My Ironman Journey

The Final Push!

akhilvizby akhilvizAug 14th 2013
I have had another fantastic week and as the saying goes; all good things come to an end! My two week training holiday ends today with a well deserved rest day and I'll be back in my usual routine as from tomorrow.

I am not looking forward to returning back to Bristol as I quite enjoyed the 'pro-triathlete' lifestyle! All I have been doing over the past two weeks is just eating, sleeping, swimming, cycling and running! My body probably disagrees with my mind on this regards as I have severely punished my body! My legs have taken the majority of the brunt and any movement involving my legs is difficult to perform! I hope they forgive me and are ready to take the final and most severe punishment on the 1st of September when I participate at Challenge Vichy.

Over the past week I increased my training volume. In total I accumulated 653 kms over a period of 29 hours! It was the final push before I begin tapering. I have also drawn a pie chart to highlight the emphasis on cycling when training for an Ironman. The fact that the cycling leg is the longest part of the event, the majority of triathletes spend their time on the saddle. Unfortunately it is time-sapping activity which then leads to time crunched triathletes (as described in my previous blog)!
The Final Push!
The Final Push!
To summarise my training activities during my time in Gibraltar, I have tabulated the data below. I have to confess that I was surprised by the cumulative training distance and time!

I was not aware that my body could take so much of a beating but it survived! I do feel sore and tired but I know that during the next two weeks, my training intensity and volume will reduce. It is during the tapering period where the body 'absorbs' the effects of training and it is important for me to keep myself sharp and focused to avoid training too hard or too easy to be fit on race day.
The Final Push!
I did plenty of swimming and cycling during the week but did not run as much as I intended to. I took the decision of cycling instead of running on some occasions due to the longer recovery periods associated with running. My priority was to get as many hours as I possibly could without sacrificing the quality of my sessions. It worked in my favour because on Tuesday I cycled 100km in 3hours and 15mins with which I set my new personal best. The following day I swam 3.3km in 51mins. These two workouts have been one of strongest so far and I hope to maintain the same performance level (or better) until Challenge Vichy.

I managed those performances after a heavy weekend of training. Last Saturday was a tough ride from Gibraltar to Puerto Galiz. Once again, I joined my 'good' tri buddies, Robert Matto, Richard Muscat and Mark Francis. I need to crack the code to their fitness as these guys are FAST! Not just on the flat roads but even on the hills! The ride follows the same road to Jimena De La Frontera after which we cycle past the town into a mountain range which comprised of approximately 30km of climbing. The first 15km comprised of rolling terrain after which there was a 15km climb to the coffee stop at Puerto Galiz (see elevation profile below). As always, the inspiration to the cycle rides is the coffee and toast! I don't blame these cyclists as the toast served at the cafe in Puerto Galiz was one of the finest and most delicious toast I have tasted! It could be the fact that I was hungry and at that point anything would have tasted tremendous but that was indeed a very enjoyable slice of toast! The cafe is very popular among cyclist and motorcyclists and I now know the reason ;-) On the return leg back to Gibraltar I was again chasing the burning wheel of Richard Muscat and we managed the entire 145km in under 4hrs and 45mins! Just for fun, I decided to go for a 30min run straight after the ride during the hottest time of the day (1pm)! I wanted to practice running at my intended Ironman race pace which I managed to hold very comfortably.

Thanks to mummy, lunch was ready on my return with an ice-cold bottle of coke and that night I had my weekly date with a tub of Ben & Jerrys!
The Final Push!

The Lean, Mean, Green, Iron Machine

As described in my previous blog, my stomach and appetite have been given various nicknames because I eat more than a family of four! When I say I can eat a 12" pizza, garlic bread, a portion of chips, a tub of Ben & Jerrys and drink a milkshake; I actually can consume it all! I have eye-witnesses who can confess to have seen me eat huge quantities of food ;-) As a result of the astronomical amounts of food I eat, I get the awkward stares and comments such as; how do you eat so much? where do you put all that food?.

