A lot of people ask me how I can think of training for an Ironman when I have a family and a job (touch wood). I have yet to see how well I cope with the heaviest training weeks which will be sometime in March or April and will probably be over 15 hours of training but I have already found some "tricks" without which this would be unthinkable.
The first trick was really the turning point for me and the point when I realised I might just be able to juggle all three (job, family and training). When I broke my foot last year I bought a Mountain bike to help me ride back to fitness and it was then that I discovered that it was possible to get from my house to work going through forests and hardly setting wheel upon tarmac. One thing I missed about London when I moved to Spain was that I used to be able to walk to work (and, until a serious road accident took the fun out of it, I used to go by bike). There is only one thing I hate more than driving and that is driving in Spain. Don't get me started on the lack of sensible roundabout rules or the fact that most drivers are too damn lazy to lift that little stick with their little finger, the one that operates the indicators which, as their name suggests, indicate to other road users your intentions! AAARGH!
Ten deep breaths... Where was I?
So, yes, I discovered I could get into work on my bike in about 45 minutes and avoid the stressful (for me) drive in which, these days, is taking anything from 20-40 minutes. Not much of a drive, I know - I'm lucky to live quite near work. If you do the sums, it means that I get 1h30m of training time for a "cost" of 30 minutes or so. In practice it is difficult to commute in every day of the week - if it has been raining the paths become virtually unusable and one time it was so bad, I managed to completely wreck my disc brakes (which cost me 200 euros to replace!). But if it were possible and it was of the same training benefit, I could do all my bike training using only 2 and a half hours of my time a week!
Another trick is to use the indoor turbo trainer which is a simple and relatively cheap device that you can hook the bike up to, turning it into a state-of-the-art indoor bicycle. The only disadvantage is that little bits of rubber from the tyres fly all over the place and stick to everything with static. I can be training on the turbo trainer and helping the kids with their homework or watching a film with my wife. I know not to kid myself that this equates to "quality time" with the family but it does help. Also, training indoors is more efficient than training outdoors - you can't coast or freewheel on a turbo trainer - so my coach equates an hour on the turbo trainer to 1h12m cycling outdoors. It is, however, boring as hell and you need a good fan to keep you cool.
Unfortunately, the very best way to make the most of your time is to train alone. The few times I have trained with other people, however much more enjoyable it is, I always end up losing loads of time faffing about. You have to be very organized and have all your kit ready at all times so that you don't waste time looking for things or realizing that you haven't got any clean socks. I also try to do almost all my training on the bike and running leaving from home and timing it such that I arrive at my doorstep just as my training time is up. Its not only a question of saving time fixing your bike to the car but I also have a thing against driving somewhere to go train; I find it so much more rewarding to be able to start right outside my front door. Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to live somewhere where this is possible.
Lastly, I try to minimize the number of times I have to change my clothes - within reason of course! So I may do a session after work, drive back in my sweaty sports kit and shower and change into my lounge-about-house clothes once I get home. It's amazing how much time you lose putting on a suit every day!
One thing you have to be very careful not to do, is to try to eek extra training time out of the time when you would otherwise be sleeping. What makes this particularly hard to do is that, the more you train, the more your body needs you to sleep so that it can effectively repair itself. This is one of the areas which puts strain on the family because I tend to want to go to sleep shortly after the kids go to bed... The other, more significant strain, is that I spend most of Saturday and Sunday morning training when I could otherwise be spending time with the kids or helping out at home. Although I wouldn't go so far as to say my wife has encouraged me to go for the Ironman, she is very supportive and tolerant of the load it puts on her (and she undoubtedly won't feel the same glory as I will when I cross the finish line in May). One thing I have learned is to make her aware in advance of exactly what the consequences of this undertaking are and to involve her in decisions of when it is best to train and which races I train seriously for and which I do "for fun". Still, I think I will only get one shot at the Ironman because it is so expensive both financially and in terms of what my family is paying. I'd better make it good then!