“The Long Slog”: Amy Cuthbertson

After the highs of completing Ironman Vouliagmeni 70.3 in a new PB time I had 2 weeks of “do what you feel” before I knew I had to start back to knuckling down to training again for the full Ironman Hamburg.  Staring down the barrel of 7 months of relentless training is a big ole bump back down to earth.  But actually I’m someone who likes to train, likes to have goals.  I probably enjoy the training more than the racing that goes along with it.  Or I thought so when I headed back into training.  In the run up to Christmas actually the training load was all very familiar and more or less what my body was used to for a 70.3.  I found the Christmas period hard, balancing social time with family and friends with the anxiety of knowing that I still need to train.  I found it surprisingly stressful when I discovered that all of the local pools were closed for 2 weeks.  What would happen to my swimming if I couldn’t swim for 2 weeks?  I know these are not things that concern most people while they’re tucking into their Christmas dinner, but when the swim is your biggest problem and you’re training for an Ironman it really weighed down on me.  I went on a research quest and thankfully found one, albeit more than an hour away, that was open, and I managed to get a couple of sessions done to keep the swim ticking over.
Since Christmas however the training has really ramped up, and there have been some real low moments.  Moments where I’ve been asking those around me to take a photo of my unhappy face as I head out for a brick run at the end of a 13 hour training week, just in case I start to say I’m going to do another Ironman after Hamburg is completed and I need a reminder of just how tough the training regime is!  It often feels like just staring into the void, wondering when it’s all going to stop and realising that the answer is “June”. June feels simultaneously very far away and way too soon.  The current training load is between 13 and 14 hours a week, including a long ride with intervals, a brick session, a long swim and a long run.
The other big problem with Christmas, and with the January birthday celebration that followed, is all the food.  When you’re someone who is very focused on training, and using Supersapiens to keep a close eye on your fuelling, constantly checking in on your power to weight ratio, the inevitable holiday weight is a difficult thing to deal with.  And I’ll be honest, I found myself in a post-Christmas period where all the good things I know about fuelling properly went out of the window and were replaced by a desire to underfuel to try and get the weight back down again.  But you know what?  That led to some really awful days where I almost had to abandon my rides and runs because I was so lightheaded.  Who would imagine that if you’re going out for a 3 hour ride or a 2 hour run and deliberately underfuelling that might lead to a serious impact on your performance?  I know you’re shocked.
So now a more sensible approach has returned.  I’m taking on the advice to try and fuel with half the calories I know I’ll burn in the session before I head out (but not too close to when I’m heading out) and then topping up as I go.  I wasn’t giving numbers my pre-training meals before to make sure it was enough, and that is the one change I’ve made recently that’s starting to pay dividends.  It’s madness that a lot of my days now include two training sessions, and that on long run day the long run is not enough and I also have a swim to do.  The long run is now up to half marathon distance.  Running a half marathon and then not being able to sit on the sofa giving yourself a pat on the back at being done for the day doesn’t feel amazing.  Nor does running a half marathon and knowing you’re going to be doing that almost every week between now and June.  But what DOES feel amazing, because I know you were all wondering if there was any good news, is discovering that you can run a half marathon, then go to the pool for a swim, and the next day you can do a brick session, and your body is now able to keep going and doesn’t feel like it’s about to fall apart.  I cannot quite believe I can recover from a half marathon fast enough to put in a swim, bike and another run in the 24 hours that follow.  I dare say that wouldn’t have been the case if I’d continued down the path of deliberately underfuelling.
Sometimes there is a difference between what you know and what you do.  Understanding how to fuel is not the same as doing it, and it takes more than just the data to keep you on the right track.  I know that the gap between what you know you should do and what you actually do is something that affects a lot of athletes from us mere mortals to the professionals.  Data can only point us in the right direction, but we have to be the ones to decide to follow it!
Thanks for reading,
Amy

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