The picture below clearly depicts what I've just described! Fellow Ironman-to-be, Chris Gardner is sat to me left with a smirk on his face and the following thoughts are going through his head; 'he ain't gonna finish that thing by himself! Who's he kidding?'. Even the gentleman at the bar in the background is thinking the same whilst sipping away his pint. Let me save the guessing game for you; I devoured the entire dessert within a matter of minutes! Unfortunately the restaurant didn't have a 'wall of fame' or anything along those lines to congratulate customers who manage to complete the dessert solo! I wasn't even presented with a t-shirt :-(

I think I should start my own 'Man vs Food' series ;-)
The Final Push!
I have always been in love with food since childhood and I was brought up as a vegetarian. Yes, I have been living my entire life as an ovo-lacto vegetarian and have still been able to perform events such as an Ironman! Again, I get asked numerous questions regarding my diet such as; where do you get your protein intake from? Do you take protein shakes or supplements? Do you take any vitamin tablets?

At times these questions frustrate me because I fail to understand why these people find it absurd when I reveal the facts about my eating habits and vegetarian diet.

Just because I am training for an Ironman does not mean I need to eat 'healthily' for the race. What is the definition of healthy eating?In reality we all need to eat healthily every day! It is a lifestyle and it is a fact that those who 'go on a diet' by reducing their food intake tend to put on weight on the long term instead of losing weight.

I do not exercise because I want to achieve a certain waist size or a specific physique. I do not monitor my calorie expenditure because if I did, I would spend my entire life chasing numbers and not chasing my aspirations!

I enjoy my training and alongside that, I enjoy my food. It is what fuels my body AND mind to perform. This fine balance of eating well and pushing my body to its limits is what puts a smile on my face! Enjoying my food always lifts my mood which in turn has a positive effect on my mind. If I feel good about myself, I will push myself harder during my next training session. The body and mind are connected and work together for a healthy well-being.

What will I achieve if I brought my body weight down from 60kg to 59kg by living on a calorie controlled and restrictive diet? Does it mean I will perform better? Will I feel healthier? Will I BE healthier? Will I be happier? My answer to all of those questions is NO!

There is absolutely no point in me living a lifestyle which makes me miserable because I am unable to enjoy eating certain foods. If I am deprived of such foods, I will not have the motivation to train. Consequently I will not be able to perform and compete at races. It is a viscous circle and I know a lot of people who have taken that route and their personality and characters have changed. Regardless of how much exercise they perform or how much weight they lose, they are never satisfied with themselves. In my opinion, that is the wrong attitude.

I confess that despite having an extremely sweet tooth, I eat cleanly during throughout the week and only consume chocolates, ice-cream and other sugary sweets once a week (Saturday night is my treat night!).
The Final Push!
I once was a chubby teenager not because I didn't exercise but due to the fact that I was 'well fed'! Nonetheless I was still a fast runner and a good rower. I competed at the British National Rowing Championships and was able to run a half marathon in under 1hr 45mins. I have seen many slim athletes being overtaken by 'bigger' athletes. What does that show? It illustrates the fact that body weight and physique are not the most critical factors to better performance.

I agree that losing weight can make a person faster at a particular activity but athletes should aim to be LEAN! By that I mean prioritising your aim to perform to the best of your ability with your body weight being a secondary priority. If you train hard and fuel your body appropriately, your body will morph into the most adaptable physique and weight which it considers optimal for the physical exertion that is being applied. For example, sprinters have extremely muscular physiques as they require a lot of power for short periods of time. On the other hand endurance athletes are slim and lightweight due to the long hours they spend training and racing. The body adapts to the training environment to ensure that it can perform the activity at the most optimum level. When I was a rower, I was definitely more muscular and heavier than what I am now. I weighed around 75kg but ever since I moved into long distance running and cycling, my body has involuntarily shed the excess weight and I know weigh around 61kg. My body weight is not important to me but what actually matters is my level of performance.

Therefore when you plan your own training regime, your priority should be on monitoring your performance and fuelling your body accordingly to perform. If your lifestyle is well balanced which also includes resting, any exercise routine can be enjoyed and the results will be reaped!

Remember to train smart!
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