Expect to hear (much) more about this in days to come, but I am officially an Ironman!
Now, I’m going to eat and sleep and spend three days telling myself I’ll never exercise again.
Expect to hear (much) more about this in days to come, but I am officially an Ironman!
Now, I’m going to eat and sleep and spend three days telling myself I’ll never exercise again.
Monday: Swim—20 minutes; Bike—30:41 (8.84 miles); Run—30:00 (3.45 miles)
On Monday, I woke up and headed to the pool… last workout in Salt Lake City! I did four sets of five minutes at an easy pace. I focused on my form in the water and on keeping a long and relaxed stroke. After the swim, I headed straight to Rob’s house, and we left for Nampa (where we were staying a few days before heading up to Coeur d’Alene).
When we got to Nampa, I went out for a short ride followed by a short run. I tried to do these around Ironman pace. I succeeded on the bike (though I went by effort rather than pace because it was a flat ride) and didn’t succeed on the run (too fast!).
Tuesday: Swim—900 yards; Run—15:00; Bike—22:05 (6.52 miles)
On Tuesday, I had very short sessions in each sport. The shorter workout time was nice, but getting ready for each sport was a pain. I started out with a swim in the morning. After a short warm-up, I did six fast 50s and then a short cooldown. Afterwards, on the indoor track inside the gym I was using, I did my run, which was very similar—a five minute warm-up followed by five one minutes strides with a five minute cooldown afterwards. Then I went back to my parents’ house and did a similar ride. I warmed up for five minutes, did five two minute fast efforts, and then cooled down. I was done before 8:00am and had the rest of the day to relax and play with my nieces and nephews.
Wednesday: Run—25:00 (2.63 miles); Bike—50:18 (14.53 miles)
I woke up before the sun and got going on my run. I did the run first because I didn’t feel comfortable riding in the dark on unfamiliar roads. The run was supposed to be a warm-up, a short cruise a little faster than race pace, and a cool-down. My overall pace was 9:30/mile, so I think I hit those paces pretty well. The ride was similar—a warm-up, a cruise at race pace, and a cool-down. I felt strong on the bike and enjoyed the ride. The sunrise was beautiful, and I made it out to some farmland which only made the scenery more enjoyable. Then I went to my sister’s house and saw my wonderful niece leave for her first day of kindergarten. She was so excited she couldn’t even stop wiggling for the picture!
On Thursday, Rob, my parents, and I packed up two cars and made the drive to Coeur d’Alene. Thursday was all about settling in. We stopped in town for a quick practice swim. The water was wonderful, if a little warm. I was pleasantly surprised at how little chop there was. I honestly felt a little weak in the water, but I chalked it up to being in the car for over seven hours directly prior to swimming and didn’t think too much of it. After the swim, we all drove up to the house where we were staying. It was about twenty minutes outside of town, but it had a beautiful backyard.
I imagine I’ll talk about the check-in process and the whole Ironman experience in my race report, so I’ll keep it light here. Friday was the day for checking in to the race, going to the athlete briefing, and checking out the Ironman store. So, while it was a rest day, I actually had to make a concerted effort to make sure I got the rest I needed and didn’t completely tire myself out by walking around all day.
Saturday: Run—10:00; Swim—10:00; Bike—20:00
I had a quick run-through of all three events on Saturday, just to wake up my muscles and remind them what they would be doing for hours upon hours the next day. I didn’t measure out my distances for any of this. I wanted to see how I felt and not be tempted to analyze a bunch of numbers and paces the day before the race. I felt fresh and strong, which was encouraging. I ran before heading into town. It was actually cold, and I donned a long-sleeve t-shirt for the first time in ages. Once we got into town, I went for a quick swim. The water was perfect. It was still as warm as it was on Thursday, but I swam earlier, and the cooler air made the slightly-too-warm water feel perfect. And after that, I did a short ride. My legs felt fresh, and I enjoyed getting onto the bike for the first time in a few days.
Sunday (projected): Swim—2.4 miles; Bike—112 miles; Run—26.2 miles
Okay, so I’m posting this weekly recap before the race. Here’s hoping I actually make it through these distances!
There is a certain fearlessness in children. They haven’t yet mastered the art of self-preservation. I distinctly remember the only two times I ever went skiing. The first time, I was in elementary school. I was bombing down hills without a care in the world (obviously easy ones, but still!). Towards the end of the day, I even purposefully aimed for a lump on the hill, caught some air, and landed successfully. No big deal, no fear. No thought of what would have happened if, instead of landing successfully, I had wiped out. A few years later, I went skiing again and gingerly inched down the slopes, desperately slowing myself when I got too fast. I remember wondering why I was scared this time when I distinctly remembered not being intimidated at all a few years earlier. That was when I realized I had lost my childhood fearlessness… or maybe just my childhood confidence.
It still comes back at times, usually when I have no idea what I’m getting into.
For instance, in college, I started thinking about switching from competing in the heptathlon to running the steeplechase because I just could not master the form required for the field events. (I just ended up quitting track entirely instead…) My coach wanted to see what my initial form over the water steeple looked like, so he told me to give it a shot.
“Now, this is new, so don’t get frustrated by how it goes the first time,” he said.
“Okay,” I said, while thinking, This is easy. It’s just hurdle… I’ve done it a million times.
(Just a side note—going over the steeple is a little different than going over a hurdle because you, you know, step on it and launch yourself over a pit of water.)
So I ran up to the steeple, pushed off the top of it, and landed easily with one foot in the water and my next step taking me back up to the dry track.
“Like that?” I asked.
“Yeah, that was pretty much it exactly,” said my coach, visibly shocked.
I had a similar experience with my half Ironman. I decided I wanted to do a triathlon, so I signed up for a local sprint triathlon with a pool swim that actually took place the day before the other two legs. I rode my hybrid commuter bike in my running clothes and running shoes (it’s still my fastest T2 time to date!).
