Written by Chris Pilgrim
For the last 12 years I have been a professional rugby player. I played in the top league in the country against the best players from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and throughout Europe. Now, believe me I am nothing special, I am not genetically gifted and I wouldn’t say I had the strongest will. I had to work very hard for everything I achieved and if anything that is my biggest talent, I’m not afraid to work.
Throughout my career I was always fascinated by endurance athletes! Their physical condition and their mental strength. I was always reading about athletes like Dean Karnezes the ultra runner and I wanted to do something similar.
I have now been retired from rugby for 8 months and being the beef head rugby player I am, upon retirement I decided to lift weights in the gym and do no form of cardio for 5 months to “get massive”. This also involved eating lots of food leading to 10kgs of weight gain (not all muscle I might add) and it left me feeling like a lost sheep with no purpose and very heavy.
At this point my wife had seen a sprint triathlon advertised for April and decided to enter us, cue my change in training and obsession with swimming, biking and running.
After a few months of dabbling in training myself I started to get the bug for it and looked for a coach to help guide me through a program. I found a guy called Alan Chorley from power lab coaching and after a few emails and a phone call we were up and running. Around the same time I decided to enter an Olympic distance triathlon in June. Even with these two booked in the diary, it wasn’t enough, I wanted a bit more and my craving to complete a true endurance event took over so I booked myself into Ironman Copenhagen on 20th August (6.5 months away).
From that moment I went through a series of emotions:
My first feeling was extreme excitement, I imagined what it would feel like to cross the finish line of the marathon having completed my first Ironman. If I’m being honest, one of the key things I miss from being a professional rugby player are these extremes of emotion; that sense of achievement after striving for something and eventually getting it. With these thoughts fueling me I went for a nice long run and listened to a podcast about Ironman training…
A few hours later, the nerves set in. I was questioning my decision. Would I have time? 6.5 months is not a lot of preparation time for a chubby former rugby player! Can I even swim that far?
The next day I spoke to my brother and told him the news. He laughed at me saying it’s not possible to do an Ironman with such a short amount of preparation time. The doubt came back and the dread set in! What have I done; is this going to be possible?
I emailed my coach and explained how I was feeling. He said it was close but doable. I need you to keep in mind that less than 8 weeks ago I couldn’t even swim 2 lengths without feeling my lungs were going to explode, but I trust him.
As I said earlier I am not the most gifted athlete genetically or mentally, but I’m not afraid to work! I have a coach that I trust who has laid out a plan I can follow.
I will adopt the formula that helped me to become a pro rugby player: Application, Dedication and Consistency.
Pictures: Chris Pilgrim