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Preparing For My First Ironman - Ben Kenneally | Rutland Cycling

   Words by Aaron Scott

   on 29/08/2013 18:53:00

Rutland Cycling sponsored athlete, Ben Kenneally is currently training for his first Ironman which will see him endure a 2.4mile open water swim, a 112 mile Alpine cycle and then run a full marathon! Over the next couple of months Ben will be providing updates on his progress as he prepares for one of the biggest challenges any athlete can face.

ben-kenneally-ironman-paris-nice-rutland-cycling

Ironman Nice – a rough 2.4 mile open water swim, a gruelling 112 mile Alpine cycle topped off with a relatively relaxing marathon… consecutively.

Well, it turns out that repeating the statement “big deal, that’s easy”, to yourself, no matter how sarcastically, has a lasting psychological influence on one’s subconscious. Disastrously, following a moment of naïve self-belief, I now find myself entered in an Ironman event later this year…

Obviously, the common response is “Why?!” in a tone ranging from interest to absolute incredulity.

Well, that's a difficult question to answer, but I like to summarise it with the following three points:

  • I'm intrigued to see if I can
  • It gives me this opportunity to support a cause that's close to my heart and my family (and I'm sure many others)
  • To help to raise some money for some incredible causes!

I am raising money for several causes through the Rotary Charity Fundraisers (RCF), with an additional nominated charity, Parkinson's UK.

Now, I promise this blog is mainly about my adventure into the world of Triathlon, my training plans, my progress, the triumphs and the slip-ups (and anything remotely interesting along the way!), but here’s a little background to the cause I'm supporting.

My Chosen Charities

parkinsons-rcf-charity-rutland-cycling

As a child, Parkinson’s was definitely the disease I had most exposure to. Diagnosed at the age of 50, my grandfather’s condition deteriorated over 25 years until his death in 1999. The shaking? The shuffling? The constant need for polo mints? Even his crawling around the floor, that was all just normal to me. Normal grandpa Ken. It didn't make me sad, I didn't know any different. I didn't have the slightest understanding of the disease or the consequences of its progression.

Turns out I wasn't the only one.

Parkinson's Disease, a disease that has no cure and an unknown cause, effects one in 500 in the UK.

Now that I am older, I can understand the things I saw. I understand how that man, who in the morning could dance to the radio and walk down to the promenade to watch us play on the beach, would be reduced to immobility, needing to be carried back home just an hour later, such was the cyclical nature of the relief that the drugs offered. And the polos? Turns out they were needed to stimulate saliva.

The money raised from my Ironman will be used by Parkinson’s UK to support people with the disease, and to fund cutting edge research projects in the quest for a cure and increased understanding. Hopefully this will lead to answers for some of the more important questions out there.

And the fun doesn't stop there! The RCF is a great body that supports an umbrella network of charities that often collaborate on fundraising efforts, including numerous Cancer charities, Air Ambulance, Help for Heroes and Life Education Centres. I hope that this broad variety of great causes will strike a note where maybe Parkinson's doesn't, and that everyone can be encouraged to donate generously!

So, I promise that that is the end of the charity plug. Now, it’s just about me and my event.  Over the next few months, expect;

  • Training plans – what I'm up to and why?
  • Equipment lists – what am I using?
  • Product reviews – which bits work and which don’t?
  • Tips and tricks – things you only really learn the hard way.
  • Photos – share what I'm up to!

What stage am I at now?

Today, April the 16th, is 68 days before the event i.e. really, really not long. On a positive, however, for all of you, it means that my blog will have to be a more concise account of my experience.

Training

That’s been a bit of a mix in terms of success if I'm to be honest, but  it has been a journey in itself, nonetheless!

Training started a little over 9000km away, in Quito, Ecuador. In fact, it was whilst on a 5 month voluntary Engineering project in South America, that I actually started all this madness by signing up for the Ironman. Panic quickly ensued, and I found myself altitude training in Quito, at around 2800m. It was hard, very hard. The air was thin, and the temperature higher than my chances of being mugged. Opportunities to run were dictated by work, climate, altitude, temperature and, of course, safety. Consequently, training didn't happen that much.

My Engineering project in South America was designing and manufacturing transitional houses, built by TECHO
My Engineering project in South America was designing and manufacturing transitional houses, built by TECHO

Running

Moving around Latin America, I ran at every opportunity there was. Most people train for a number of years for an Ironman - I didn't have that luxury. When I signed up, I had never, and still have never, run a marathon or even entered a triathlon. My running experience was minimal, the 1500m at school representing my upper confidence interval. An Ironman? Ill-advised, some might say.

Fortuitously, my engineering work in South America provided me the chance to work in some amazing places, Santa Marta, Quito and Rio De Janeiro to name a few. The first thing in the suitcase was always my trainers.

The run in Tayrona National Park, Colombia
The run in Tayrona National Park, Colombia

Swimming

Now that was a harsh introduction. My first attempt at a distance swim (after having not swam properly for around 5 years) was just off the northern coast of Colombia, in Tayrona National park. It’s quite incredible just how hard distance swimming is to start, as aerobic fitness in your shoulders is just so uncommon. What other sport or day to day activity uses your shoulders and upper back in the same way swimming does? It was quite a daunting experience, and I knew I had a lot of work to do on my swimming fitness. Undeterred after an embarrassingly short swim, I decided to run along the coast, which involved wading through a couple of swamps. However, the running was quickly cut short, having noticed an unwanted spectator…

Yes, that is a crocodile
Yes, that is a crocodile

Cycling

….so, I didn’t have access to a bike.

Back in the UK in late December, I knew it was time for the training to really start. With a little over 5 months, I had a lot of ground to make up. Despite being a keen cyclist, I had been out of the country since June and so was lacking cycling fitness too. I quickly signed up for a local pool, dusted off my cycling lycra and started thinking seriously about training. Late, but determined, this was about to get serious!

My next blog entry will detail my proper start to training, how I structured my time, increased the distances and really got into triathlon as a sport. It offers my tuppence on what it’s like to take up the sport, and what to expect! In advance though, the general message is ‘It’s great’ and ‘I’m hooked’.

You will be able to follow Ben's progress on the LoveCycling blog over the next couple of months. Be sure to check back!

Note: we are delighted to announce that Ben came 14th in his age group in the Ironman Nice triathlon – his first ever triathlon!  A fantastic performance – very well done, Ben!

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