Building Towards My First IRONMAN – Jonny Rae, Blackzone Coached Triathlete

Man what a ride that was. The past 24 months have had their obstacles for everyone that’s for sure. Training was a struggle for all of us during the pandemic. As the gyms were closed I never had the delight of running on a treadmill in a warm gym, swimming in the heated pool. Instead, I had to brace the freezing Scottish winter and play the cards I was dealt. I got comfortable being uncomfortable, which is the secret to IRONMAN training right?

All Eyes On IRONMAN Nice

Third time lucky. That’s normally how things pan out. Not for me. When I completed IRONMAN WEYMOUTH 70.3 back in 2019 (my first triathlon) I immediately signed up for the big one, IRONMAN NICE in June 2020 – 140.6 miles of swim, bike, run. I was fresh out the packet with a few months of non-structured training, having read ‘Finding Ultra’ by Rich Roll, thinking I knew everything there was to know about triathlon. I was wrong.

I worked offshore on rotation which was only going to add to the difficulties of sticking to a structured training plan on my own. Regardless of the complications I put together a messy plan. June 2020 was fast approaching. I felt ready. I wasn’t bothered if I was at my best possible fitness, I knew determination was going to get me across that line. Finish time didn’t matter.
Then that dreaded email came through.. IRONMAN Nice Rescheduled to Oct 2020 due to COVID restrictions.

I was happy to wait, the way I saw it was that I was only going to get fitter and grow my knowledge of the sport… PLUS we were in the middle of a global pandemic! Training was going … OK, I guess. I was struggling with the generic training plan I took out of a book. The author obviously never considered triathletes who work offshore and do 84 hour weeks back to back. The physical demands of my job were just another ingredient added to the cauldron of complications and lack of understanding/experience. Fatigue overload. I pushed through another couple of months until… there it was. That dreaded email again. Sorry, IRONMAN Nice has been rescheduled AGAIN to June 2021. I wasn’t the only one on this sinking ship. Races were being cancelled/rescheduled globally at the time.

Introducing Blackzone Coaching To The Mix

I struggled to balance work, training and real life. I needed help. The question my ego refuses to let in. So I reached out to Kevin from Blackzone Coaching and we set up a phone call before getting to work straight away for 2021, with the goal of completing IRONMAN. This dude knew his stuff. So the plan was to peak around June time (again) for Nice.

Working offshore had its limitations when it came to training for IRONMAN. Kevin had experience coaching other athletes in the same field which filled me with confidence.
The plan was to do shorter and more intense sessions whilst offshore and increase the volume when I was home on my break. At first I struggled due to the fatigue and lack of time to recover at work. “Trust the process”. Reassuring words from coach Kevin. So I did. Right enough my body quickly adapted to the demands.

Resetting Objectives

April was here before we knew it. I was feeling bulletproof. But yeah, you guessed it, IRONMAN Nice rescheduled once again to September. This was hard to take as I had worked really hard to get to where I was at but at the same time I was curious to see what my limits really were.
Business continued as usual with the structured training. I had a bit of time until September and I was peaking in fitness so I signed up for a couple of 70.3’s to test my progress. Progress was good with a 5:34 for the first triathlon and 6 weeks later a 5:03 for the second of the season. This was building my confidence going into the BIG DANCE in September. Third time lucky. Not quite. I had been struggling with shin splints since late 2019. They had come back to kick my arse. To add salt to the wound, I had damaged my knee due to over compensation. Nice was a right off by the time it came round. This race just wasn’t meant to be. I had time to take a couple weeks out to heal and get back to the drawing board and to set myself a new target knowing that 140.6 triathlon will still be happening in 2021 regardless of where it was and where I’m at injury wise.

Mallorca and Managing Injury

IRONMAN Mallorca, 16th October. I was all in. I tried everything to keep my injury at bay and maintain a high level of fitness. Kevin altered the training here and there to accommodate the injury. Basically, very little running. This was hard for me to take as It was my strongest discipline out of the three. We flew out to MALLORCA to get the job done. My aim was to complete the race. Simple.

Jonny Rae 2

The swim went surprisingly well with a time of 1:03. A quick look at the Garmin on exit produced an influx of adrenaline. A flat start on the bike helped to spin the legs, hydrate and get comfortable after that epic swim. I was cruising. We were aiming for 200 – 220 watts which seemed doable… on paper. A long and steep mountain pass after 30km forced a change of plan. What goes up must come down and multiple switchbacks on smooth tarmac is just the most fun you can have on a bike. The rest of the course was rolling so I concentrated on being as aero as I could on my entry level Specialized road bike and drive as close to 200watts as I could. I managed a respectable time of 5:24.

The run was the part of the day I was dreading the most. But I had Kevin in my head, “stick to your numbers and enjoy it!” I went out fast, adrenaline was sky high. I managed to rein in the emotions and stick to my pace. Running up that red carpet is a memory that can’t be erased. I guess sheer determination, desire and relentless drive got me through that marathon. I managed to do 10:05 for my first full distance.

Three things to take away from my experience are – trust the process, get comfortable being uncomfortable, and whatever the task at hand… make it fun.

If you’re interested in discussing a personalised structured training plan built around your life and goals then get in touch with Kevin and the team today, here.