Last Friday, I was sitting at my desk obsessing about the weather and the weekend. I had a 2.5 hour ride scheduled for Saturday, but the forecast called for cold rain the entire day, starting early in the morning. Riding in the rain is the absolute worst, and I wanted to avoid it if possible. However, my Sunday had some non-negotiable plans in the early evening, and I didn’t want to risk not having time for my ride and adequate recovery (i.e. several episodes of television) between church and said plans.
I knew what my best option was, but I’m not sure an impromptu 2.5 hour bike ride on a hot evening after a long day of swimming and working is on many people’s list of favorite things. But after a couple of hours of superficially weighing my options, I accepted my fate. I knew it would be a long day. I had gotten up at 5:00am to swim and knew a long ride after work meant I wouldn’t be finished with the day until after 7:30pm. But pretty much anything is better than riding in the rain. Get out and get it done was the name of the game.
So after work, I shoved some food down my throat and shoved a couple of waffles into my jersey pockets and headed out. I knew I was in for a warm and windy ride. It was almost 80°, and the storm was blowing in from the south, meaning the wind would be blowing opposite the direction it normally did. This meant I had a tough headwind as I rode out south to the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon. About an hour into this ride, there is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad hill. It’s not terribly long, but it’s steep. And with my legs more fatigued than usual and with a headwind, it’s even worse than usual. I crawled up this hill, my legs burning with every pedal stroke and my speed dipping below 7mph. After the hill, it’s another half mile or so until the point where I turn around. And every time I’ve ridden the route this year, this has been the most discouraging part. I expect the hill to hurt. But I expect to be feeling recovered from the hill after a nice little stoplight break. I never am, and I always struggle up to the road where I finally turn around.
Once I turned around, though, my attitude changed immediately. This particular stretch of road is fast anyway, and with a strong tailwind I was flying. I glanced down at my Garmin and saw I was holding 30mph easily. As I often do when I can go fast without much effort, I started singing loudly (and badly) on the bike. Since the wind is loud enough that I can’t hear myself, that means other people can’t hear me either, right? I continued to hold 25-30mph for most of that stretch of road. My average speed spiked, and I made up most of the time I lost with the headwind on the way out.
Then I hit Emigration Canyon. I still needed some time, so I started up, fully intending to turn back around before reaching the top. My pace slowed to a steady and pleasant 12-14 mph, briefly punctuated by faster moments when the grade lessened. It was relatively late in the evening, so the usually crowded canyon was empty. I saw a few cyclists descending, but I was climbing alone. I hit the point where I felt that the ride home would fill up the rest of my ride. Like the last time I climbed the canyon, I was right at the bottom of the last climb, where the grade jumps a bit and things get a little more difficult. I decided I wanted to make it to the top. I was simply too close to turn around. The light was fading, however. Because it was overcast, I couldn’t tell when the sun would set, and I didn’t want to be out on the roads after dusk without a light. So I stopped to use my weather app to see when sunset was.
When I stopped, I was greeted with absolute silence. The wind had died down by this point, and the air around me was perfectly still. There were no motorists or other cyclists in sight. It was just me, the canyon, and silence. Perfect peace. It was a moment that a transcendentalist would have written about. Recalling it afterwards, I thought of Emerson and Whitman and their beliefs on nature and the divine. Usually, I’m not a huge fan of the transcendentalists. They’re know-it-alls, and they are just a bit too self-righteous for my taste. Think everything Portlandia pokes fun at, but in the 19th century. However, while reflecting on this moment of serenity afterwards, I thought of a poem by Walt Whitman:
When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer
When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
And for a moment, I remembered the real reason I do all this dumb Ironman stuff—the most important reason. I love obsessing over a training plan. I love tracking my workouts. I love having a goal. But if I didn’t love the training, it wouldn’t be worth it. In the rush to fit workouts in and gain the endurance I need, sometimes I forget to drink in the scenery of my rides or the sound of my feet hitting the pavement as I run or to the feeling of my hand as it cuts through the water. I forget to appreciate the effort, the experience itself, even though those moments of being completely present in my body and in the world around me are the most rewarding moments of training. I obsess over astronomy and forget to look at the stars.
