THIS WASN’T THE PLAN!

9th December 2015

Having completed IRONMAN Wales in September 2014, I didn’t have a game plan for 2015. In January I was still considering my options when my calf went pop on an innocuous Sunday run. 12 months later and although the calf has recovered, I’ve been battling a very stubborn Achilles Tendinopathy injury! All in all, 2015 hasn’t worked out how I wanted but it’s given me plenty of time to get jobs done round the house which I’m sure Meg, my long suffering girlfriend would argue were probably overdue.

Looking forward to 2016, I knew I wanted to do something which felt like a milestone event! IRONMAN Wales was epic and I wanted something to at least match the challenge of this special race. If I could find somewhere with a similar atmosphere and surroundings, this would be a bonus. So my options were enter Marathon des Sables, CELTMAN or NORSEMAN. Having hardly done any running throughout the year, I pretty much ruled out Marathon des Sables straightaway as I instinctively knew that I didn’t have enough time to train for 6 marathons over 7 days in the Sahara desert, particularly with only 4 months training behind me. Combine that with the entry cost and I felt it was sensible to pursue this race again in the future and it remains firmly on my bucket list.

CELTMAN and NORSEMAN were both races that I’ve known about for a few years and I’ve always regarded them as races for nutters! Both are extreme triathlons in their own right and I knew that the sheer number of entries meant that I was HIGHLY unlikely to get a place. My view was apply for both and worry about getting selected later. Some might argue that this is a bit of a reckless approach. Needless to say, I applied and within a couple of weeks, I had an email from both the NORSEMAN and CELTMAN organisers notifying me that I hadn’t secured a place. ‘Oh well!’ I thought. It was always a long shot. As I’m still not completely over this injury maybe I’ll enter a few local sprint triathlons and do a couple of 10ks.

“ Now where did I leave that Domino’s flyer?”

Everything changed on Monday 7th December at 14:50 when I received an email from the CELTMAN organisers:

We hopefully now have some better news for you…..we have allocated a small number of additional places, and we would like to offer you one of them!”

Oh crap.

Sat behind my desk at work, fighting off man flu and basically feeling sorry for myself, my initial reaction was there’s no way I can do this! Having struggled to fully recover from my Achilles injury, I was under no illusion that the running section which involves technical off-road sections and two Munros (Scottish mountain over 3,000 feet in height) would require a strong and injury free body. My colleague and good friend Rob who trained and competed in IRONMAN Wales with me in 2014 was surprised by my initial reaction and he suggested that I sit on the idea rather than dismissing it instantaneously.

Colin Henderson 2014

I got home that night and I spoke to Meg about the CELTMAN and as always she was brilliant and supportive. What I learnt from IRONMAN Wales is that it doesn’t matter what anyone tells you, training will impact on family life, so you need to have buy in from those who are commonly referred to as IRONMAN widows. Meg has always been fantastic on this front and it helps that she also enjoys an active lifestyle which includes triathlon. Meg’s only reservation was that she wouldn’t be at CELTMAN because she’s a teacher and it would be impossible for her to get up and down from Torridon in Scotland, in time for school on Monday.

Now that I knew Meg was behind my decision, the next thing I did was arrange an appointment with Becky from Peak Performance. I’d met Becky through a local networking event and I knew that she specialised in injury rehabilitation and strength conditioning. I spoke to Becky over the phone and she felt that 6 months was a realistic timeframe to be fit enough for CELTMAN.

I will be meeting with Becky this week and I’m hopeful that she can help develop a plan which allows me to make a full recovery from my injury.

By Tuesday morning, I was already making a U-Turn on my decision and pending a consultation from Becky and her giving me the green light, I’d decided I would enter with a view to being on the start line in June. This was helped by the email I’d received shortly after from my coach Jason McKinnon who put together a brilliant training plan for me when I did Wales. Here’s an extract from his email which I know he won’t mind me sharing but it’s exactly what I needed to read:

“If I was in your shoes, I’d enter and then do as much as I could to be ready before I made a decision about racing or not. 6 months… Yes, you can do it for sure, but we need to get on it now.”

Having followed the CELTMAN for a few years, I know the linchpin in this being a successful day is the support crew. Not only do the support crew provide you with necessary kit and nutrition on the bike but they also need to accompany the competitor for the 15k mountain stage on foot.

It was a really easy decision on who to approach. My good friend Jamie who happens to be from Scotland and is the PR and Marketing Manager for Boardman Bikes is a brilliant cyclist and you can always guarantee a beasting if you go out on a ride with him. He also happens to be someone who I know I can rely on to give me the necessary encouragement and motivation that I will require throughout the day. He’s also able to think quickly on his feet so I know he’ll have a solution if I find myself in a sticky spot at any stage during the day. Only the other week he pulled a cyclist out of flood water when out on a ride.

The second member of my crew is Al. I really wanted to share this with Al as we both bought our first road bikes in 2010 and we both have a competitive streak. Al is naturally very calm but he is also without doubt someone you can depend on when you need a pep talk. Basically, I’ve got two of my best mates involved (pending agreement from their wives) which is a total result!

If you’re wondering what CELTMAN is about, here’s a breakdown of the race — it’s BRUTAL!…..

• 3.8km Sea Loch Open Water Swim (Cut short the last few years because of the water temp)
• 202km Bike 
• 42km Run ‐ 18km off‐road ‐‐ 15km off‐road and up two Munros (with support crew) ‐ 9km road run to the finish

At the moment I want to be fit and prepared enough to get to the start line, although I’m not going to deny that the competitive side of me is already thinking about whether its realistic to go for the coveted blue T-shirt that only those who make the 18km transition point within 11 hours obtain. A lesson I’ve learnt from IRONMAN Wales is that its a long day and sometimes its necessary to adjust expectations depending on a number of factors, some of which can’t be controlled, such as the weather conditions. Getting over the finish line, regardless of whether it’s with a blue or a white T-shirt will feel like a major accomplishment.

Having spent most of the week with man flu, training officially starts tonight with a slow 8km run. I’ve got a massive mountain to climb (no pun intended) to get to the point where I’m fit enough to compete but I’m now psychologically committed, so now it’s just about putting in the training so that come race day I feel like I’ve done all the hard work. As they say, train hard, race easy. For some reason, I don’t think it’ll be easy at all.

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