I liked training for it, so I decided I wanted to be a triathlete and signed up for the Boise 70.3 coming up the next year. I got a road bike in January and raced in June. The race was my first open water start and only my second open water swim with other people. I was essentially brand new to endurance athletics. But I trained and put the time in and didn’t know enough to really realize I was doing something that most members of triathlon forums across the web would consider less-than-ideal.
And you know what? I finished the race with a time of 6:05:44, eating trail mix and Pop Tarts on the bike and running my first couple miles off the bike way too fast. Not bad at all for a first half Ironman, especially considering how new it all was to me. The whole training cycle, I was certain I would finish the race if I put the work in. I didn’t even realize that what I was doing was a pretty big deal.
I didn’t have that same advantage going into the training cycle for a full Ironman. I was well aware that an Ironman is a Scary Thing. I’d seen in on TV and read about it online. It is Intimidating and Epic. It is a bucket-list item, and for us mere mortals, a Challenge more than a Race. People crawl across the finish line because they are too depleted to even stand.
Needless to say, my confidence during this training cycle has been nothing like it was when I was training for my first half Ironman. I’ve been scared about finishing the race, about over-biking, about bonking on the run, about the whole thing. The refrain playing over and over in my head has been, “What if…?”
Now, caution is great. I’m a big fan of caution. And the fearlessness of kids doesn’t lend itself well to distance running. Anyone who has ever lined up at the front of a 5k start with a bunch of ten year olds that, upon hearing the starting gun, sprint as fast as they can for as long as they can (generally, about a quarter of a mile) knows that complete fearlessness can backfire. I still have a very conservative race plan because, in the Ironman, running a conservative race is far and away the best strategy for a first timer.
But I have caution in droves, and a lack of it has never been my problem.
It’s the presence of fear and a lack of confidence that has tended to hold me back.
So as I finish this taper and toe the line at Ironman Coeur d’Alene in a few weeks, I’m going to try to channel some of that child-like fearlessness. I’m going to try to compete with the confidence of someone who is ready and has no doubts that the task at hand is achievable.
I’m going to try to create that same mindset that propelled me over that steeple with ease—the same mindset that allowed me to see a bump on the hill in front me and decide that if I hit it, I could fly.
Monday: Swim—2500 yards; Bike—1:01:21 (17.21 miles); Strength—15 minutes
Because the pool was closed for repair, the Masters group met at a local outdoor pool instead. Swimming outside was absolutely wonderful. It was a bit chilly Monday morning, so the pool water felt warm. And welcoming the sunrise in the pool is a wonderful thing. I swam the workout hard, so even though it was relatively low yardage, it was tough:
4 x 50 (10-kick barrel roll)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
4 x (4 x 25 strong kick
2 x 50 focusing on push-off
I noticed that I finished this workout about the same time as the really fast woman in the lane next to me. I suspect she was still swimming faster, but perhaps she took a little more time between the four main sets of the workout. I considered this a big win in the pool, and I felt justified in being totally gassed at the end of each set.
After work, I headed out on a short bike ride. I’ve read that during taper, you should lower the time and up the intensity, and since my training plan seems to follow that advice (this ride included a 40 minute tempo section in the middle), I have been trying to keep my workouts more intense than normal. Because of that, I rode fairly hard. I tried to keep my tempo up and power up hills a little more than usual. I ended up having a strong ride and averaging close to 17mph. After my ride, I did some strength work.
Tuesday: Strength—15 minutes; 8-minute abs
Tuesday was a very welcome almost-rest day. I slept in until 6:00am and did my strength and core work during lunch at work. After work, Rob and I went over to his parents’ house and played with their adorable and crazy new puppy. I did some laundry and some cleaning as well. Overall, it was a very productive day of rest.
Wednesday: Run—40:00 (4.88 miles); 8-minute abs
Man, I am loving taper! On Wednesday, I did a short run with some strides thrown in. I tried to take it a bit faster than my normal “cruise” pace, but I wasn’t supposed to push this run too hard. I ended up finishing this run with an 8:12/mile pace. It was a solid effort, but I didn’t struggle during it. It was also surprisingly cool during this run. I was actually a bit chilly going out in my tank top at 7:00am. The running temperature was just perfect, and it was a welcome change to feel a little bit cold upon first stepping out the door. In the evening, I did some core work.
Thursday: Bike—1:30:00 (26.11 miles)
The workout on Thursday was a ladder on the bike where I increased and then decreased the effort over the course of 90 minutes. The breakdown was as follows:
10:00 @ RPE2
15:00 @ RPE5
40:00 @ RPE7
15:00 @ RPE5
10:00 @ RPE2
I rode hard, and I was surprised at how good I felt, considering the early morning. With the help of decent conditions (the headwind at the Point of the Mountain was no more than a pleasant breeze), I demolished my best time so far for this particular route to work. I managed to average 17.4mph, even with a little headwind and a net elevation gain. This ride gave me hope for future triathlon seasons. If I can hold 17.4mph on that route on a training day for an hour and a half, I can train to ride that speed for longer (say, 56 miles… not that that particular distance has been on my mind lately…). It was a nice little pick-me-up to start the day.
I wrapped things up at work on Friday—last day of work before the Ironman! I had a fairly relaxing evening and watched Stardust with Rob for the first time ever… how I went so long without seeing it I’ll never know. On the workout front, it was a complete rest day. The nerves have really been ramping up this week, so while the rest is nice, it doesn’t help much with the nerves.
