would know that if I quit I’d hate it. So I told myself to just suck it up and push hard. I would only slow down when I had no choice and I blew up.

I admitted that I could live with what was really only discomfort.

The next two splits were back to 1:45‘s.
My breathing was ragged now and my arms and shoulders were really hurting. But the worst part was still that I had no idea how many we were doing.
I guessed that last one we just did was number 21 but I couldn’t be sure.
I shouted in my head to suck it up and pushed again but despite the effort I was slowing. I was only getting to touch the wall, hit lap on the watch, greedily suck in air and go again. I was getting no recovery.
As I came up to breathe after number 24 Patrick said we only had 4 more to go and I was to swim fast for them.
SWIM FAST???!?! WHAT THE HOLY FUCK DOES HE THINK I’VE BEEN DOING??!?!?!?
But despite the pain I was in I now knew when it would end and there was some relief in that. Not that I could go any faster as he’d instructed. I was still only getting to touch the wall, breathe once and go again after each 100.
Somehow I survived.
Funny that.
A hard swim didn’t kill me.
Afterwards talking to Patrick he was satisfied that he’d found my limit and we could work off that next time.
All I could think was that it was a pity that he didn’t find it after 1500m instead of almost 3k…
But in fairness that was all my own fault.
If I’d been honest and said what I thought I could really do from the start instead of being afraid to hurt myself I’d have only had 12×100 hard to suffer through instead of 28. But then again knowing Patrick maybe not.
The 100 splits are detailed below for those who like to geek out on the numbers.

Lessons learnt.
1. Don’t try to wimp out of a session.
2. Don’t try to pull the wool over Patrick’s eyes.
3. Don’t show off in front of Patrick. Ever.
4. You can almost always do more than you think you can if you’re willing to work hard enough or hurt yourself a little more.
5. You can also always hurt yourself a little more than you want to.
6. It was pretty good to feel like a swimmer again even if only briefly.

Anyway with that let’s get on with the weeks training.


Monday :20 (1)

S&C :20


Tuesday 2:40 (3)

AM: Swim 1:30 4300m
PM: Swim :50 2500m open water
S&C :20

1:38, 1:42, 1:42, 1:43, 1:43, 1:42, 1:41, 1:40, 1:39, 1:39, 1:41, 1:42
1:42, 1:42, 1:43, 1:43, 1:44, 1:44, 1:47, 1:45, 1:45, 1:48, 1:46, 1:49,
1:46, 1:48, 1:48, 1:47

Energy 9/10
Motivation 9/10
Work 4 hours
Sleep 8 hours. Good.


Wednesday 2:05 (1)

Bike 2:05 63k

Energy 8/10
Motivation 10/10
Work 8 hours
Sleep 8 hours. Good


Thursday 2:40 (2)

Bike 2:05 62k
Run :35 7.5k off bike

Energy 8/10
Motivation 7/10
Work 8 hours
Sleep 9 hours. Disturbed


Friday

Off
Energy 8/10
Motivation 8/10
Work —
Sleep 9.5 hours. Good


Saturday 5:40 (2)

Bike 5:00 150k inc 3.5 hours at Ironman Effort
Run :40 7.5k off bike. Easy pace

Energy 7/10
Motivation 10/10
Work 5 hours
Sleep 7.5 hours. Good


Sunday 2:20 (1)

Run 2:20 23k
Fried from the start. Was supposed to do 1 hour easy, 1 harder and the last easy again but despite trying to pick up the pace after an hour I couldn’t even hold 5 minute k’s. In fact I pulled the plug after 2:20 when I couldn’t even hold 6 min/k pace and my heart rate was going through the roof. Some days the body just doesn’t want to play ball.

Energy 5/10
Motivation 5/10
Work 6 hours
Sleep 8.5 hours. Good


Total 15:50 (10)
Swim 2:20 6800m (2)
Bike 9:10 275k (3)
Run 3:35 38k (3)
S&C :45 (2)