Michael Banks

Couch to Ironman to Couch (and the start of the journey back again)

Posted on 13 November, 2019 in

In 2014 I gained a charity place entry into the London Marathon for 2015. In July that year I started training, not really knowing what I was doing or what I had let myself in for. I was quickly encouraged by my parents' next door neighbour to join her at the local triathlon club to join in with the run training sessions with the aim to get me to a level capable of completing the event.

Michael Banks London Marathon 2015

Fast forward to May 2015 - having finished the London Marathon in a respectable time, I was looking for a new challenge. Since I had been training with the local triathlon club I decided that my next challenge would be to complete a triathlon. I signed up to a super sprint, did a bit of training, took part and loved the experience. I trained a bit more, signed up for an Olympic distance event and absolutely loved doing this - I think I had found my sport (or 3 to be exact!).

Next on my list was Man v Mountain - something completely new to me. Training done... event done... that was the end of the season for me, with nothing else on the horizon.

One morning soon after I woke up and as I do most mornings checked though my social media feeds. One post that I came across was a link to watch Ironman, which I duly did. I sat in bed most of the morning, mesmerised by what I was watching... these athletes were just amazing!

I had found my next challenge. And the only place I wanted to do it was Lanzarote!

A plan was drawn up - 2016 was too soon for me to take this on for several reasons. Instead I planned to do 2 half distance races in 2016, and then carry on the build up to race full distance in 2017. As with many plans made, mine did not do according to plan! Due to reasons beyond my control, the 2 half distance races had to be shelved, but I was determined to race Ironman Lanzarote in 2017 still, so when entries became live I booked straight away. I now had all the motivation I needed to make the start line and complete the challenge. Training was done on my own - I figured that Ironman is a lonely sport, so I had better get used to it. I created my own plan, and built up to the distances as best I could. There were times when all I wanted to do was go out and train, and other times when I just wanted to lock my wetsuit, trainers and bike away and never see them again. The training went fairly well, although I felt as though I was not really ready to take on the challenge - perhaps the result of making my own training plan, and not really knowing what was involved in training and racing a full distance triathlon.

If you want to read how my Ironman race went, you can do by clicking here.

2017 was a big year. Not only did I take on Ironman Lanzarote, I also completed my second London Marathon the month before Lanza, and also had the Tour of Cambridgeshire (Time Trial and Road Race) to tackle a couple of weeks after Lanza. Unfortunately I crashed out the Time Trial, and could not take part in the Road Race as my bike was broken. That was the last event I had in the calendar, and after that it was time to spend quality time with the family after the many hours of training in the lead up to Lanza.

Proper training sessions were put on the back burner - swimming stopped completely, running was very sporadic, and cycling was for fun rather than to be competitive, and as such was not done in any structured way at all. I was enjoying spending time with my family and cycling as an when I felt like it. The 2017 season carried on without any other races entered, and soon the lack of a training schedule became a habit. As a result my fitness was on the decline.

Couch Potato

2018 was soon upon me, and I still did not have any racing plans in place, but did have a plan to follow the first days of the 2018 Tour de France, that was starting in the same area as the house in France that my wife and I own. I did a little bit of cycle training, as I was planning on riding each day to watch the stages, so needed some fitness to be able to do this. But this was the extent of my training in 2018, and after a holiday back in France in August I stopped riding, and virtually all training stopped, apart from the odd run, but they were very few and far between. Through habit, I had gone from Ironman finisher, to couch potato!

Roll on 2019... in March my wife happened to make a comment about my lack of training. This actually served to give me a kick up the arse! I had my 40th birthday approaching, and I was as unfit as I was before I started my London Marathon journey. It was time to start again...

I started running again in April. Short distances to start, just to try and get my legs back in to the habit of running again. For my 40th birthday I was given a new sports watch - a Garmin Fenix 5 Plus - and started using this to do a more structured training plan, creating heart rate based training sessions, based around zone 2 sessions, as well as endurance and speed interval sessions. Along with this I also took control again of what I was eating, in a bid to get my weight back down towards a decent racing weight. So far, I can feel that my fitness is starting to increase - I am able to run a decent distance without feeling completely drained, but there is still a long way to go to get back to the longer distances and pace that I was running when I was training for Lanza.

With a return to training has also come a desire to enter events again, although I have so far resisted the urge to start entering. I know I have some way still to go before I am at a level I would like to be to complete any event, although I have a rough plan of completing half distance triathlons in 2020, with the aim of then going on to tackle another full distance in 2021. This time I will be doing it properly, and when the time comes I will be using Okhane Coaching, and the new coaching plans to make sure I arrive at the start line in the best condition possible.

The journey has started again...

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