What Will You Be Doing When You’re Sixty?

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Maybe you’ve thought about it, maybe you haven’t…maybe you’re thinking about the answer right now. If you were sixty and in Mallorca you’d probably be on holiday with your husband or wife, relaxing in the sun with your favourite book and a glass of Rioja.

Would “being the fittest I’ve ever been” be the answer? Charles and Caroline MacKinnon went to Mallorca on Thursday 5th May 2016 and this extract from an article describes the reason they were there.

“The pro field and more than 3,500 age-group athletes in Mallorca this weekend didn’t face the island’s typical style of racing this year. Although the Balearic Islands are famous for weather stability, sunshine, and hot temperatures, the sixth edition of the Thomas Cook IRONMAN 70.3 Mallorca quickly became a very rainy race.”

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When you choose to do a triathlon one thing you hope for is nice weather. Some of the people who know me know, I don’t like wishing people good luck because I believe you have a big say in how ‘lucky’ you are. There is a big exception to this rule and that is when it comes to Mother Nature’s actions. You have very little say in that but to increase the chances of sunshine over rain you could fly to a Mediterranean holiday destination to do your event.

Caroline has been my client for almost 8 years (Charles is trained by another personal trainer in the city) and before 2012, I trained her to be fit, healthy which helped her have confidence in the way she looked. I’m in my 11th year as a personal trainer so she has obviously been a big part of my career.

One day when I was talking about trying a triathlon she began to sound interested.

Her first triathlon medal at the HSBC event at Eton Dorney 2012
Her first triathlon medal at the HSBC event at Eton Dorney 2012

Over the following years Caroline has gone from doing a super sprint triathlon to a sprint before progressing up to a mighty standard distance triathlon at Windsor in 2014. Now Caroline and I met at BMF when I was an instructor but she was always in the beginner’s class and occasionally went to weight watchers so to do triathlons was completely out of her comfort zone.

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Caroline on the far left of both photos. Charles in far right in the line up at the top and at the back of the bottom photo. Eton Dorney Sprint triathlon 2013

When she stepped up each level of the triathlon ladder I did wonder how far she would be able to go. When I mentioned the Standard Distance at Windsor I thought it was risky as it’s a big step up and to ask someone to swim, bike and run for around 4 hours might have been too much. She hesitated but it wasn’t long before she signed up and did it in 3 hours and 37 minutes.

Windsor Olympic Distance Triathlon
Windsor Olympic Distance Triathlon

What was next I thought…Caroline had already decided. The Norfolk Superhero! Her sons Hugh and George were doing it that year so her and her husband decided to do it in 2015.

The Norfolk Superhero is a quadrathlon…yes, FOUR events!

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Swim – 1 mile. Kayak – 4 miles. Cycle 45 miles. Run 8 miles. Oh and if that didn’t sound hard enough, the run was on sand and marsh! The race must also be done in pairs. Caroline and her husband signed up, trained and completed the event in 7 hours 15 minutes. They were growing from strength to strength…what could possibly come next?

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In 2015 I had done a full Ironman and had fulfilled a dream of completing the world-famous event and I was obviously buzzing. It was an event that I planned to do in three years time because it scared me…I did it and was proud. Caroline wanted some, Charles wanted it too. I wasn’t sure if this was a step too far. It was half the distance of an Ironman making it a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike followed by a 13.1 mile run which I truly believed she could do after completing the Norfolk Superhero but the distance wasn’t the issue. Caroline would go on and on until she reached any finish line but how quickly was my concern. If she didn’t make it out of the water 70 mins after the start gun she would’ve been stopped from getting on her bike. If she’d made it to the bike in time she’d have had to be back 5hrs 30 mins after the gun to be allowed to start the half marathon. The whole triathlon had to be done 8 hours after the start gun otherwise she would not be an Ironman 70.3 finisher!

What followed for Caroline was a solid 24 weeks of training with me and her swimming coach to make sure she was quick enough to complete the race in time. When I trained her for the Windsor event I was concerned about the distance not the time. This training plan was all about how quick she could do it. Her training went brilliantly. It was a tough plan that reduced in intensity every 4th week to allow her to recover but also we discussed missing some sessions if she felt too tired or something else took priority…it worked. She was ready.

