Jenny’s Half Iron Man Adventures
Posted on May 23, 2023 by Jenny Cromack
On Sunday 21st May I completed my second half iron man, the Outlaw Nottingham Half Iron Man. If you haven’t heard of a half iron man before then it consists of a 1.2 mile swim, followed by a 56 mile bike ride, finished with a half marathon (13.1 miles). Phew!
I did a half iron man a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. I wanted a challenge for 2023 so thought I’d do another this year as part of my overall training challenge of completing a race every other month for 2023 (currently on track with this!)
Training – what does it look like?
I train 6 days a week, a couple of days a week I will train twice a day so I can fit in some strength training and both of these sessions tend to be short sessions of around 30-40 minutes.
As the race is an endurance race, I spend a lot of my time working on my endurance and stamina which means long runs, long bikes and long ‘bricks’. A brick is a bike session straight into a run so your legs can get used to the different movement pattern from cycling into running, often you can get off the bike and your legs may feel like or jelly or even a little stiff, so it’s important to practice bike into run. Many people will also practice swim into bike, I cycle home from swimming once per week so do get the chance to do this, but it’s more for transport than training!
This year I invested in a watt bike to work on my cycling power and efficiency and it really paid off on the bike. My legs felt strong and I was able to maintain a good pace throughout the full 56 miles. The watt bike was also a godsend over the winter months when I couldn’t get out on the road due to bad weather. I also do another long bike ride each week, and build up to 3 hours on the bike. I love my bike rides. I am lucky, within 5 miles from my house I can be out in the countryside and there is nothing more beautiful than an early morning cycle through country lanes watching the sun come up. To be honest, I’ve never felt so strong on the bike as I did on Sunday so those long bikes combined with the watt bike really paid off.
The other thing I’ve invested in over the winter months is swimming. I used to only swim once per week (it always seems such a faff to go swimming instead of biking or running!) but I increased my swim to twice per week for this event and it has really paid off with my pace.
And finally, to my original love, running! Interestingly, during a half iron man, the run bit is the part I worry about the most. 13.1 miles after a 1.2 mile swim and 56 miles on the bike…..eeek! My running training focused on steady paced, endurance runs gradually building up to 13 miles and also some long bricks of an hour on the watt bike followed by an hours run. Then sneaking in any other runs when I could! My running has been strong in training, possibly not as strong on the day….but that’s another story!
How do I fit all of this in you might ask?! Early mornings and a very understanding husband! I’m often up at 5am and out on my bike or for a run at 5:30am! Thankfully I love my early mornings and would rather get training out of the way before I start my day…..it sets me up in such a good headspace!
How did the race go?! Well, I completed the race in 5 hours 51 minutes, after doing some googling I think the average time for a half iron man is 6 hour 20 minutes, so I’m pretty chuffed with that and it’s knocked 10 minutes off my previous time.
If you are tempted by a half iron man then I would highly recommend the Outlaw events, superbly organised from the get-go and a really friendly, welcoming event. The race marshalls were fabulous and really kept you going!
Here’s a brief overview of the race.
The swim was in the lake at the National Water Sports Centre, Nottingham. Nice lake to swim in, I say this time and time again…..I love open water swimming, even when racing, there is something truly magical about being outside in nature swimming. I had a bit of a boo-boo at the start, when despite following my normal cleaning and de-misting routine my goggles misted over within the first 50m and I couldn’t see anything! I swam to the side of the lake, sorted them out and was back swimming and, thankfully, they were then fine. Previously this would have stressed me out and sent me into a panic, and whilst it cost me some time, I was so happy I could continue the race and this spurred me on.
The bike was a great route. It’s billed as a flat course, I think in cycling terms it’s probably better described as ‘lumpy’, a few hills but nothing like the ones I’m used to climbing beyond north Leeds! Another hiccup around 15 miles when my chain came off, but a quick pull over to the road side and I had it back on within a minute! My pace was strong and consistent throughout and I’m super pleased with the cycle. Those watt bike sessions and long rides truly paid off.
Transitions, again practicing the transitions during training was key to a good race and my legs felt strong going onto the bike and also from the bike to run.
The run…..well all I can say is the run was ‘hot hot hot’ which no-one can control. A nice 3 lap run around the lake at the water sports centre meant there were lots of spectators to keep you going, and seeing my husband and little boy really lifted me when my legs were tired! I have a terrible habit of setting off too fast, this race I was determined to set off steady and maintain my pace throughout, however when I set off in the heat I decided to change my race plan and get a few faster miles under my belt as I knew I would inevitably slow down in the heat anyway. In hind sight was this the right tactic? I’m unsure! Did I set off too fast, absolutely! But overall I achieved the race pace I’d wanted….maybe just not in the way I wanted! The heat really took it out of me at the end, although I did manage to pick my pace back up for the last mile as I ran to the finish line!
Hitting that final orange carpet then crossing the finish line was an amazing feeling. It’s quite emotional, knowing that all of the hard work you have put into training has paid off and you’ve completed what you set out to achieve.
Will I do another? When I was running on Sunday I was saying to myself ‘never again’…..now I’m thinking…maybe?! So watch this space!
One person I need to credit for achieving this, is my coach Dave Bradley, who sadly is retiring. Dave has coached me for over 8 years. He’s listened to me moan about training when I’ve been stressed or tired, he’s encouraged me to push myself out of my comfort zone, but most importantly he has believed in me, and helped me improve my own self belief. Thank you Dave.