Complete an Ironman? Me? No Way!

Gruelling. Intense. Wonderful.

On May 22 2022, I completed an Ironman 70.3 in Marbella along with 1,270 other men and women. It took me eight hours and 3 minutes to complete it in 29-degree heat. For those in the know, that is 27 minutes under the cut-off time of eight and a half hours – after that entrants are politely told to stop. An Ironman 70.3 consists of a 1.9km open water swim (this one was in the sea), a 90km bike ride and finally a 21km run (half marathon), the 70.3 refers to the mile equivalent. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. It completely stretched me both mentally and physically. After I crossed the line and received my finishers medal, I burst into tears. It was six months of intense training, including learning to swim two kilometres of crawl in one go, hours and hours on my static bike, as well as gruelling hill climbs around Marbella and building up my running again.

Having entered the ‘race’, I trained over a 6 period, slowly building up my fitness for all three disciplines. That’s how my mind works. I need a goal, then I work out what I need to do to complete it. I wasn’t a complete athletic novice, I have done two trail marathons and two Sprint Triathlons before and cycled 300km in 24 hours for charity, but this was a challenge on a grander scale. I had only ever swum 750m in a lake before, a mixture of crawl and breaststroke, and that wasn’t going to cut it!

Putting the three disciplines together over a long period of time means the mental side is huge, as there are many times when your body says: ‘stop now you’ve done enough’. Nutrition also plays a big part. Over a normal 8-hour period, you generally have a couple of meals, and in a 70.3 Ironman you are using around 4,000 – 5,000 calories. So, fuelling correctly both before and during is essential.

That’s the interesting thing about raising your own bar. You find out, when you get there, that there are loads of other people like you: ordinary folk, with jobs, who have also pushed themselves to achieve something new and challenging.

Ian Windle crosses the finish line of the Ironman 70.3 Marbella 2022

I guess the question many of you are asking is why? I don’t think it is a simple answer. I can only answer for myself. My reasons are as follows:

  1. It gives me a structure to keep fit. Without a goal, I do things, but they are much more random and at a much lower effort. I feel a bit rudderless.
  2. As I get inspired, I also want to inspire others to see what they can do. As someone who coaches and develops leaders, the most rewarding thing is to see someone accomplish something they didn’t think possible a few months or years ago. I know that I have inspired a few people to push themselves more than they were doing so.
  3. It lifts my energy and excitement levels to new heights. My wife said when I was considering entering the Ironman ‘why not do another Sprint Triathlon?’. A good question! My answer was straightforward ‘I already know how to do that’. There is something quite intangible that happens to you when you decide to do something that you are not sure is possible. In my TEDx talk of 2018 I call it ‘An Unreasonable Dream.’
  4. It has become another pivotal moment in my life. Something I have proven to myself, that will now make other things possible or easier for me to go for. It gives me confidence in many aspects of my life.

What’s next?

Will I do another one? It took me about a couple of weeks to admit that I wanted to. My goal when doing this one was to finish within the cut-off time. Now that I have done that my goal is to show up knowing I can do it and put in a proper performance and do a decent time. I’m excited already!

If any reader wants to chat about doing an Ironman, or just planning for an unreasonable challenge, get in touch. Maybe I can help.

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