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  • Writer's pictureEmily Red

Back in the Game

I've had a good week.

I've been on annual leave, and I wanted to use this time to kick start my training again. I've basically had 6 months off, and I can really feel it.

Last year I'd been training for Ironman for over a year. We all know how that ended, so this year I wanted to do things differently. I signed up to do Ironman again, because it's been a goal of mine for many years, but I've struggled to find the motivation to start training for it again.

I say I've had six months off, but that's not totally true. I've just done different things. After the race last year I got heavily into my netball again. I already played for one team, then I joined another team, and now I find myself on 3 different teams playing 3 times a week. My position is GD, and if you've ever played netball, it's not an easy sport. I'm constantly sprinting up and down the court, marking my player as close as possible, and then putting pressure on her when she's taking a shot in the D. There's little time for rest, except when your team is scoring. I've had my heart rate go up to 192 during matches (which shouldn't happen when I'm this close to turning 40), and I'm always red faced at the end, with Strava giving me a 'Relative Effort' score close to 100 for a match.

You know what I've loved about it though? Is that it's different to triathlon. For over a year I'd been doing low heart rate training. Hours and hours just running, swimming and cycling. Don't get me wrong, I love doing those things, but I also love intense workouts. I've enjoyed doing Crossfit for about 7-8 years, and until Ironman training, I'd never done low heart rate stuff. It's so easy to get carried away to see how fast you can go and how far you can push yourself. But what I've learned is that you need to do both.

When I run regularly, I feel fit. Building that cardio aerobic base last year made me feel healthy, fit and happy, but I lost strength and with it, confidence. This year, I need to get the balance right and train both. Zone 2 running all the way, but with intense netball sessions, and strength building with CrossFit as well.

So I kick started my Ironman training this year during my annual leave. I participated in The Rainhill Trials on the first day. It's a CrossFit competition, of which I've not done before. It was intense. I've not felt pressure like it. Being in that hall with so many spectators watching, it was nothing like doing a throwdown at your normal CrossFit Gym. So much pressure to perform and not stop. I definitely pushed too hard. Usually that's a good thing, but not when you need to pace yourself so you don't crash and burn later on in the workout. It was a brilliant experience and it set me up for my week of fitness.

I had two goals for my leave, the first was to run every day (except for Rainhill), and the second was to get out on my mountain bike. I achieved the first one, but unfortunately the second one didn't happen. The first half of the week for me was very much about recovering from the competition, and the second half of the week was scuppered by the storms (I don't mind riding in most conditions, but the one that I hate the most is when it's windy, no thank you).

So I had 8 days of running to get done, and all of it was going to be in zone 2 - so keeping my heart rate about 142 beats a min or less. The day after Rainhill my muscles were sore, but no more than I'm used to, so I did a simple 5 km run with zero pressure. It was a recovery run, and I walked up every hill. I take recovery seriously, as I really don't want to injure myself.

The worst of it came on days 2 and 3 after the comp. The DOMS was bad. Like, turning-over-in-bed-woke-me-up-it-was-so-painful, bad. But I was not going to be beaten, so I got out and did half a 5 km run (so 1.5 miles) on those days. It took me about 20 mins, and I must have looked incredibly strange when I started running, because it was difficult to get those legs moving (thank you goblet squats), but once they'd warmed up a bit I managed ok. I then did 5km runs the rest of the week with the exception of Saturday, where I went all out with a 5 mile run.

I kept expecting to feel tired at some point or like i really didn't want to do a run, but that never happened, quite the opposite. Every single run got faster. It went from a pace of 13:18 min/miles on day one which took 41.17 mins, to a pace of 11:45 min/miles which took 36.24 mins on day 8.

In order to properly kick start my Ironman training though, I really needed to do some swimming and cycling too, and with Storm Eunice ruining all my plans to get outdoors, I was stuck inside on the trainer. The first ride felt hard. I stayed at zone 2 for 45 mins, but my legs felt heavy. Whether that was because they were still healing from Rainhill, or because of the run I'd already done that day, I don't know, but the second ride I did - which was after my 5 mile run on Saturday plus 2 hours of Salsa dancing - felt great. It had zone 5 intervals in it, and despite really not wanting to do it at all, I felt so good afterwards.

The swimming was a great success too. I swam 1500 m but I used the pull buoy for the main set (I figured my legs could do with a rest after this intense week). I practised breathing after 4 and 5 breaths, and just enjoyed being back in the pool.

So yeah, it's been a successful week, and I just hope it's been enough to kick start my training properly. It's going to be tough to fit training in with my current work schedule, but I'm determined to make it work for me.

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