Saturday: Swim—45:13; Bike—1:56:58 (35.21 miles); Strength—15 minutes
I had a really great plan for my work out on Saturday. I drove up to Bountiful Pond for some open water swimming and brought my bike with me to ride afterwards. I was going to ride three hours, end up back at my car, and drive home. The swim went well. I felt strong and smooth in the water, even if my goggles did keep fogging up. After my swim, I got my bike put together and headed out on my ride. It was still fairly early, so the first fifteen minutes or so was cold. It’s something to remember for race day. I was a bit tight at first (again, cold!), but I loosened up and was feeling strong and enjoying the ride. It was flat, so I was going fast. And then, almost two hours in, I felt the suspicious sluggish feeling that every cyclist hates. I looked at my back tire and saw I had a flat tire. And then when I stopped, I saw I had a goat head in my front tire as well and that it was losing air. Here’s the thing—I only had one spare tube with me. Rob was helping his aunt move, so I had trouble getting a hold of him which led to me just calling him over and over again until he happened to be in the same room as his phone. The whole fiasco cost me a bunch of time, and since I had other things to do that day as well, I stopped my work out there with the intent to make up that final hour the next day. I did some strength work in the afternoon as well.
Sunday: Bike—1:01:34 (16.9 miles); Run—1:34:37 (10.89 miles); 8-minute abs
I got up early and did an hour on the bike in the morning. It was typical, and nothing stands out, except that it was actually a little cold in the morning—a sign of the coming fall! Afterwards, I did my run. I started off strong, but apparently, I faded a bit on the second half. I think I may have started out a bit too fast up the first hill, and I also didn’t have any mile markers to track my pace on the second half of my run. I was a little bummed out that I only hit an 8:41/mile pace, but it is what it is. It was still a strong run, and I felt good at the end. Since my IM pace is at least :30/mile slower than the pace I ran today, I’m trying not to let it bother me at all. I did some core work in the afternoon—my last core work before the Ironman!
I’ve been training with an Ironman in mind for about a year now, and race day is almost upon me. I shy away from using words like “journey” or “adventure” for the things that I do (if I ever have to destroy a ring or kill a dragon, I’ll start). But it’s certainly been an experience. Training for an Ironman is by far the most physically taxing thing I’ve done in my life. And, like anything tough, it’s had its ups and downs. There have been times when I have felt like I’m on top of the world. And then there have been the times when I break into tears for no real reason.
These moments obviously stand out, and I can recall several of each on a moments notice.
Coming in as the second woman overall in a local sprint triathlon.
Taking well over a minute off my 1000 yard time trial. I’m not sure exactly where I was a year ago, but I think I was somewhere north of 17 minutes. A month or so ago, I did 1000 yards in 15:24.
PRing in every leg of my Olympic triathlon. By a lot.
Going for a 17.7 mile run and a long swim on the same day and still getting antsy enough to go for a walk in the evening. Long runs that were 15+ miles used to wipe me out completely for the whole day. Now, they’re rather pedestrian.
Taking in the beautiful views of Utah, whether that be on the bike or on the run.
Feeling excited to be on my bike riding at mile 101 during my first 100+ mile training ride. (That’s not to say I felt amazing at every mile before that, but it was a great way to learn that I can be sick of the bike and then get over that and be excited about it again.)
Finishing peak week, the one I couldn’t look at when I first started training because I thought there was no way I could possibly do all that.
Completing my 2-3 hour long runs with no IT band pain whatsoever.
Getting my bike and car stolen in one fell swoop.
Sitting on the side of the road crying because my IT band pain was too bad to finish running home.
Failing to hit my marathon goals rather spectacularly.
Getting hopelessly lost on the way to and home from work when I decided to commute by bike.
Having an emotional breakdown on the train on the way to work because I thought the title for my wrecked car was lost in the mail.
Crashing on the bike and spending the next three weeks gingerly favoring a nasty contusion on my upper thigh.
Every single part of my body aching around mile 80 of my long training rides.
Riding 35 miles home against the wind and completely demoralized.
These high and low moments stand out in training, but this collection of moments doesn’t really relay what Ironman training is like. Most of it is neither demoralizing nor inspiring. Like anything in life, it’s rather pedestrian. Putting in the time and effort becomes the new normal and simply becomes another part of your routine.
And, while the moments of either extreme are the ones that stick out, they aren’t the important part of Ironman training. It’s the consistency that matters. And while a stellar sessions stands out and boosts your confidence, what matters when tracking your progress is how a perfectly average training session goes the first month into the training cycle compared to how a perfectly training sessions goes during the peak of your training.
Earlier this week, I was looking through some old blog posts. I saw that I mentioned doing a swim workout of 10 x 100 @1:50. I described a workout that was exhausting and absolutely pushed me to my limits. And I realized that now, I can do a set of 10 x 100 @1:40 without much trouble at all. I’ve even started to wonder if I could manage a set of 10 x 100 @1:35. I’ve seen similar improvements in my running and cycling over the past year. And it was every moment in my training that helped me make that progress. It was the breakout sessions. It was the workouts where I just felt flat but worked hard anyway. It was the times that I stepped out the door even though I was tired and frustrated. It was the times I realized that my body truly needed rest and I took a session easier than initially planned.
The workouts and moments that stand out are the ones that are both easiest to remember and ripest for inspiration. I use the memories of good workouts to inspire myself and memories of hard ones to remind myself that I can keep going. But really, the daily grind is where the magic happens.
Monday: Swim—3000 yards; Strength—15 minutes; 8-minute abs
I went to Masters swim team in the morning. We did a distance day which was probably good for me. It was one of those workouts that looked easier on the board than it ended up being which is really the best of both worlds. I get the physical benefit of a hard workout with the mental anguish of seeing what looks like an impossible set written up on the board:
4 x 50 (distance per stroke)
50 (closed fist)
3 x (100 build
I always do the pace intervals faster than I should. Every time I think, “Hey, I’ll just practice my Ironman pace! That’ll be easy!” And then I end up practicing a way faster pace. This time, I was probably swimming at my 1000 yard pace. Still, that made the workout tough, and tough workouts are a good thing. I had a surprisingly busy evening after work. I had to go pick up a few things at the grocery store and go get my bike adjusted a bit. After that, I squeezed in some strength and core work, ate dinner, went home, showered, got everything ready for the next day and then collapsed into bed, pretty exhausted.