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Training with the Bulgarian Bag at sunrise!

So on Thursday 5th May 2016, they flew out to Mallorca, the same day I got back from my break in Turkey so she was gone…it was all up to her now.

Unpacking and setting up the bikes on Thursday.
Unpacking and setting up the bikes on Thursday.

On the day my amazing client was attempting this amazing race I was in a camp site at Burghley House, Peterborough ready for the epic Dirty Weekend race which is 20 miles long with 200 obstacles that provides an amazing after show party for us all to celebrate at afterwards. I was in wave 2 with the fantastic Mudstacle crew and we had a great day singing, dancing, laughing during the actual 20 mile ‘race’. When we finished and had a few celebratory bears I received this Whatsapp message.

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As you can she, she didn’t make the cut-off time and therefore was not allowed to do the run and attempt to finish the race. I didn’t want to look at the whole message and only saw the brief part you see on your home screen so I left it. I was upset but wanted to carry on with the evening and reply when I had time to think about what profound response I could give her. You can see the cracker that I came up with on Sunday morning waking with a hangover inside a now very hot tent. Joking aside, I did think about it and this may sound harsh but a part of me took comfort in the fact that Caroline had failed something. Up until now, in the 8 years she has been amazing and achieved everything we have set out in terms of body fat goals, lifting targets or races. Something had beaten her…this would get interesting!

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The Ironman events are tough and the cut-offs may seem harsh but that’s what makes completing them such an achievement. I was too tired to meet Caroline on Sunday night and missed out on the Champagne (What a let down!) but did go and see her on Monday morning.

When I saw her she seemed ok but not her usual self. After we chatted for a bit we moved on to what she called her “training Ironman”. Brilliant, I thought…what a great way to look at it.

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The sea on Friday…

Basically the weather was dull and grey on the Friday and when Caroline woke up around 4 am on the day of the race she could hear torrential rain outside! NOT what you want on race day.

She did the swim in a decent time of 52 mins but was cold, along with most of the other competitors making their way into ‘transition 1’ where you take off your wetsuit etc and get into your cycling kit. However as the transition bags are pre placed the night before, the contents were now wet too. She struggled to get ready putting on her bike jacket so was in transition for over 13 mins. Once she was on the bike she pushed hard despite the wind and rain and felt good heading up THE hill on the bike course. When she got to the top she stopped for a quick toilet break and a fellow rider told her to stop pushing and try to enjoy the ride…not Caroline she tried to push hard to get back in time to make the run. Problem was the decent was very wet and there were lots of twists and turns. She witnessed quite a few crashes as she made her way cautiously along the rest of the 56 mile course. When she finally arrived at ‘transition 2’ she was told by the marshal that she hadn’t made the cut-off and ” to try not to cry and to go and get some food”. Caroline broke down and wept by the roadside feeling cold, wet, upset and very lonely. She cried as she told me this too.

Charles had made the cut-off time and saw her whilst he was on the run course. He gave her a hug, offered some support and then carried on. Fortunately not for too long as he crossed the finish line in 7hrs 59 mins 5 seconds…he had just 55 seconds to spare.

I asked Caroline “if it wasn’t for the weather, would you have completed it?”. Her reply was a defiant “Yes!”

Caroline is doing the Norfolk Superhero for a second time on 25th June 2016 and I left her on her iPad looking at the Ironman 70.3 page planning her next assault on becoming an Ironman 70.3 finisher!

You've come a long way. First triathlon riding a bike with the basket removed!
You’ve come a long way from your first triathlon when you rode a bike with the basket removed! So proud!

UPDATE!!!

Caroline has spent the year with Ironman 70.3 Mallorca 2017 as her major focus. We have carried on her training but she also recruited Amber Gamble to help with her cycling.

As I type this, Caroline and her husband Charles are in Mallorca preparing for Saturday’s race (13/5/17)…she is ready…she has learned from last year and come back so much stronger so…What will you be doing when you’re 61?!

 

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