The Dream of Kona by Chris Palfreyman (UK Ironman)
Name: Chris Palfreyman | Age: 30 | Location: Boars Hill, Oxford
Sport: Long Distance Triathlon/Ironman (Swim 3.8km, Bike 180km, Run 42km)
Next Race: ITU Long Distance World Champs, Spain.
2019 Main Objective: To perform well at Ironman World Champs, Hawaii.
In 2014 I first had the idea (‘dream’) of trying to qualify for the Ironman World Champs in Kona, Hawaii. At this point I was totally deluded to what that really meant but I knew it would get me out of bed every morning and give me a challenge that excited me like nothing before. At this point my swimming experience or ability was close to zero, my bike was fairly strong as I cycled with clubs and dabbled in some road racing and even though I didn’t run at this point I was sure that I could pick that up fairly quickly. How hard could it be…?
Five years down the line, I can safely answer that question with ‘bloody hard’! The level of performance needed to qualify for Kona now is outstanding. In my current Age Group (30-34), the top 4 finishers of an Ironman are given the privilege to race in Kona. So out of around 2,500 participants at these events, my Age Group will have approximately 250 athletes and only the top 4 walk away with the mystical Kona slot. I was lucky enough to get this 4th slot at Ironman Wales 2018, which means I will be heading to Hawaii in October 2019 to toe the line with the very best athletes Ironman has to offer.
Having fine-tuned my training, thanks to coach Rachel Stoakes a typical week will be 6 days of training twice a day with one day of full rest or active recovery.
As I build towards a race the training can increase somewhat but a typical week looks like this:
Swim: 16km/4h. Mostly in a 25m pool but once the sun is out, one session a week will be in a lake.
Bike: 200km/9 hours. Usually broken down into 4 hours on the indoor turbo trainer and 4 or so hours on the road.
Run: 45km/3.5h. A mix of off-road trails, road and track sessions. Also ‘brick’ sessions (run straight after a bike session) start to feature as race day approaches.
Gym: 2h. Focusing on areas of weakness, injury prevention/rehab and specific strength work.
Sports Massage: 1h. Best hour of the week, by far!
The above may seem manageable (which of course it is) but what gets tough is the fact that consistency is really key. The above is what happens week after week, month after month and year after year. Balancing that with full-time work is an added challenge which most Age Groupers face.
I’m often asked what the secrets are to getting through the tough sessions. It’s really hard to answer as there are no secrets but here are a few tips that could help you.
For example, I have been set a few three-hour indoor turbo trainer sessions. So, it’s just me at home on a stationary bike staring at a wall thinking ‘how has my life come to this?’. But wait, it can be fun, honest!
Here are my tips to anyone thinking of doing a tough session whether it be a swim, bike, run or any physical activity to be honest:
- Understand why you are doing that specific session. Then you will never ask yourself ‘why’ or ‘what’s the point’ when your legs and lungs are screaming for you to stop. If you are not sure, then ask your coach, do some research or ask someone who knows. This is so important!
- Embrace the solitude and the pain. You will have at least 9 or so hours of this come Ironman race day. If you are always entertained or distracted you will have a real shock come the race. Don’t be scared of spending time with your own thoughts and get to understand what your mind needs to get through the tough times.
- Have objectives during the session. In my case all the sessions are based around power numbers (watts). Personally, I just stare at my little computer between my arms for hours on end trying my absolute best to hit the prescribed numbers set by coach Rachel. There are lots of training apps and programs (Zwift, Trainer Road etc) available now which can also help in setting and hitting objectives.
- Be well fuelled. During a 3h session I can easily get through 3 litres of water with electrolytes (Precision Hydration), 2x energy gels and if it gets bad an energy bar or two. Remember fuelling has to be right before and after the session too.
- Surround yourself with the right people. If those around you understand how important this challenge is to you, they will support you and even motivate you at times when the training seems to be never ending. Find others who are doing similar sessions and team up with them. Share the pain!
In a nutshell, if you really believe the challenge you are doing is worthwhile and exciting, then why not commit 100% towards doing the best you can!? That shouldn’t only be on race day but in the months leading up to it too. Don’t be scared of the daunting task, be excited and remember how lucky we are to be healthy and physically able to challenge ourselves in this way.
Thanks for reading. Time for a turbo session…
Feel free to contact TLA if you have any questions or want help in achieving your goal.
Special thanks to: TLA for their amazing support!
Precision Hydration - www.precisionhydration.com
Bryony O’dowda – www.odowdasportsmassage.com