Tuesday: Swim—3000 yards; Bike—2:00.05 (36.16 miles); 8-minute abs
I had another early morning at the pool. I did some longer, low-intensity sets. Despite the fact that it was my fourth day in the water in a row, I felt fairly strong throughout the workout.
2 x 250
3 x 750 (12:40, 12:28, 12:21)
2 x 125
I swam my main set at pretty much an even effort, so I suspect the slightly slower time for the first 750 is because I wasn’t really warmed up yet. I felt like I was just cruising even though my pace was around 1:40/100yds. A year ago, I never would have thought that pace could feel easy and sustainable for me. Heck, even a couple of months ago, I didn’t think I could hold 1:40/100 over a set of ten 100s. (I totally could, but I was still so used to my previous times that I didn’t think I could.)
I rode home from work. I took the multi-use trail instead of the roads to avoid rush hour traffic. I also hoped the trail would be a little cooler because it was in the mid-90s when I left. Fortunately, the heat kept the trail pretty empty, and some clouds rolled in not long into my ride and kept the sun from beating down on me. It was a surprisingly pleasant ride. My water got warm but not hot. I didn’t get overheated on the bike. And it had been a while since I rode that path, so it was nice to get back on it. I was also flying. The ride back from work has a net elevation loss, and I think I had a light tailwind for most of the ride, so I was cruising. I worked pretty hard as well, trying to keep the pace up. I ended up averaging over 18mph on this ride, which is the fastest I’ve ever gone on a ride that long. When I got home, I did some core work before heading off to bed.
Wednesday: Bike—1:32:10 (25.38 miles); Run—1:00:00 (7.27 miles)
In the morning, I headed off to work on my bike. Because this ride was supposed to be shorter, I took the roads to work instead of the path. I ride to work so early that traffic is never an issue. Of course, going to work has a net elevation gain, so the ride wasn’t nearly as fast. In addition, I had a stiff headwind climbing over the Point of the Mountain. However, instead of just hating my life today, I acknowledged that there is a very real possibility I will be climbing into the wind at Coeur d’Alene and welcomed the chance to practice in race conditions. I still managed to have a fairly strong ride, especially considering I worked pretty hard on Tuesday.
My run after work was not nearly as encouraging. It was hot outside, though less so than it has been recently at 91°. Instead of doing a few flat and mostly shaded loops around the park, I decided to do my “regular” hour long route with more climbing, more asphalt, and less shade. I was hydrated, but I still struggled. I think the process of driving home with no air conditioning wipes me out. About half way through my run, I stopped at a water fountain and covered my face, neck, and arms with water. I couldn’t believe what a difference it made (for, you know, three minutes). But I pushed through the run and ended up finishing with an 8:22/mile pace. It took a while for me to recover, though. After downing two bottles of water (I think I have a drinking problem…), I took a shower and then had to sit around for another hour or so until I felt up to eating.
Thursday: Strength—30 minutes; 8-minute abs
I had a very light day on Thursday, and my body appreciated it. I slept in (until nearly 6:00am!) and just did some strength and core work during lunch. I returned to my longer strength routine this week because I had the extra time. I was surprised at how good it felt considering I’ve been doing lighter strength work for the past few weeks.
Come Friday, I was surprised at how sore I was from my strength work the day before. I am always a little sore after my longer strength routine, but my time off from the (relatively) more intense exercises killed me. I was waddling around all day. I made the executive decision to only do lighter strength work next week and to abstain from my strength work for the entire week before the Ironman. There’s no sense in risking unnecessary soreness or muscle fatigue when I won’t be gaining any extra strength in a week anyway.
Saturday: Bike—4:04:37 (68.98 miles); Run—20:00 (2.27 miles)
I woke up still embarrassingly sore from my strength work on Thursday, and I headed out not long after waking up and before I had a chance to work out the stiffness from my legs. As such, the first half of the ride was a bit of a struggle. I wasn’t exactly sure where my legs were, and I started to worry that my last long ride before the race was going to be very discouraging. However, partway through, I started feeling better. My only guess is that my legs started to warm up and stretch out. I felt quite strong the last half of the ride, and I ended up averaging 16.9mph over course of the ride when I had guessed I’d average around 16.5mph. I made sure to ride a relatively hilly route as well, covering around 88% of the elevation gain in Coeur d’Alene in about 62% of the distance. After hopping off my bike, I threw on my running shoes for a quick transition run. I felt great on the run and, for the first time in months, actually accidentally went significantly too fast, hitting an 8:48/mile pace instead of the 9:15-9:30/mile pace I try to run off the bike. The shorter workout was quite nice, and I got to spend the rest of the day relaxing and recovering (and watching the Olympics).
