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Earlier this year, Ironman triathlete Ruth Purbrook earned a place in the prestigious Specialized Zwift Triathlon Academy. The goal: Repeat success of last year’s Ironman World Championship AG (25-29) win with a view to achieving the overall age group World Champion title – this time under the support and tutelage of Zwift Tri Academy mentors, Sarah True and Tim Don. However, 10 weeks ago, life threw a spanner in the works when Ruth was knocked off her bike, breaking her collarbone. Incredibly, she was back racing six weeks after surgery and managed a brilliant 7th AG place at last month’s 70.3 Ironman World Championship!

Ahead of this weekend’s Ironman World Championship in Kona, Ruth took time out to share how she juggles intensive Ironman training with 60-hour weeks working for the Lloyds Banking Group.

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Juggling Ironman training with a full-time job is difficult, but it’s a choice I make because it’s important to me. I fit it in by getting up early and being very organised. I’m lucky that my husband is a very good cyclist, so he’s also up early training and we help motivate each other to train. The main challenge is when I have a really intense work day and also have tough sessions to get in, but I work with my coach to move things around and be flexible, so if there’s a day where I just can’t fit something in, we move it.

I train pretty much every day, and often twice a day. I rarely take a full rest day, apart from after big races. For example, after Challenge Roth I had a whole week of nothing, a week of starting to get moving again and then getting back into training, and post-Kona I usually have four weeks of having no structure at all and doing something a bit different like yoga.

Zwift Tri Academy
Being part of the Zwift Tri Academy has been an amazingly surreal experience – the support from some of the best brands has been unbelievable and really does make a huge difference in terms of having the best kit, as well as support from teammates and our mentors. As an avid Zwift user anyway, it’s great to be part of the team and hopefully help inspire more people to get into triathlon and using Zwift.

The day of my crash
When I broke my collarbone, I was out cycling with two friends on a very straight road when an approaching car turned across us. My friend, James, at the front, had nowhere to go other than straight into the car, and I went into him as he came over the top of it. I knew as soon as I tried to sit up that my collarbone was broken. I also had blood pouring out of my face from a deep gash.

I had to wait 10 days to get my collarbone operated on due to the road rash and the surgeon wanting my face to heal up a bit. It was a really uncomfortable 10 days where I could feel the collarbone moving, and everything felt pretty sore. The day post-surgery was also pretty terrible, and it felt like a step backwards. Fortunately, a couple of days after my surgery things started to heal fairly quickly and it took me two days to get back on the turbo, and around five days to try jogging again. I was lucky that I had a great indoor set-up to cycle and that running wasn’t uncomfortable for me. However, I wasn’t allowed to raise my arm above 90 degrees for 4 weeks, so I wasn’t swimming, other than a few half-hearted attempts at one armed swimming – which I didn’t enjoy very much!

For the past couple of weeks I’ve managed to do what feels more like training (as opposed to just moving!) and I have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly my fitness is coming back. I went to the 70.3 Ironman World Champs in Nice 5.5 weeks after surgery, not thinking I was going to be able to race. However, because I’d done about four swims which felt OK, I made a last-minute decision to just go for it. I’m glad I did, as I had so much fun! And as a confidence boost pre-Kona, I was only 5 minutes off the winner of my AG, which was much better than I was expecting!

Kona Ironman Champs 2019
I have mixed feelings about Kona – I’m really excited to go back, and had you asked me pre-crash, I would have been fairly confident about the training I’d done to be in good shape to challenge for the overall age group win. Post-crash, there’s definitely more nerves mixed in with the excitement and doubts about what I will be able to do.

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I’m also not sure how the new wave system will work – it was bad enough before with men to swim through and some women catching a free ride from the men on the bike, so I think this year the race will be less fair for the women. I think if it’s a tough, windy day that would suit me better, as I can maximise my strength on the bike – but let’s see! As I move to being pro next year, I also want to ensure I enjoy Kona this year, as could be a while before I make it back to the Big Island as a pro.

