Zoe Forman

My story is that anything is possible with the right coach.

After a decade of traveling transatlantic with work I was in my early 40’s, over weight, a family history of heart disease and early deaths. An athlete I was not. 

I took up running in the dark to lose weight and entered a half marathon. 8 months later I lost 4 stone in weight and completed a half marathon sharing a world record with Paula Radcliffe - OK she ran a full marathon to my half but we shared the same finish time.

I joined a gym and rekindled my love of swimming. I did my first multi sport event an aquathons where my transition time was longer than my swim time and as no one around I got lost and ran 8k instead of 5k to finish dead last - but I was hooked. 

Dusting off my mountain bike I did my first triathlon and as my fitness improved I realised I was getting better in my age group the longer the distance - I’m a diesel engine not rocket fuelled sprinter for sure.

After finishing my third marathon in April I was given Neil’s name as I had dreams of completing a half ironman in September even though I’d only completed couple of sprints and one Olympic distance triathlon and spent the winter running. This was a big step and I needed help, adhoc training wasn’t to get me to the start line let alone the finish.

After an hour on the phone to Neil (he likes to talk as much as I do!) he agreed to take me on and this is where his science and my creativeness combined. 

From day one Neil referred to me as an athlete which I really wasn’t all that comfortable with or understood why he called me an athlete, but he obviously saw more potential in me than I had confidence in my abilities. 

Whilst I had an ‘A’ race in mind I was easily distracted and entered many other events because I liked the location, the medal, something different like ISOMAN or just for the challenge. I very rarely take the easy option in races. Neil’s job was to knit all these events together with a training program that contributed to my triathlon progress and kept me focused on the A race.

Before I even got to my first middle distance triathlon Challenge Henley, I signed up for IMUK and this is where a coach is invaluable. Unlike training for say a marathon where the internet is a wash with training plans, triathlons need to balance the training for 3 sports and be so much more specific to my own strengths (swim) and weaknesses (running). Plus I was going into the unknown with regards to endurance events and distances. Again Neil’s calmness, support, belief in me, his experience and knowledge were put into practice through the training plans he sent via Dropbox. Neil is very hands on and approachable, easy to contact and always willing to meet up for a chat & coffee and answering my random questions & giving advice which I took on board and absorbed like a sponge.

Coaching needs to be two-way communication - how you feel, managing unexpected life & work requirements and adjusting the plan to suit. I occasionally questioned if he has sent me a session for one of his elite or Olympian athletes by mistake to be told “No that’s your session for the day, see how you go.” Well coach knows best and I always finished the sessions set even if on paper they looked impossible to me. Although I think I let him know in no uncertain terms how much I hated the triple run day so it never appeared in my plan again! 

I have joined Beth & Neil in Mallorca three times for their triathlon training camps and each time showed progress in my cycling strength & technique climbing the mountains, I even got to like hills. These are a great way to get a solid block of training done in sunshine with great coaches and company. I now consider Neil & Beth and the other athletes as good friends as well as coach & fellow competitors.

In three years Neil has taken me from an easily distracted marathon runner (I stopped mid race to chat to family & friends four times, ate Jaffa cakes and had a pint of beer at mile 22 in London) to a more focused athlete who is now a two time ironman finisher and multiple 70.3’s, I have even been on the podium a couple of times and am still Jamaica's Ironman number one F45-49 for the last two years running now - see anything really is possible! 

Training has generally gone to plan and apart from a few run sessions (the triple run day!) I’ve enjoyed them, its races that have gone to pot for me in the most unexpected ways that you couldn’t imagine. IMUK I sustained two cracked ribs in the swim and Outlaw I had my first asthma attack mid race but thanks to the thoroughness of my training plan from Neil I completed both 140.6mile events even though the race results didn’t reflect what I trained for or planned - but that’s life.