Sunday: Bike—1:00:18 (16.14 miles); Run—2:00:00 (13.44 miles); Strength—15 minutes
I didn’t know what to expect for my short bike, long run brick on Sunday. I was doing the workout from Rob’s parents’ house because I was puppy-sitting for them, so my routes would be different than usual. Plus, I stayed up way too late watching the Olympics, and the puppy ended up getting me up a little earlier than planned. In other words, I didn’t obsess about this workout beforehand. I got on the bike a little later than planned, but it went relatively well. It was slow (uphill) to start and fast (downhill) to finish. I had a fairly quick transition and headed out for my run. The first four miles of my run were uphill, and then I ran downhill back and added on some distance going the other direction after passing Rob’s parents’ house. I mapped out my general route, but I didn’t take note of any mile markers or pace checks, so I was just running by feel. However, based on what I did see when I mapped out the course, I thought I was running relatively slow, somewhere between a 9:30-9:50/mile pace. I wasn’t sure why I didn’t have more energy, but since this was a run based on effort, I didn’t push too hard, despite what I thought was a slower pace. I just accepted that I felt more fatigued than I expected and went with it. However, once I got back and mapped out my exact route, I found out I had run longer and faster than I thought and had finished my run with about an 8:56/mile pace. With the hills, my ride yesterday, and a bike ride before the run, I was very excited about running that pace (though I will need to make sure not to go out that fast during the race!). Later on in the afternoon, I did some light strength work.
There is an oft-forgotten hero in many Ironman sagas.
This person sacrifices movie nights, relaxed weekend brunches, and any hope of having dinner made for them without any of the social media bragging rights that come with long training rides and hard runs. They give up a normal life for months, all culminating in a day that is nearly as hard as an Ironman race, but without any of the glory or accolades that come from being pronounced an Ironman. They make all these sacrifices with no prospect of personal gain and for the sole purpose of seeing someone that they cares about achieve a personal milestone.
This person is the Iron Partner.
These Iron Partners often do not receive nearly enough credit in the triathlon world. For every Ironman, there is someone who helped make it happen, whether that be a significant other, a parent, a child, a roommate, or a close friend.
It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. And tensions can sometimes run high during peak weeks. There’s a joke in long distance triathlon that if you’re still married at the end of your training cycle, you didn’t train hard enough. Relationships have ended over triathlon, which goes to show you just how hard Ironman training can be on the would-be Ironman’s closest supporters.
For the Ironman—Make time for your support system. Be willing to inconvenience yourself to participate in things that matter to members of your support system. You are busy training, but make an effort to carve out time for your loved one(s). For me, this has meant doing things like skipping church one Sunday to go see a movie with Rob or taking him out to breakfast that one time I didn’t have a long ride or run on a weekend morning. He’s making a lot of sacrifices for me without asking for anything in return, so I’ve tried to make sure I don’t totally neglect him.
For the Iron Partner—Be honest about your needs. There is a lot of power in the words, “This is really important to me.” These words should neither be avoided nor overused. A few weeks ago, I was stressing over a wedding in Rob’s family that I was going to have to go to. Rob saw I was stressed and told me I didn’t need to go… it wasn’t that important to him. So I stayed home that evening instead (and I needed it!). When he says that something is important to him (or, more likely, when I know it’s important even though he hasn’t said it outright), I make an effort to be there for him.
For the Ironman—Give your partner time to shine. Don’t put your support system in the position of constantly supporting your goals. If that means not doing an Ironman every year or only doing one Ironman, then so be it. It’s different for every relationship, and there aren’t hard-and-fast rules. But if you look back over the past 2-3 years and see that you have not been an equal partner for most of it, you might have a problem.
For the Iron Partner—Don’t pick up big, hairy goals during the Ironman training cycle. This is dependent on the tip for the Ironman above. If your Ironman is not constantly enmeshed in an intense, life-consuming training cycle, then time your own big goals so that they don’t conflict with your Ironman’s training. For instance, now would not be the time for Rob to apply to grad school or move to a new state. This kind of scheduling isn’t always possible, but if those types of things are on the table, I think it’s best to wait a bit so that your Ironman can take a turn offering you the support you need.
For the Ironman—Try not to be too crazy. I know it’s hard. I know Ironman consumes your life. But set some boundaries for yourself. This has the added benefit of letting your support system know what to expect. For instance, try to take at least one evening off a week. Or set a limit as to how early you will wake up (mine is 4:00am for training… I refuse to set my alarm earlier than that unless I’m racing). Or set up other boundaries. Whatever works for your situation.
For the Iron Partner—Try to adapt to your Ironman’s schedule. Well, somewhat. You don’t need to get up at 4:00am. But recently, Rob shifted a bit closer to my schedule and started cycling in the mornings. Even though we don’t live together, this has still been really helpful. We typically eat dinner and spend the evening together, so now that he goes to bed earlier, he tends to be ready for dinner around the same time I am (i.e. early). I can go over to his place early on a weekend and enjoy some coffee with him on the porch before heading off on my long ride. He goes to bed not long after I leave in the evening, so he’s not spending evenings alone with nothing to do.
For the Ironman—Realize when you are being ridiculous. For me, it was when I decided I just wasn’t going to eat dinner because I didn’t think salad (the menu item for the night) had enough calories, I was too tired to make something for myself, and I didn’t feel like eating “snacks,” as I put it. The second I started saying these things, it hit me that it was completely over-the-top and ridiculous. And I apologized profusely and made fun of myself mid-breakdown. This kept the situation from actually getting heated. I was hangry, I knew I was hangry, and Rob knew I knew I was hangry.
For the Iron Partner—Let your partner be ridiculous (sometimes). I mean, obviously, if I were having breakdowns over dinner every day, there would be a problem. But in this case, Rob could tell I was tired and worn down and overwhelmed, even if I wasn’t quite able to articulate that. So, he finished eating his salad and then just went out and bought me KFC (I had been craving fried chicken for months). This little gesture made my day and clearly meant a lot to me since I’m still mentioning it now. Which leads me to…
For the Ironman—Be grateful. Don’t forget the sacrifices that your support system is making to help make it easier for you to achieve this dream of yours.
For the Iron Partner—Be patient. Your would-be Ironman is tired and exhausted and likely not always thinking clearly (see above). If they were a kind, considerate partner before Ironman training, be willing to forgive a few peak week snafus.