I needed this reminder from transcendentalism, overly sentimental though it may be, and I was thankful for it.
(Oh, and I finished the climb, making sure to enjoy every last moment of it) and made it home before dark.
Monday: Swim—2650 yards; Bike—1:31:00 (23.8 miles); 8-minute abs
I woke up on Monday morning sorer than I had been on Sunday. I was glad I was swimming in the morning to loosen up. Our set at masters had a lot of elements to it: 300 swim 200 kick 100 pull 4 x 50 (catch-up) 4 x 50 (closed fist) 8 x 75 (1-4, 5-8 build and descend) 100 easy 3 x 50 @ 1:00 3 x 50 @ :55 3 x 50 @ :50 3 x 50 @ :45 2 x 50 @ “:40” 50 easy 8 x 25 kick
The biggest part of the set were the 50s that gradually increased in speed. The idea was to cut down your interval time every three 50s until you missed two in a row. Technically, the set was 12 50s long, but the coach told us to go further if we completed the whole thing. I felt good during this set and did hit the times all the way through. However, it about pushed me to my limit, and I missed the interval by a long shot on the first two 50s once I dropped below :45. Still, I felt good about the workout. It also made me wonder if I should move up a lane. I’ve gotten faster, but I’m still a little scared that I’m too much slower than the women who typically swim in the lane above me to make the jump. I did my core work during lunch which always gives me a nice little break from a computer screen.
After work, I had a 90 minute bike ride scheduled. This seemed like a lot considering the weekend I’d had, but it worked best for the non-Ironman stuff on my plate this week to schedule it that way. Usually, I have a hard time getting out on the bike after work but have a great time once I climb the initial hill. I was banking on that happening, and fortunately, it (mostly) did. I was still a bit tired, and my legs were certainly not fresh, but it was a good ride anyway. Plus, it was the first time this training cycle I had a 2.5 hour training day on a weekday. The fact that I was still functional afterwards gave me hope for the rest of my training.
Tuesday: Strength—15 minutes; Run—45 minutes (5.5 miles); Bike—1:00:22 (16 miles)
I slept very well on Monday night and woke up feeling refreshed. Because my last morning run was still a bit sketchy, I got to work early so that I could fit in my strength work and my run during a long lunch. I was dreading my run because all I could remember was the howling wind last time I ran during work. However, I was pleasantly surprised that there was almost no wind. I tried to take it nice and easy. I even stopped to try to convince a wandering Siamese cat to let me pet him. (In the end, he did not, in fact, let me do so!) My calves were sore during my run and after my run. Since I’ve changed my stride, I’ve really been feeling my calves. They are just constantly sore! After my run, I did a little bit of strength work. I always struggle with strength work right after running. It’s hard for me to maintain balance and control of my muscles when my legs are fatigued. However, learning to control my muscles when I’m fatigued is important because, well, I’m training for an Ironman. So it’s good for me.
Rob got home later than usual from work because he rode in, so I got dinner in the oven before leaving on my ride. I got out on the bike around 5:45pm, which is later than usual. I struggled for the first ten minutes or so on the bike. Whenever I ride from Rob’s house, I have to climb a bruiser of a hill right at the start. And, unless I have fresh legs, it sucks. However, later in the ride, as I neared the turn-around point, I felt great. In fact, I felt suspiciously great and concluded that I must have a significant tailwind that would become my enemy once I turned around. But when I turned around, I didn’t slow nearly as much as I expected. There was a headwind, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and I made my way home faster than I thought I would.
Wednesday: Swim—2500 yards; Strength—30 minutes; 8-minute abs
It was another swimming day. Today wasn’t supposed to be an all-out workout, and the lower key workout was enjoyable: 250 swim 5 x 50 (odds hard, evens easy) 4 x 400 (6:47, 6:35, 6:31, 6:12) 2 x 200 easy
The meat of this workout was the set of 400s. I was supposed to do them at a slightly increasing effort. Other than swimming the last one a bit harder than prescribed, I managed to follow that pattern well. I was pleased with my times and how I felt during this workout. Oh, and I swam my final 400 at a 1:33/100yd pace which is much faster than I could have hoped to swim last fall. I did strength and core work during lunch. I was surprised how much my legs felt the last four days of running and cycling. The exercises were tough, but I think I managed to hold my form pretty well during them. At the very least, my balance was much better than it was on Tuesday!
