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.

In my next installment, I’ll share week of my current regime and talk about how some of the sessions have felt. You can follow my day to day progress on Twitter and Instagram.

Pictures: Chris Pilgrim