Training for an Ironman isn’t easy. And supporting someone who is training for an Ironman isn’t always easy either. I’m lucky that Rob is supportive and is totally on board with the whole Ironman thing (though he has said wistfully, “I can’t wait until this is over…” several times). Though there have been moments of tension (usually stemming from my tendency to catastrophize when I’m tired or overwhelmed), it’s mostly been smooth sailing… which is mostly due to Rob’s patience and understanding.
So here’s to Iron Partners everywhere, and here’s to mine!
Monday: Rest; 8-minute abs
I took my rest day at the beginning of the week even though I typically try to take it during the latter half of the week. I just needed some downtime. I felt deeply fatigued on Monday, so the rest was a good choice. I did get some core work in. Because this week is a recovery week, I tried to be better about fitting in all my strength and core work.
Tuesday: Bike—2:00:19 (32.82 miles); 8-minute abs
I rode my bike into work on Tuesday. Like the last time I rode my bike in, I found myself struggling as I crossed the Point of the Mountain. This time, though, I stopped and ate a Honey Stinger waffle that I had brought with me. I immediately felt much better and was able to pick up the pace a bit from that point on. I ended up having a pretty decent ride, considering I started so early (my legs are always sluggish when I get up) and I was fighting the wind over the Point of the Mountain (it is literally always windy there… and in the morning, it’s usually a headwind for those going south). I did some core work in the evening to finish the day off.
Wednesday: Run—1:30:00 (10.58 miles); Strength—15 minutes
I felt reasonably strong on my run Wednesday morning. I got to work around 5:30am and headed out for the run around 6:30am. It was still fairly cool outside which was welcome considering the oppressive heat the day before (according to a sign I saw on my ride, it was over 80° before 7:00am). The course I run from work is a nice one—mostly flat with a few hills to mix things up and uninterrupted by intersections and traffic lights. I didn’t end up running quite as fast as I felt like I was running, but it was still a good workout, considering the fatigue from the week before had really started to set in. In the evening after work, I did some strength exercises.
Thursday: “Open water” swimming practice; Strength—15 minutes; 8-minute abs
I went to Masters where we practiced “open water” swimming. Again, this just means the coach removed the lane lines and we practiced drills. Although this isn’t as effective a way to practice open water swimming as actually, you know, swimming in open water, it does help. Specifically, we typically do some swimming with our heads lifted entirely out of the water which helps strengthen the muscles used to sight so that they are ready to be used in races. I considered doing one of my runs in the evening (it was slated for either Thursday evening or Friday morning), but it was over 100° when I got home, and I decided I’d rather not. I was feeling tired and unmotivated to a degree that is pretty abnormal for me, so I decided to listen to that and give myself a mental break that evening. Instead, I did some strength work and some core work.
Friday: Run—45:00 (5 miles); Bike—1:15:03 (23.77 miles)
I was feeling much more motivated when I woke up the next morning. As usual, my legs were like lead because I went out before being up for at least an hour, but my pace increased as I warmed up, and I ended up having a fairly enjoyable run that left me feeling ready to tackle the day instead of ready to go back to bed.
It was hot again after work, but it’s much better to ride in the heat than run in the heat, so I headed out for a tempo ride. The workout was broken down as follows:
10 minutes [warm up, RPE 3]
7 x (5t, 3r) [tempo=RPE 5, recovery=RPE 2]
9 minutes [cool down, RPE 2]
I did this tempo workout on a flat route so that I could better control how hard I was working. I was surprised at how well it went in the heat. I seemed to be averaging around 21-23 mph during my tempo efforts, depending on the road surface and the wind direction. I performed well, but it was still pretty miserable due to the heat. I went out with two bottles of water, and within twenty minutes, the water in them was downright hot. Gross. I made it through, though, and this is one type of workout I’m going to do once the Ironman is over to gain speed on the bike. I’d love to eventually be able to hold 20-22 mph over a 40k time trial.
Saturday: Run—1:00:00 (7.22 miles), 6 x 20 second strides; Swim—1:00:30
I started my Saturday off with a run. My legs were still somewhat fatigued from my bike intervals the day before, but I managed to run fairly well on a reasonably hilly route, averaging an 8:19/mile pace. After the run, I did a few relaxed 20 second strides. I was actually running pretty quickly for these, though I focused on staying relaxed the whole time. It was almost fun! I think I really am looking forward to doing some shorter stuff once this Ironman is over.
A little later in the morning, I drove up to Jordanelle Reservoir. I had heard that it tends to get choppy up there around 10:00am once the wind picks up, and I wanted some practice in choppy open water. Sure enough, there was quite a bit of chop when I got there (and quite a few boats, too!). Despite the long drive and $15 entry fee to the state park, this swim was 100% worth it as a training tool. The chop was worse than I expected, and I got some valuable practice swimming with waves smacking me in the face. The good news is that I think the fear of boats affected me more than the chop itself. I was pretty worried about being hit (there were no close calls or anything, though). The bad news is that I got motion sickness and did struggle more than expected in the chop. I think non-drowsy Dramamine would have kept the motion sickness at bay. And I think I’ll be fine in the chop without the motion sickness and fear of boats. Despite the chop, a few instances of breathing in water, and some giant gulps of water, I didn’t feel any open water panic which seems like a good sign.
Sunday: Bike—1:31.48 (23.30 miles); Swim—1200 yards; Strength—15 minutes
Rob and I did our traditional Sunday morning coffee shop loop. It was a pleasant morning, and we got out fairly early when it was still cool. There wasn’t much to note about this ride except that I felt much better than I had two weeks ago when I was riding it the day after a hundred mile ride. At the coffee shop, Rob and I got pastries (savory and sweet, respectively) and read a bit. I read a great article about Katie Ledecky, the stand-out swimmer on the US Women’s Olympic team, and Rob read the New York Times. We were a proper urban couple, out for a coffee in the suburbs!