Thursday: REST; 8-minute abs
I woke up on Thursday to sore glutes, which I took as a good sign that I’m still building strength and coordination to keep my IT band happy. Speaking of happy, it was my rest day! I (kind of) slept in and spent the day relishing the extra energy that comes from not waking up at 5:00am (or earlier!) to work out. I did core work in the evening and spent some time just sitting in the front yard with Rob watching people try to maneuver his tiny street in giant SUVs.
Friday: Swim—60 minutes; Bike—2:44:03 (43.75 miles)
Masters was fun this morning, and there was no set amount of yardage: 200 reverse IM 200 IM kick 200 inverse IM 6 x 50 10-kick barrel roll 4 x 25 underwater 8-minute whistle kick 8 x 50 (2 turns) Sharks and minnows
For the whistle kicks, we basically spent 8 minutes kicking. When the coach blew the whistle, we’d go hard and when he blew it again, we’d slow down a bit. We started the 50s in the middle of the pool (and thus, did two turns during each). We were supposed to focus on our flip turns, which is always something important for me to work on. I felt like I was doing much better than I was a few months ago. And then we played sharks and minnows! You could only get tagged if your head was above water. I wasn’t very good at it because I suck at holding my breath. But it was still fun!
I spent my day at work obsessing about the weather and trying to decide the best way to fit in my weekend workouts. It was supposed to be cold and rainy on Saturday. But I had unforeseen surprise family obligations on Sunday and wasn’t 100% sure I’d be able to fit a bike ride in Sunday afternoon. I really, really hate riding in the rain, and I also hate being rushed during a workout. So after work, I pumped up my bike tires and headed out for my weekly long ride. Despite the wind, I had a great ride, and I’m going to write a little more about it later this week. But it was my longest ride this training cycle, and I ended up really losing myself in the action of cycling. I ate two waffles on the ride, a Honey Stinger and a Rip Van Waffle. The Honey Stinger was better.
Saturday: Run—1:30:00 (10.55 miles)
I woke up prepared to run in a rainstorm. And then… the morning kept staying sunny. I headed out for my run around 10:30am, again fully prepared to meet some nasty weather. But it just never happened. A little over halfway through my run, I encountered some clouds and a bit of rain and corn snow for about five minutes, but other than that, it was beautiful, if a bit breezy. I felt good throughout the run as well. Now that my half marathon is over, I want to keep my long runs no faster than an 8:30/mile pace. The first three miles are uphill, and I took them nice and slow at a 9:07/mile pace. After that, the hardest part of the run is done. The next couple of miles are pretty significantly downhill, and after mile four, I had already fallen back below a 9:00/mile pace. At 40 minutes, I started adding in 20 second strides every five minutes. I ran these strides just above a tempo pace and didn’t try to reach full speed. For most of the run, I was in a good rhythm. I wasn’t struggling or pushing the pace. I was just trying to run at an even effort. I ended up doing this run at an 8:32/mile pace, which was just about perfect. Considering my long ride the evening before, I was thrilled that I managed this pace for an hour and a half without too much effort.
Sunday: Strength—15 minutes; Run—1:00:00 (7.25 miles)
I woke up early enough to get my run in before church. However, it was quite chilly and still pretty wet outside. Additionally, my knee tends to do better when I run later in the day. So, I opted to do my strength work in the morning and decided to do my run after church when it was a little warmer and a little sunnier. I headed out for my run after church. It was about 60° and sunny. And I actually got hot and thirsty during my run, which was a great change from this winter! My legs felt strong at the beginning of the run, but by the end, I was feeling the wear and tear of a long, hard weekend. I was getting tired, and my strides (the same as Saturday’s, but starting after 10 minutes) were a struggle. Still, I kept up a fairly strong pace and averaged 8:17/mile for this run. I was very satisfied with that pace, especially considering the weekend I’d had. Week three of Ironman training is done, and next week is a (slight) cutback week which will be welcome!
