Trending | 10/03/2021

IRONMAN: Shaikh Fahad

By Alba D'souza
Copywriter, SSSPORTS.COM

Grit, determination and willpower are key for any competitive sport, but the IRONMAN demands more from its participants. Competing and completing 1.9 km of swimming, 90 km in cycling and 21.1 km in running all in a day’s work is a feat. Designed to test strength, speed and endurance in varied weather, the IRONMAN race truly pushes its participants.

Scheduled to be held in Dubai on Friday, 12th March, we catch up with Shaikh Fahad for a lowdown on what it takes to participate in the IRONMAN 70.3.

Tell us about your IRONMAN training. What was your training schedule like?

My training for IRONMAN was pretty straight forward since I kept my approach very simple. The only change introduced to my regular training schedule was a change in the timing of my long runs. IRONMAN is the only race where you run post 10:00 am. So, to get acclimated, I ran a few longer runs a little later in the day.

What sparked your interest in IRONMAN? And what were your learnings?

The fact that the whole distance is covered by a single individual is very fascinating. Also, this is IRONMAN 70.3 which is also called the half IRONMAN. It taught me the importance of planning and scheduling in training. Your preparation could span over weeks, for example, in one week you could be prepping with high-intensity training, while in a week closer to race day you could simply be stretching. Also, some athletes include mini races before the actual event. It helps keep their focus and ensures you don’t lose motivation to train for your ultimate goal – the IRONMAN finish line. In the long run (no pun intended), it helps you charter a direction for future races you may want to participate in and preps you to continue training in that direction.

IRONMAN: Shaikh Fahad
IRONMAN: Shaikh Fahad
Do you think you had natural athletic abilities or did you find yourself struggling to train?

Since I’ve always been active and into sports since my school days, it wasn’t difficult for me to adapt and train for the IRONMAN.

What sort of goals did you set yourself while training for the IRONMAN? And how did you treat yourself after achieving each goal?

My goal was to make sure my team clocked in a time to the best of its ability. We had a world-class swimmer Swaleh Balala, who ironically was also my swim coach at the time, and a really strong cyclist – Tom Friswell. Both performed their best in their respective categories. My personal goal was to get to the finish line ASAP! Once I made it to the end, I popped a bottle of cola.

Were there things you didn’t enjoy as part of the IRONMAN training? And why?

Following a training schedule can be a bit boring at times. Monotony sets in given the training is repetitive week after week. That said, always listen to your body first. Listen to how you’re feeling and train for the day accordingly.

IRONMAN team: Shaikh Fahad, Swaleh Balala, Tom Friskwell
IRONMAN team: Shaikh Fahad, Swaleh Balala, Tom Friskwell
What is the toughest stage in the IRONMAN?

I think it’s the run. The reason being, by the time you start running it’s mid-day and the water stations usually run out of water and snacks.

What was the one constant motivation that kept you going with training?

I’ve always felt there is better out there – better athletes, timing, race records and overall performances. My goals have been set against that ‘better’. I believe if you put in consistent effort, you can achieve whatever it is that you aim to achieve. That thought has kept me motivated, not just with the races, but in life too.

And your biggest challenge while training?

Maintaining discipline and consistency is key to any training plan. Yes, your efforts are important but without these two elements, your training is never complete.

Post IRONMAN, how do you keep fit?

Next race, next goal, continued training, as simple as that.

Your love for running, did that happen before IRONMAN or did you discover a love for it post the race?

My love for running was accidental. I signed up for a race only to later realize it was a half marathon! But from then on, the running craze has stayed. I hope it never dies down.

What’s the toughest part about participating in a race like IRONMAN?

I love donuts and chocolates, and that went out the window first! Jokes aside preparing yourself for a race of the IRONMAN magnitude is a task, without a doubt. In addition to basic weight training, I had to run longer distances. But I would treat the IRONMAN like any half marathon, and not let it overwhelm me. The first step to winning starts with making up your mind to register for any race. Winning starts there.

If you participated again, how would you do it differently?

If I did it all over again, I would definitely attempt the whole distance on my own.

Were there any takeaways from participating in the race? Any life lessons perhaps?

Yes, every race is a lesson. Your effort is what counts at the end of the day. You get what you invest in. Many times, we chase PB’s and get dejected when don’t achieve them. And that’s okay. But it’s important to remember that sometimes it’s just about growth, and growth takes time.

What would be the one piece of advice you would give anyone training for the IRONMAN?

You become an IRONMAN from the moment you’re at the start line. So, don’t worry about where you finish with respect to your timing and ranking, you showed up and that is all what matters.

Tag us in your training on Instagram @sunsandsports.
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