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Are you training for an endurance event ? We caught up with Sgt. Sue Pugh of the RAF to hear how she prepares for major challenges…

How do you find the time for that? Is a question I so often get asked by friends outside of triathlons and work. Yes, training for Ironman races and other crazy endurance events takes its toll and sometimes I wonder myself how do I fit things in, but if you enjoy it, you’ll find time, believe me!

It can be quite daunting at first when you listen to stories of what other people are doing in their training programmes, or reading the numerous books and articles out there, but if you are determined to complete your event, allow time for training and just as importantly, for your recovery. You will succeed.

Over the last few years I have competed in some different events to normal. A lot of people will have Ironman on their bucket list, or marathon, but I thought I’d do a few different things. In 2015 I competed in the Race Across Europe, a 3000 mile bike race through Europe as part of a four-man team. I was the first female to ever attempt and complete this and more recently (with 3days notice as one of the guys was injured), helped a team to complete the Isle of Man TT Course 24 hour ride. Some people say how did I train for this? Well….

I am fortunate that my job means I must be physically fit, working as a Royal Air Force Training Physical Training Instructor, but this doesn’t mean I get ‘extra time’ for these events! Like everyone else, when I race Ironman or half Ironman events in the UK and abroad, I often use my annual leave to enable me to do these,. The one thing I do hold to my advantage is that I have all training facilities on my doorstep, from my office I can be in the swimming pool in less than 30 seconds, likewise in the gym or just 2 minutes to the track. Plus it’s only 2 minutes to get my turbo out of the van and grab my Dassi bike and set it up ready for my session, although I much prefer getting out and about like the rest of us! Training still needs to fit in and around my working day.

dassi bikes sue pugh enduranceSo typically, I will be up no later than 6am to get training session number 1 in of the day, leave nowhere near enough time to shower and eat breakfast before starting (this almost feels like a continuation of the session doing everything at break neck speed!), then at lunch either get a swim, strength or run session in, followed by the same rigmarole of earlier, and sometimes training session number 3 of the day after work. Only at this point do I not have to rush, although most of the time, I’m weary from the day and just want to eat!! Time to just get on with the session, complete it, shower, eat and then relax, at last…. you’ll see a theme forming here, train, eat, sleep, repeat!  A mantra used so very often by most endurance athletes.

Whereas, most ‘normal’ (whatever that is!!) people enjoy a relaxing weekend, this is when my longest training sessions happen. So, a Saturday will be a long run, currently around 90mins, but will only increase as the weeks go by, immediately followed by a strength session, then I get to relax for the day. Normally involving eating and sleeping, catching up with friends and family before more sleeping! Sundays are my long bike rides which I always try to do with friends and boyfriend. Much of my training is on my own, so it’s always nice to add in a friendly catch up (saves time too!), coffee stop all whilst getting my ride done in good company.

My week is split generally into 3 bike sessions, 3 runs, 3-4 swims, 3 strength sessions. Sometimes, due to work this will increase as I will be required to lead a 10km loaded march with a rucksack weighing anything up to 25kg on your back, taking the trainees out on runs, or just general teaching. These are tiring. Some may think that this sounds great but it can sometimes disrupt your training schedule, so you must remain flexible. Even the runs are generally not at your running pace, although I try to mimic one of my training sessions, and likewise teaching other lessons can be tiring more so for your central nervous system and mentally draining, all this can take its toll.

As with all of us, life sometimes gets in the way, we can’t get our training in, we feel exhausted, have to work longer or extra hours, and sometimes you just really don’t want to get those 5 layers on to get out of the door onto the bike! So with all of this, you have to be sensible. If you miss a session, don’t kill yourself trying to squeeze it in, figure out which are the key sessions for your training week and move things around a little, to best fit the time you have available. I still have to tell myself this though when I haven’t completed something as I should have!

dassi bikes sue pugh

You have to enjoy your training, enjoy what you are aiming to achieve, have the determination and mental resilience to get the training done, especially when the weather is miserable, you will feel better when you have completed it. Another thought I quite often have is what would my fellow competitors be doing, would they be sat around taking it easy because it’s cold outside? I doubt it, and this is enough to remind me and motivate me to get out there and get the session done.Something that particularly helps me is riding around some of the most beautiful parts of the countryside in the UK. Due to my job, where my family live, and where my boyfriend works as a Marine Commando I get to vary my riding quite a bit. During the week, I am based in Shropshire, on weekends I cycle around my parents’ home in Herefordshire dipping into the Brecon Beacons National Park, or head to my boyfriend’s place of work in Devon so have the Jurassic Coast and Dartmoor to cycle around. Use your rides to explore, to see new areas, see some of the fantastic sites that the UK has to offer, it certainly makes clocking up the miles significantly easier!

The most important thing to remember is to enjoy the journey that your training and your bike takes you on, enjoy completing the training and the event itself, include your friends, family and loved ones as much as you can (also means you get to spend time with them too!). I think so many of us would love to be able to train and do what we love all day long, but unfortunately, we still have to pay the bills, so just remember this when you are shattered and have a session to complete.

Good luck with whatever you’re setting out to achieve this year !

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