Paul Hayward - life as a coached athlete

Below is the first of Paul's blogs as to what it is like to be a coached athlete with Tri Training Harder - Paul was the winner of our free coaching competition, follow his story and experiences leading up to Ironman Austria!

When I made the decision to sign up to Ironman Austria this July I think I fell into the same trap as nearly everyone facing their second Ironman.   I spent some time looking at how I had trained for Ironman Wales (Don Fink’s intermediate plan) and what my weaknesses were; swimming and maybe the bike, and I decided that the best way forward would be a new TT Bike - as that would surely get me to the red carpet and Paul Kaye’s arms quicker?

I never really considered that there was another option, and looking back at this approach now it is crazy but an approach I am sure a lot of people do not take; getting a coach.  When I  thought of “coaching”, which is often half the cost of a new bike, I thought that it was reserved for “good” athletes or at least “proper athletes”. It certainly was not something I thought would benefit normal people like me (15 hour Ironman Wales) and I am probably not alone in this mindset.

The last 6 weeks have shown just how wrong this thought process was.

This month sees my 12 week Ironman training plan with Tri Training Harder and Coach Sorrel Williams begin - however the work / effort she has put into my training to date, to get me ready for the 12 week plan, is fantastic.

That all important first meeting

The results are (already) beyond what I thought was possible and if this was the extent of the coaching - I would already be very happy. To explain this a little more fully, when we met over a coffee to discuss my 12 week training plan, my current training regime and what my personal needs / ambitions were it became apparent that swimming was not just an issue for me, it was actually a fear.

I found myself telling Sorrel “if I make the swim” on numerous occasions when discussing Austria. Despite her questioning me, I was reminded (s

everal times! - Sorrel

) that I had never not made the swim cutoff, something I had not even considered, it became obvious that I just did not believe I was good enough come race morning when I lined up with 3,000 other athletes at the back.

Learning to love swimming!

Put simply I am always a mess. I base this feeling on the fact that I could not swim 400 metres in the pool on the bounce, I regularly took breaks after 4 / 5 lengths and there was just no focus to my swimming.  This was presumably because I hated it and I never felt I was good enough despite lessons, help from friends and Don Fink’s plan.

Sorrel picked up on this straight away and made immediate changes to Fink’s master plan and my training - a speed session, an endurance session and a Critical Swim Session (I would not even know the pain this was to bring) and suggested quite persuasively that I join my local Triathlon Club for their swimming sessions.

Love those beeps

6 weeks from the date of our first meeting I can swim 400m unbroken in just over 8 minutes and my estimated swim time has gone from 1 hour 50 minutes to somewhere under 1 hour 30 minutes on current times. I now find myself getting in the pool and getting on with the swim, smiling when it is a Thursday for club night swim and jokingly referring to myself as “the fish” to my girlfriend and the dog when they ask how I got on.

Well the dog gets told really, as I doubt he cares so much.

Had you met me before Sorrel then you would not have thought this is possible. These results have had a kick on effect to the rest of my training, my cycling has suddenly gone up with my Zone 2 average pace much better than last year already and she has got me firing and enjoying the training already, before “the real training” even starts.

Re-fuelling is important

To go back to the new bike - it looks good in the garage, but it makes me think what little value it would have added to my training on its own. I am sure I would have made the swim, the bike and run, but I doubt I would have made 20 minutes on the TT Bike based on my old training plan and I certainly would not be in the mindset that I now have due to having some help, some focus and some support.

I am pretty excited to see what I can achieve now, as “normal athlete” but with a coach  suddenly this journey has become much more exciting.  

We look forward to Paul's next update when he talks through the first few weeks of coaching, using Training Peaks and his ongoing relationship with swimming.

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