I panicked a little when I realized my Ironman was only four months out, but I’m doing a little better now. I just keep reminding myself that I’m putting in the work, and that’s all that I can do. It’s been a busy month full of physical therapy, working out, and getting on top of my sleep and nutrition.
I’ve been feeling fit and healthy this month. Physical therapy has helped my knee a lot, and I realized that my focus on recovery did not, in fact, cause me to lose all of my fitness as I had feared. In fact, when I compare where I am in all three disciplines versus where I was in those disciplines when I started training for my half Ironman, I can see that I’m in a good place. I’m a stronger swimmer, a stronger cyclist, and a stronger runner. I’ve been trying not to focus too much on times and paces, but my strong showing (and negative split!) in the Salt Lake City Half Marathon gives me an indication that my endurance is in a good place right now considering how early it is in my “official” training plan.
I spent the first two weeks of Ironman training certain that I was doomed. I was exhausted. All the time. I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was just tired. I just kept telling myself to give it a month. I’ve noticed that whenever my routine changes, my new life seems impossible for a month. It happened when I went to grad school. It happened when I moved to Utah and started my new job. So I knew that my exhaustion didn’t necessarily mean I wasn’t ready to jump into the training plan. Fortunately, I have felt much better this week. I’m starting to get into a groove. I’m sleeping better, and I know what to expect. I’ve also been eating really well (as in, enough). I’ve gained a few pounds and have been able to listen to my hunger cues instead of forcing myself to eat. I’ve also found myself gravitating towards foods that are good fuel instead of only straight-up sweets (though I eat plenty of those too!).
Right now, at this moment, I feel very positive about how my training is going. That wasn’t necessarily the case a week ago, and it may not be the case a week from now. We’ll see. I was really on edge for the first couple of weeks of training (sorry, Rob!), but I’m doing better now. However, I know I’m still being a little obsessive. And I’m still working on balance. I want to do an Ironman, but I don’t want to become a difficult person to be with during the process. For me, it a matter of balancing my training, my job, quality time with people, and regular adult responsibilities (like doing the dishes), all without being so stressed out that I make the lives of the people around me miserable.
Longest swim: 3000 yards
Longest ride: 34.3 miles
Longest run: 13.1 miles
Most encouraging workout: The Salt Lake City Half Marathon. Despite a month full of frustrating runs, I ran a great half marathon with almost no pain last weekend. Physical therapy worked it magic, and my knee is pretty much back to normal, though I’m still working on strength and trying to maintain good running form. And even though I was certain I had lost all my running fitness (because my runs have been slower), I had no trouble holding a good pace throughout the entire race. I even had my fastest miles at the end! It’s a good reminder that slower training runs are not necessarily a bad thing. Recovery runs are okay.
Most discouraging workout: My split 60 minute run. If I remember correctly, this was the last straw for me and was the run that finally prompted me to get to physical therapy. I was only able to run for 30 minutes in the morning before I the pain in my knee hit the point where I worried that running more would set back my recovery. It was very discouraging at the time, but as you can see from this post so far, it’s not really discouraging at this point because my knee is doing so much better.
Average time per sport per week
Swimming: 112.5 minutes
Cycling: 178.5 minutes
Running: 136.5 minutes
Other: 99 minutes
Looking to the future
Just keep swimming/cycling/running. And stay healthy. That’s the name of the game for me. This is my first Ironman, and that means it’s basically about putting in the miles. I’m going to continue trying to slow down and not worry about pace. From now on, I plan on trying to run my long runs no faster than an 8:30/mile pace. That will likely happen on its own once my runs get long enough. (I suspect I’ll be running no faster than a 9:00/mile pace when my runs really get up there). However, I may have to focus on running a little slower while my long runs are still in the 90 minute range. I just need to remember that I won’t be running my Ironman marathon at an 8:00/mile. (Heck, I won’t even be running it at an 8:30/mile or 9:00/mile pace.) I spent the winter doing hard running workouts on (mostly) fresh legs. It’s time for me to dial back my pace on those long runs to account for fatigue.