A typical morning during the week will go one of two ways: either a Zwift session before work or a swim session. Either way, I wake-up at 4.30am, make coffee and eat a pre-made energy ball or spoonful of peanut butter (I pre-make bircher muesli to take into work and eat when I get there.) If it’s a Zwift morning, I’ll be on the turbo by 4.45am. We have a shed outside where the turbo is; I’m lucky that Wahoo gave us the Kickr, Climb, Fan and Desk, so I couldn’t ask for a better set-up.

Usually my sessions on the bike take 1.15 – 1.30hr so this gives me enough time to train and get into the office for 7am. The Zwift session is usually sweet spot intervals or short and sharp micro bursts.

I then ride into work, which takes around 35 minutes (often I use this as my cool down session), shower, and I’m at my desk for 7am.

© Zwift Triathlon Academy

If it’s a swim morning, I cycle into the city to swim at 6am before work. My swim sets vary from being longer, endurance sets to shorter, sharper threshold sets. If I’m swimming before work, I’m in a bit later as my swims tend to be around 1hr – 1.15hr so I’m usually at my desk for 7.30am.

My job is pretty varied and can be very intense. I support the Chief Information Officer at Lloyds Banking Group. He’s responsible for all things IT and Payments for the bank, which involves a lot of different things that come up on a day-to-day basis – this can be anything from prepping him for meetings, doing presentations on a variety for topics, dealing with HR related topics or just general random queries that come up.

Lunchtime: Grabbing a soup or salad
I usually eat at my desk over lunch, but I try and pop out for 10 minutes of fresh air. I tend to stick to the things I know I like – being in the City there’s a huge variety of healthy food choices and, whilst I do go through stages of taking lunch in to work, I find that if I do, I then don’t leave the office. Lunch will usually be a big chicken salad or chicken noodle soup. Training definitely makes me fairly hungry – my battle is usually avoiding all the sweet treats in the office!

Evening: Training session #2
I usually finish work between 6pm – 6.30pm, although sometimes it can be later. If there’s still lots to do, I try and leave the office to get evening training and dinner in before logging back in later. Most of the time, I’ll cycle home and then train from home in the evening – often this will be my run/swim session.

I find evening sessions really tough – I am 100% a morning person, so I find getting the motivation to go out and train in the evening difficult. Where possible, I try to arrange to do sessions with other people so I don’t sit on the sofa and never get back up! However, this can be difficult with work and not having a set ‘leave time’ every day. I have to say though, one of my motivators is I know that when I do get out I will really enjoy it, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a session where I’ve felt worse for doing it!

I eat dinner after training, but if I have a longer session planned, or if I’m particularly hungry, I’ll have an afternoon snack. My favourite at the moment are the SiS Vegan Dark Chocolate and Raspberry protein bars – delicious!

Cooking and Bake Off
A typical evening during the week tends to be: get in, train, eat, sleep! There may be some conversation with my husband, and often we will have a TV show on the go (current favourite is the Great British Bake Off!), but evening activity during the week tends to be limited.

If I’ve been organised or I’m in a less intense period of training, I do try and see friends one night a week or potentially do a proper date night out at a restaurant, but in the build-up to a big race that’s rare.

Fortunately, we both love cooking and I’ve been working with Alan Murchison (of Performance Chef), so have lots of delicious but easy and quick recipes to follow. This could be chicken wraps, noodle soups or risotto, depending on what training I have and how much I need to be eating.

With my recent collarbone break I’ve been reasonably disciplined about doing my rehab in the evening, however I’m generally pretty useless at stretching, so this is something for me to work on next year. Given the time I’m waking up and how intense the weeks feel, I try to go to bed by 9.30pm/10pm – but sometimes this doesn’t happen, especially if work has got bit busy and I’ve have to log back on or my training session has been a bit later.

Good luck in Kona, Ruth!

Ruth Purbrook is a proud member of the Specialized Zwift Academy Tri team. More information is available at www.zwift.com/academy/tri.

You can follow Ruth’s Ironman training and racing via her social media channels: www.instagram.com/rastle50 and www.twitter.com/rastle50.