Full or half measure – my 2013 Triathlon decision

Here I set out my tri background and the relevant facts leading me up to making a decision about what I target in 2013.  I hope that by writing it all down it will both clear the murky waters in my mind and others can help me make the decision.

I did my first triathlon in 2007 inspired by a work colleague who was training for his first Ironman.  From then on I’ve been hooked on the long distance, following results avidly and being a keen listener of IMTalk.  However my actual participation has been sporadic at best – a pool based sprint that first year, 2008 and 2009 generally entered running only events, before doing 2-3 sprints a season since then.

The fact was I enjoyed the idea of the sport more than the actual sport itself, I didn’t enjoy cycling particularly – I rode to train and never for fun and I am a really poor swimmer.  I did my first OW swim at Tuska Tri in 2009 and although I completed it and did well enough my experience of the sea swim put me off a lot more than I should have let it given how strong I raced once through T1.  At the end of 2010 I won a place in the VLM and that winter trained harder than I ever have before proving to myself that although overweight I can do endurance training.  I did a couple more Tri’s that year.

Moving on to this year and in trying to get fit I spent some time on the turbo trainer and had the revelation that has reinvigorated my Tri career.  With the Sufferfest training videos urging me to increase my cadence I realised that I’m much more suited to spinning high speeds in easier gears.  The comfort and improved ability I’ve found by pushing an easier gear at 95-100 compared to my previous mid 70 grinding has meant I now enjoy the experience of riding my bike just for the fun of it.  This has obviously meant I train more on the bike and have improved significantly for little effort.

With this in mind I entered Cosmeston Triathlon, another sprint near me with a lake swim.  This was the source of revelation number two.  On a still lake, in a wetsuit I swim much stronger that I do in a pool.  In training my best 750m swim was 23 minutes and I was near exhaustion but in the lake I came out in a better time and feeling pretty fresh.  I’d done no run training at all in the build up but I find I can run a 5K trained in 22 minutes but pretty much always run 24 regardless of condition,

It was with this newfound confidence I entered BRAT Birmingham Triathlon that I completed just over a week ago.  Purely on the basis of the little difference in price I agreed with the organisers that I’d enter the Olympic distance and they’d let me switch to the sprint if I didn’t feel up to the distance.  I continued to cycle more and more but neglected the other two disciplines and 10 days before race day, having not swam a stroke since Cosmeston 9 weeks earlier, I took myself to a late night swim session with a view to attempting a 1000m swim.  If I could complete it I’d go for the Oly.  Complete it I did and after a break I then did another 2 x 250s for a total time of 49 minutes. Slow but I got there.

Birmingham came and I completed the swim feeling good and in only 42 minutes despite taking it very easy.  For the first time in my life I completed a long swim (my longest ever) at a pace that would see me comfortably inside an IM cutoff.  Which means I now have the dilemma I never thought my mediocre swimming would allow me to have.

I’ve always put Ironman out of reach because I just couldn’t swim that far but if I’m honest I wasn’t tired in Birmingham, another 400m would have been comfortable but could I have done it again? It would have taken a while but I could have made it I’m sure. I’ve found a rhythm and pace I can just plod along at.

The triathlon twitter crowd had great things to say about the Cotswold 113 race and it being not too far away from me seemed like a good event to target for 2013.  I was then thinking about backing it up with a genuine 70.3 later in the year in Galway.  Kathryn works for an Irish company and is very keen on us going.

The thing is I didn’t train anything like as hard as I should have for Birmingham but still beat my 3 hour target and if I’m honest although it would be a challenge to do a 70.3 I do believe that with a couple of months decent training and not attempting anything to fast I could complete a 70.3.  I’m not looking to set records, I’m not fast, I’d only really want to complete.

So I find myself now eyeing up the Outlaw.  That would be a massive challenge but the dates make it completely incompatible with 113 as the gap is only 2 weeks – maybe not for a seasoned campaigner but certainly for a beginner.

Kathryn has said she’ll back me if I decide to go for Outlaw and we’ll make time for the training I’ll need to put in.  People have suggested I might be rushing it and a season of half distance will be better for me but I can’t be sure that future years will grant me the same opportunities to train.

Another question I keep asking myself is whether I really believe I can do it, I’m by nature a very pessimistic person, and I know it’ll be as much a mental challenge to get to the start line fully trained if the doubts start to creep in.  I could lose my current vibe for the sport if it once more becomes all about training and not fun.

Below is a list of pros and cons of each but feel free to throw any more at me in the comments section or via twitter.  I really would appreciate the advice and thoughts of those who’ve already been through this journey as I try to make my decision before Outlaw entries open soon. Green is a pro, red a con, blue an observation.


140.6 70.3
Bigger challenge Easier
Expensive Cheaper
More training Less training
Some level of coaching/planning. Again more money. Can do uncoached
Might not be able to spare the time in future years I might always have that nagging feeling I should have gone longer if the opportunity never presents itself in future.
Can I really swim the required distance? I’ve also never ridden more than 50 miles in a go. I know I can manage all 3 distances individually now, BUT – is it really a great challenge to do them in sequence with 10 months training.
Potential sense of personal satisfaction 10/10 Potential sense of personal satisfaction 7/10.
Will get much fitter and lose weight by doing it – I’m probably at least a stone overweight at the moment
Might not lose weight doing the required training.
Too much of a leap from one Oly to IM? Steadier progression
Probably need to decide soon No rush
Will probably have to focus on these 3 sports Can continue to play football/cricket etc
Will need to swim train, either struggling in pool or travelling to an OW venue. Again more money. Could get away with less swimming.
Home life likely to suffer a bit

However K is keen on do a tri too so we can do some training together

Shouldn’t have any major impact








  1. D says:

    As if to spite me Outlaw entries opened while I wrote this entry! As I comment over 300 entries are in so I might not have long to decide.

  2. D says:

    Currently over 600 entries!

  3. Marcus W says:

    My opinion – you can complete the ironman distance. If you just want to complete the distance break it down to the component parts and the cut offs associated to each leg. These cut offs are taken directly from the outlaw website – 2 hours for the swim is the equavalent of swimming each 100mtrs @ 4min/100 pace (what is your current 100 pace). The bike cut off is 8.5 hours which equates to 13mph – the outlaw course is flat. Finally the run has to be completed worse case within 6.5 hours (if you push the other 2 elements to the cut offs) this equates to 15min/mile at the slowest, and again the run course is pretty flat. So yes you can complete the ironman the question is how much of a challenge you are willing to take on. The base minimum you need to train is 1 long run, swim and bike per week. With anything though the more you can commit to it the more you will get back. Consistency is the most important thing to consider. A good book to read is “ironfit” by Don Fink that gives a good newbie training plan. If you want any further info message me – i’m about to embark on my tri coaching career 🙂

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