Rebecca Romero is a remarkable sportswoman. As rowing Word Champion she went to the Athens Olympics and picked up a silver medal on the water. And only four years later she went one better by becoming an Olympic Champion in Beijing…but this time she was on a bike!

This makes Rebecca unique in sport – a World Champion in two different pursuits and a dual Olympic medallist in two entirely different disciplines! At the end of 2011 she decided to tackle a full Ironman event, not as an elite World and Olympic Champion, but as a self confessed “awful runner and an even worse swimmer”. Rebecca was always very candid – often hilariousy so – about her training and preparations.

The title of Ironman

Having swum, cycled and run myself through a half Ironman distance triathlon, I can now officially call myself a triathlete!
But I’m after a bigger title than that. I want to be able to officially call myself an Ironman.

I’m currently engulfed in a daily countdown to my big Ironman challenge. As I write this there are 14 days to go.

It is a momentous day set in my diary where all my planning and preparation will end. Simultaneously I’m tackling a masters degree and new business ventures, but I cannot deny that it’s this whole Ironman ‘lark’ that has been uppermost in my consciousness.

A different challenge

I’m very well prepared for big challenges having faced multiple World Championship and Olympic events. However, this time it’s all very different. I’m facing the pressure not to produce world class times and win, but the pressure to make sure I get through the event itself. Never in my career did I contemplate not even finishing a race!

I’m not in any way concerned about my physiological ability to be able to do it. I’m more than well equipped with an engine that
will take me the distance.

Naturally my strength as an athlete is to operate at a percentage close to my VO2max and I’ve demonstrated that I’m in the world’s top few percent at doing that. I find sport and human performance so fascinating – about just how varied and diverse  the physiological requirements of every type of sport are and how individual as human beings our physical performance capabilities and specialities are.

I’m a very competitive person and I want to be fast, but I’m not concerned about being fast right now. I’m not even concerned about not making it through the 3.8km swim. I’ve gained loads of experience through both the half Ironman and my swim training since then.

Facing my demons

I’m confident I can do it.

But I’ve dealt with that swim demon only to find it has now morphed into its evil twin – the run demon!

My concern right now is the possibility that I might not achieve my goal to become an Ironman because my body lets me down biomechanically during the run. I knew that having only started running in November that building up to marathon distance was going to be the biggest ask of myself and the discipline I’d be most likely to encounter injury.

rebecca romero big challenge_2

During the half Ironman in Mallorca I noticed I had an aching lower back whilst I was riding the bike section. I’ve concluded this would have been due to muscle fatigue in my back and shoulders from the swim. Getting on a bike and riding for hours in an extreme aero position is strain enough so there’s no surprise it grumbles a little straight after a long swim.

Going from a long swim to a long bike ride with tired muscles means finishing the bike with super tired muscles and not in the freshest of form to embark on a long run.

It is at this point all your biomechanical faults and weaknesses appear and because of the high impact from the repetitive pounding of running you begin to become all too aware of them in a very debilitating way!

I certainly found this during the half Ironman. During the last few miles of the run I was surprised to have an old hip problem return when it had not been in evidence during any training. It really did become quite excruciating and had it been during a marathon run I would have been in real trouble.

A few steps back

Having done a time in Mallorca that I was more than happy with was great, but knowing I’d have to go double the distance in only eight weeks time worried me. I was hopeful I’d be able to maximise the last six week block of training to set me up well but disappointingly I can’t report that has been the case.

Having tried to extend my long training runs beyond fifteen miles has been impossible. It aggravated my hip so I had to lay off the running.

To have spent the last few weeks being in self preservation mode rather than pushing on has been frustrating and to have spent what feels like more hours on the physio couch, massage couch, foam rollering and stretching than I have training is also annoying!

However, I’ve managed the last few weeks well and am a firm believer that setbacks happen for a reason. If anything this injury
has made me take a few steps back and approach the last phase of my preparation very differently.

Mind and body coordination

It has been with much compromise and caution but this could be serving me well in the long term, enabling me to complete the full distance rather than fall to pieces mid way. I’ve gained more body awareness from the injury and will prepare my body more specifically in the last few weeks. It has also given me more insight into my movement whilst running so I’ve now re-addressed my tactical and technical approach to the run which will hopefully be much better for me.

Whenever I get improvements in my ability I have a habit of increasing my targets.

But two thirds of this three discipline challenge has seen me operating very much as a fish out of water, so I’m ensuring that I don’t lose sight of its enormity and give Ironman the respect it deserves by implementing a strategy which will see me across the finish line.

The end of the beginning

I’m coming into the taper phase of my preparation where I can do no more. The hard work has been done, so it’s all about resting up, focusing and preparing for the day itself.

I’m really excited about it and can’t wait to reveal all about the epic day itself in my next column!


So how did Rebecca do? Find out in her next article HERE.

Read more about Expert Rebecca Romero.

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