In this blog we hear from one of our coached athletes – Lizzy Ahmed about her experiences as a triathlete. It’s been super to support Lizzy through the last few years to achieve her dream of becoming an Ironman at one of the toughest races out there at Ironman Bolton. Read about Lizzy’s journey, the ups and downs and all the things she learned along the way.

First Triathlon

I first got into triathlon in 2015 when I couldn’t even swim a length of a pool. At the time I was working as a Personal trainer and my background was mainly strength training and sports conditioning. I had run a couple of half marathons (slowly) but I’d not been swimming since childhood and I didn’t own a bike. Deciding I should start with the swimming I entered the Erewash sprint triathlon in the hope it would give me a kick up the arse to sort my swimming out. At first, I literally couldn’t swim 1 length, but I persevered with it going to the pool most mornings until I could swim enough to join a local masters club which then really helped with improving my technique.

The second challenge was the bike leg, I bought a £200 Carrera Virtuoso and quickly found out that all the strength training had paid off. when Erewash sprint triathlon came around I got the 4th quickest female on the bike. Most importantly though, I loved the event and couldn’t wait to enter another one.

Open Water Triathlon

After a couple of pool triathlons, I decided it was time I became a ‘proper triathlete’ and try out open water swimming, this was in preparation for my first open water race which was the Emergency Services National Championship in 2017. I was petrified going into the water but as soon as I was away I was immediately in my flow and to my complete surprise I took away a first overall female.

Olympic distance to Full Ironman

Unfortunately, the glory was short lived as my ambitions moved towards longer distances and my utter lack of endurance and pacing abilities became apparent. I entered the London Olympic distance and then tried my hand at a 70.3 with the Outlaw Half in Nottingham. I loved this event, I was still petrified getting into the water but from the second the start horn went off I was loving it……. Until the run when I suffered bad stomach cramps in the last few miles. That run was a big learning point for me to sort out nutrition and pacing! It was after the 70.3 that the true addiction that is triathlon kicked in and my sights became set on the full Ironman (I knew the addiction had set in when I upgraded my bike).

Running Blisters

I knew I would need help and that’s where Penny and YouCanCoaching came in. I started with a 6-week running technique course. I had previously suffered massively with blisters which really affected my ability to run longer distances as they just became so painful. The course really stripped my running back and improved my technique and efficiency but the greatest result of the course was the blisters stopped, and now 3 years later I am still blister free!

Ironman Training Plan

After the course, Penny set up my training plan for Ironman UK in 2019 and kept in touch through the whole process working with me to tailor each training block to suit what was going on in my life as well as what I needed to get done to make progress. As a teacher and an Army reservist I am pretty busy but the plan worked well around that.

Training  Peaks

I especially enjoy using Training Peaks, mostly because I’m a science teacher and data is life, but it also gave me objective evidence of my progress. Penny ran a Training Peaks data seminar which I attended and took away a much better idea of how to use that data properly.

Swimming Technique

As I said at the start I was never a swimmer so I attended a Total Immersion day long swimming course on improving front crawl which was run by Penny and another TI coach and I learnt so much. I particularly enjoyed getting to grips with the Finis Tempo Trainer and it’s something I still use in my pool swims to check where I am at


I have loved the process, despite an injury in 2019 putting the brakes on my Ironman attempt but with Penny’s support I got back to it when I could and she tailored my training to fit in around my recovery and to keep me on track. Without this and having the accountability you get from working with a coach I don’t think I’d have maintained the focus I have for 3 years.

So 2019 was a no go, and we all know what happened to our races in 2020 but I tried to take it as a positive. I was fully recovered from my injury and now I had even longer to make sure I could make that bike cut off on the Ironman UK course. I stuck to the plan as well as I could, probably my best investment was a smart turbo trainer and a subscription the Sufferfest as the workouts are great.

I also took part in a couple of Zwift races which were ideal during the lockdowns. During miserable winter days when you just can’t get outside to do your 4 hour ride the next best thing is back to back Sufferfest videos and a great Netflix series!

Ironman UK

So, here we are in 2021 and to my relief Ironman UK did take place, and I did complete it.

The weather was awful, making the bike leg quite tough, but it meant I could just wee on the move without using the portaloos as nobody could tell due to the rain (my funniest triathlon moment so far).

Making it to T2 and making the cut off was such a good feeling as it had been the cause of so much anxiety for 3 years. However, nothing will ever beat that feeling you get running down the red carpet hearing ‘Lizzy you are an Ironman!’

What next?

I took a few weeks off after IMUK but I’m back training again now. Not for anything specific and currently looking for inspiration for the next challenge. I have learnt so much in the past 3 years training with Penny and YouCanCoaching.

My biggest take away, which I didn’t even truly believe until this year, was that its not the amount of training that you do but it’s the quality.

Let’s Chat

If you’re thinking about doing an Ironman distance triathlon next year and need help planning your training then get in touch to book a free 15min call here and discover how I could help you


I’m Penny. I’ve been taking part in triathlon for 18 years and I’ve completed 7 Ironman distance races. I’ve helped countless athletes train towards their first and their 10th Ironman. So whatever your goal or experience get in touch to find out how I can help.