After church, I headed to the pool for a short, easy recovery swim made up of the following:
Inspired by the article I had read earlier, I attempted the one eye underwater, one eye out of the water technique when breathing. This is the way it’s supposed to be done, but I’ve never managed to master it. Much to my surprise, I managed it pretty well, and by the end of my swim, I was mostly doing it right on both sides. When I got back from the pool, I did some strength work to close out the week.
I didn’t mean to plan an Iron Rehearsal this past weekend.
I just planned my long workouts in a way that worked best with my schedule. I took Friday off work so I could fit in my long bike ride. I planned a long run Saturday morning so I could practice running long and easy on tired legs. And I planned a long swim after my run because it was hard to fit it in anywhere else and I actually enjoy long, easy swims after long runs.
It wasn’t until I was done with my heavy two days of training that I thought a little harder about the distances I had covered.
My Iron Rehearsal started around 6:30am on Friday when I took off on a long bike ride around the Greater Salt Lake area. The majority of the ride is perhaps best left to the imagination as I’m sure it will be much more interesting to any readers that way. The basics of it were that I felt relatively strong and managed to hit a 17.1 mph pace over the course of almost 120 miles (and still run a few miles off the bike!), a feat which shocked me more than anyone else.
After my ride, I took the rest of the evening to recover. I did a lot of sitting around and eating. But mostly, I spent the time actively dreading my run the next day. I had no idea what to expect from a three hour run less than 24 hours after my longest bike ride ever. I knew my run after my Olympic triathlon had been pretty miserable. I knew that three hour runs are never fun. So the only reasonable assumption was that my run the next day would be doubly miserable.
Saturday morning dawned at I was up at 4:30am to prepare for my run. I ended up leaving around 6:30am. I started off slowly, waiting for the misery to come. And it didn’t. Don’t get me wrong—it was a hard workout. My legs were aching so badly by the end that I thought it might be better for everyone if they just weren’t there. But the endurance was there. My muscular strength and aerobic strength never faltered. I never felt like I couldn’t keep going. I never wanted to stop to walk (stop to sit down, maybe, but not walk!). I was physically strong enough to finish the run fairly easily, and my mental strength was up to par that day as well.
I rested for a couple of hours when I got back from the run, but it wasn’t long before I decided to head to the pool. I could have waited a little longer, but I wanted to fully enjoy as much of my Saturday as possible. Once I got to the pool, I swam a 4000 yard workout. I actually enjoyed getting into the water and cooling off (it had turned into a pretty warm day). Most of my swim was steady-state at a comfortable pace, but I did a few fast 100s at the end and actually felt good doing them. Typically, when I’ve done a long swim the same day as a long run, I struggle a bit towards the end with general fatigue and a lack of energy (perhaps due to running low on fuel). On Saturday, though, I felt strong throughout the entire swim.
As I was rinsing off in the shower afterwards, I looked down at my watch. It was 1:57pm. I thought about my past three workouts. I had started my long ride around 6:00am the day before which meant that, over the course of the past 32 hours, I had ridden 119.84 miles (over the distance needed for the Ironman), run 19.45 miles (almost ¾ of a marathon), and swum 4000 yards (just barely shy of 2.4 miles).
I think it’s impossible to feel fully prepared for your first Ironman, but in that moment, I felt pretty close.
Monday: Swim—2300 yards; Strength—15 minutes; 8-minute abs
I started the morning with Masters swim team. Our workout included more kicking than normal and some sprints (from the blocks!):
4 x 50 (10-kick barrel roll)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
4 x 75 (kick, scull, swim)
4 x 50 (fast kick)
6 x 100 @ 1:40
3 x 50 sprint
It was a relatively fun workout, actually. And for the main set, I jumped up to a faster lane! I’ve been scared to do so, but looking at the crew in my lane and the crew in the lane above me, I knew that I’d likely mess up the flow in my lane but be able to hang on in the next, so I made the leap and did just fine. We did sprints from the blocks at the end of practice. I was slow the first time because I lost my goggles. I didn’t do the second because I lost my goggles again and threw a little tantrum. But I managed reasonable starts for the third and the fourth sprints and actually got fairly good times. I hit :32 for my first fast one and a low :33 for my second. Listening to the times for the other folks led me to believe those were fairly decent times, so I was excited about that. In the evening, I did some strength work and core work.
Tuesday: Ride—2:02:21 (31.25 miles); Strength—15 minutes
On Tuesday, I rode in to work in the morning. It was a rough ride, physically and mentally. I didn’t eat enough the night before, so I was hungrier than normal and didn’t have much punch in my legs. Additionally, I was riding against the wind the entire time which I hate more than pretty much anything else. I was in a bad spot, struggling to keep both my tempo and my attitude up (and generally failing on both counts). At one point, I looked down in my bento box and saw that one of my waffles had bounced out at some point and almost started crying. Clearly, I was struggling. And hungry! But I did eventually make it to work, and the ride was a good exercise in struggling onward and in positive self-talk. Despite being so frustrated, I was able to recognize the reasons for my frustration (hunger, mostly) and understand that my feelings of inevitable failure did not necessarily reflect reality. In the evening, I did some strength work.
Wednesday: Run—1:20:00 (9.47 miles); 8-minute abs
My run on Wednesday went much better than my ride the day before. I still got up at the god-forsaken hour of 4:00am, but I had some time to wake up before running. I was at the office by 5:00am and spent some time working before heading out for my run. I did some 20 second pick-ups every ten minutes but mostly tried to keep a steady (but strong) pace. I didn’t bother to figure out any time checkpoints before heading out and was running solely on effort. I was feeling tired by the end, but I wouldn’t say I was struggling. Much to my surprise, when I mapped out my run after getting back to the office, I saw that I had run it at an 8:27/mile pace. Considering it’s the middle of peak week, I’ll (happily) take it! When I got home in the evening, I did some core work before heading to bed nice and early.
