Tag Archives: Ironman

Taking on an IRONMAN: “I’ve learnt I’m so much stronger than I thought”

If you thought running a marathon was impressive, try tackling a 112 mile cycle and 2.4 mile swim as well. Cat Alabaster, our Challenge Events Manager, will be taking on the challenge of a life time as she enters the IRONMAN Weymouth  on 11 September.

With just three months to go, writing about my inspiration for taking part in IRONMAN 2016 in Weymouth fills me with a mixture of emotions.

Catherine posing in her IRONMAN gear
Cat showing off her IRONMAN gear

For me this really isn’t about the race itself but about the ‘journey’ to get to the start line.  Working at Scope has given me the environment and inspiration to take on this challenge. Having always struggled with confidence and low self-esteem, this was my way to prove I’m as strong as I can be physically but more importantly mentally.

My challenge and preparation

The IRONMAN is a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile run, raced in that order and without a break. No wonder it’s known as the ‘toughest one day event in the world’

I train six days a week and frequently twice a day. Obviously the bulk of the sessions are focused around swim, cycle, run but there are a number of strength and conditioning, yoga and physio sessions thrown in for good measure.

I’m heading out to do a half distance race (70.3 miles) in Budapest at the end of July. I’m hoping this will give me a glimpse into IRONMAN event day, plus I’ve heard the beer is super cheap over there for some post-race celebrations! After that it will be six weeks until race day.

Why did I choose Scope?

Two cyclists riding along a country path
Cat in training

Simply because of the people who are supportive, motivated but most importantly extremely passionate.  The desire to help create a better, fairer society for disabled people and their families is infectious.  Not only do I have the chance to impact Scope’s work in my day to day role as Events Manager, but taking on this challenge means I can hopefully broaden the awareness of Scope and its vital work even further.

It’s my friends, particularly my colleagues at Scope, who listen to me complain and give me the belief in myself that I can do this.  And there is definitely a lot of complaining, particularly as I fall off my bike nearly every time I go out!

The reward

I’m really excited to take part in the IRONMAN. This is my personal challenge of growth and acceptance, and for me that will probably be harder than the physical challenge itself. I’ve learnt I’m so much stronger than I thought, and with the right people around  me I am able to realise my dreams and push myself further than I ever thought. My mantra is ‘Don’t wait until you’ve reached your goal to be proud of yourself. Be proud of every step you take towards reaching that goal.’ So in case you’re thinking of signing up to IRONMAN, here are three things you need to know:

  1. It becomes all you think, talk and dream about
  2. You will need to eat more food than you ever thought possible
  3. You will meet some of the most incredible people along the way to an utterly life changing experience.

If you’re feeling inspired to take on an IRONMAN, or something a little less challenging, find an event that’s perfect for you at scope.org.uk/events or email the events team events@scope.org.uk.

Are you limited by your challenges or are you challenging your limits?

When Team Scope member Mike Jones contacted our events team and told us he is taking part in the Ironman Sweden at Kalmar in August for Scope, we were blown away by his determination. Over the last two years he has attempted Ironman Wales but has been unsuccessful – any competitor will tell you that the exhausting event will bring out your weaknesses and for Mike it did just that. 

After enduring foot pain throughout the event, and following discussions with his GP, Mike was referred to a Neuromuscular Consultant who confirmed a long-standing problem that has been masked since child-hood, only materialising in his early 50’s. Mike has kept his own blog over the past few months as he trains for the event whilst searching for a firm diagnosis of his condition – he has recently had tests for Cerebral Palsy and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease – but here is an extract from his most recent post as he reflects on his latest endurance events.

From LLanelli to Eton, Nottingham to Port Talbot

I think my theme for the last few weeks must be “Another Town, Another Train(ing) race”. This has seen me travel from Llanelli to Eton, Nottingham to Port Talbot to take part in three endurance events in 13 days, some would say “burning my bridges” but it was something I needed to do. The first of the three was at Eton Dorney, this was for the Human Race Open Water Swim Series, the 10K swim. Looking back I was so glad that my open water training had started two months ago in North Dock, as even I would admit on the day it was cold.

Mike Jones

A six day turn around and it was off to Nottingham for the inaugural Outlaw Half, a Middle Distance Tri based in and around the National Watersports Centre at Holme Pierrepont. There were a few areas of my preparations that I wished to try out ready for Kalmar. So time was not a goal for the day, completion yes. The swim, which was a simple loop, went without a hitch. The bike leg went as expected and again the plan was to pace myself and not get carried away with speed / time if I was feeling good. The course was good, not flat but with only one part that could be classed as a hill. So on to the half marathon, well what can I say –  it started off well! However after about four miles the problems with pain in my feet returned so it was in to the familiar survival mode to ensure completion, which has been the normal now for a few events. This continuous stopping was (is) causing problems with me getting into any sort of rhythm. The positive is that I now know something about the medical condition that is causing this problem, so all I need to work out is a plan of action for future events.

A potential solution

One consideration is to change the way in which I tie up my laces, at present the use of elastic laces with my Pes Cavus feels that I am wearing an elastic band around my feet so not getting any relief. It was due to the number of times I was taking my shoes off to rub my feet that this style of laces where introduced, so going to replace with normal laces using a non-traditional method to lace up. Also what I am now considering is instead of pushing on until the foot pain becomes a problem is to build into my run plan stops to self-massage my feet before it gets to the unbearable pain level, this may mean a short stop at regular intervals no matter how I am feeling.

The Future

At present I am still confused over the results of the medical tests over the last few months, as all I am getting is the observations from these tests. What is confusing me is there is no definitive condition being diagnosed other than a “Neuromuscular Condition” which is long-standing – this term is so general it seems someone is afraid to put a tag on the condition. So the saga of “Atrophy of the Thoracic Spinal Cord” along with “Upper Motor Neurone” signs goes on and on and on. The wait for further appointments continues and it feels at present a race against time for me to plan for the future, but as the mantra goes “you’re never a loser until you quit trying”, and guess what my plan is. It is at this point I start wondering what and where the months will take me – I have a dream.

With little over 4 weeks to go Mike is clearly determined to take part in the event and give it all he can, firmly following the Ironman’s mantra “Anything is Possible.” We wish him all the best as he is also fundraising and running for Scope in the Great North Run this September.

If you’ve been tempted to take part in a triathlon or endurance event then make sure you check out what we have to offer.