It was a rest day, and I was thankful for it. I did spend the whole day fretting about the next three days of tough workouts, but the physical rest was nice. I thought about doing core work and then didn’t. I decided that I’m allowed to get a little lazy with my core and strength work during these tough weeks.
Friday: Bike—7:00:11 (119.84 miles); Run—25:00 (2.61 miles)
Well, my longest bike ride ever is in the books. And it was a doozy. I didn’t want to do as much climbing as I had done the previous week, but I still wanted to get some in, so I started my ride with a trip up Emigration Canyon. Right near the top, I passed a group of guys all kitted out and chatting, riding really easily. But as I passed, one of them said, “Guys! Even the triathlete is blowing by us! We’re hurting today!” I had a good laugh at that. I headed back down the canyon, and then down south as has become typical in my long rides. However, I cut my usual route south a little short and turned back north right after hitting the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. As I headed back north, I made my first food pit stop around mile 50. I got some trail mix and ate it on the sidewalk outside the gas station. I got back on the bike, knowing I still had a long road ahead of me. After the return journey north, I turned west and headed out on the same route I took when I visited Antelope Island. West, then north. This part of the valley is flat as a pancake, and once I made it through the city and hit the open road, I was flying. I had a steady tailwind and was easily holding 21-23mph. It. Was. Awesome. I knew I’d pay for it when I had to turn around and deal with a headwind, but for the time, I was just enjoying sitting in aero and going fast. When I finally turned around, the headwind was not nearly as bad as I expected. For most of the ride back, I was hitting 16-18.5mph. There were a few time when the wind got particularly nasty and I dropped below that, but compared to my miserable ride home from Antelope Island, it was nothing. I stopped at mile 92 for more trail mix and a Mountain Dew. Seriously, Mountain Dew is a magic elixir. I think it helps even more than ibuprofen at taking away the general malaise that comes around mile 70 on the bike. I felt refreshed when I got back on my bike and ready to tackle the last leg of my ride. To finish off my ride, I essentially just headed back to Rob’s house and then started up Emigration Canyon again. I wanted to practice climbing on tired legs. And they were tired. The climb up to the mouth of Emigration is actually one of the steeper sections of the ride, and that was tough, especially since it was so warm out. However, once I reached the canyon itself, I felt better. I climbed until right before I hit the 112 mile mark (which I hit at 6:38:36) and then turned around and headed back. I had planned on hitting around 115 miles, but I ended up riding almost 120 with an average speed of 17.1. The cat was very excited to see me, so my bike-run brick turned into a bike-cuddle-run brick. I was okay with it, though. My run was fine. It was hot, though, and I was glad to be done.
Saturday: Run—3:00:00 (19.45 miles); Swim—4000 yards
I woke up at 4:30am to (hopefully) give my body a chance to wake up before heading out on my run. I had no idea how the run was going to go. My two hour run after my Olympic distance race had been a real struggle, and I worried that this one would be worse. However, from my first few steps out the door, it became apparent that it wouldn’t be. Though my legs were more tired than after my race effort, they were less stiff. I wanted to keep this run slow to simulate the run during the Ironman as much as possible, so I just kept trucking along at a comfortable pace. At five miles, I couldn’t believe how good I still felt. I wasn’t keeping track of my pace all that closely, but I did watch how many minutes I was away from a 10:00/mile pace at a few “checkpoints.” My goal was to keep that number growing (in other words, keep running less than the 10:00/mile pace). When I checked at mile 12 and then at mile 15, I had gained at least three minutes on that pace, meaning I had run the past three miles in a 9:00/mile pace which I was really pleased with, considering my day on Friday. I kept up a strong pace for the rest of the run, but by the end, my feet and ankles were killing me. Nothing hurt in a way that worried me, and my muscles and energy levels were fine. My legs were protesting that I had used them enough and that they deserved a rest. My pace ended up being 9:16/mile, and my legs recovered nicely once I put them up for a few minutes.
A few hours later, I headed to the pool for my swim with the intention of treating the workout as an aerobic session as opposed to a fast one.
4 x 200 (swim, kick, pull, swim)
1950 ladder (300, 275, 250, etc.)
10 x 100 (descend 1-5, 6-10)
5 x 50 easy
I did the ladder slow and steady. I felt strong, and it felt good to get in the water and cool down after my run. I had planned on doing the 100s at a steady state as well because I wasn’t really in the mood to go fast. However, once I got to that portion of the workout, I was feeling good and decided to get faster throughout the set like the plan called for. I started off very slow, but the last couple in each set of five were pretty quick. Afterwards, I went home and basked in my hard workouts (and ate some cookies, too).
Sunday: Run—45:00 (4.86 miles); Swim—30:37; Bike—1:30:00 (23.52 miles)
I started off my day with an easy run before church. It was nice and cool outside, and it ended up being a good shakeout run. I felt surprisingly good considering the last couple of big days. I did some core work before heading to church.
After church, I packed up all my swimming and cycling stuff and drove up to Bountiful Pond for an open water swim followed by a bike ride. The water was warm, so I went without a wetsuit and enjoyed a low-key swim. After my swim, I hopped out, ready for a flat and fast bike ride. And then I realized I had left my cycling shoes back home. I was really frustrated, but I couldn’t ride without shoes. So I drove back and did one of my regular routes instead of a nice flat one. I was cranky and hot during the entire ride, and I didn’t even try to fix my attitude. I decided I had earned a little temper tantrum. I finished my ride and gave myself permission to do absolutely nothing useful for the rest of the day.