I did. I haven’t mentioned it much on my blog recently because I was kind of trying not to think about it. My original plan was to continue focusing on running after my marathon and keep running strong and fast until the Salt Lake City Half Marathon. I wanted to run a strong race and get a solid baseline PR for the half marathon distance.
Then, my IT band happened and my post-marathon focus switched to recovery so that I could start my Ironman training healthy and strong. I wasn’t sure I was going to run the race at all. However, my knee has been feeling strong, and after a great 11 mile run last week, I decided I would not be hurting my knee by running the race. I knew I wouldn’t be able to run my full potential, but I knew I could have a good experience and hopefully get a great workout in by feeding off the energy of the race.
Despite my reasonable expectations, I still planned on racing the race because I had signed up for it and I might as well. I just knew I couldn’t go out too fast and shouldn’t expect any breakout performances. I spent the weeks approaching the race re-evaluating my goals. I thought about setting my sights pretty low (for me) and going with a 1:50 or 1:55 as my goal. However, after going to the kickoff party for my triathlon club and hearing Matt Fitzgerald say that the most effective goals are those you only have a 50% chance of meeting, I decided to set something a little more lofty—something I knew I could do, but just didn’t know if I could do on this day and under these conditions. But I still had a couple back-up goals, just in case!
A-goal—1:45 (8:00/mile pace)
B-goal—1:50 (8:23/mile pace)
C-goal—Solid, pain-free long run
Because I wanted to run well, I organized my Ironman training so that I would have a mini-taper. I took my rest day on Friday (the day before the race) and planned a relatively light load of swimming and strength training on Thursday.
On Friday, Rob and I headed over to the packet pick-up/expo. The parking situation was rather unfortunate (they were charting $5 to park in the lot), so our plan was for Rob to just drop me off and pick me up when I was done. However, we lucked into a spot on the street right near the expo building, so we went in together. I was a bit disappointed at the quantity and quality of the free stuff at the expo, but the packet and t-shirt pickup was very well-organized, and Rob and I were able to get in and out quickly. The grab bag included a really light-weight t-shirt (that I was disappointed I wouldn’t be able to wear the next day!), a variety of kind of crappy coupons, and a sample box of Kodiak Cakes protein pancake mix. I’m excited to give them a shot and see how they taste.
After the expo, Rob and I got back to his place. I mentioned dinner, and we kind of stared at each other. I’ve been meal-planning, but I didn’t have anything planned for Friday. We briefly considered making something, but we decided instead to get take out from the Middle Eastern place down the street. I had a lamb sandwich (and then some Cap’n Crunch for dessert). I actually made it to bed around 8:20 and turned off the light around 8:40.
I had dreams all night long about missing the race. I was constantly waking up and checking the time to make sure I wasn’t late. I never was, and I got up at 4:45am as planned. I ate a banana with peanut butter and a bowl of Cap’n Crunch at home. Then I went to Rob’s house and ate some eggs. I was able to get down quite a bit of food before the nerves took over, and I think that helped me a lot during the race. Rob drove me to the train station to ride up to the University of Utah where the race would be starting. All racers got free admission onto the train in the morning to get up to the start, which was very convenient and shows just how invested the city is in the marathon. It’s a big deal here in Salt Lake City, and everyone gets involved.
I ended up getting to the start line right around 6:30am for the 7:00am start. It was perfect timing. I had plenty of time to go to the bathroom one more time and check in my gear back to pick up after the race, but I wasn’t waiting around forever either. Everything was organized, and while the bathroom wait was pretty long, the gear check wait was almost non-existent. Then I headed over the start line. I was in corral C based on my 1:50 prediction back in the fall when I signed up for the race. The 1:45 pacer was in the corral ahead of me, and I decided to try to keep him in my sights.
The gun went off right on time. The start was actually not nearly as crowded as I thought it would be, so since I was right at the front of my corral, I caught up with the 1:45 pacer within a few hundred yards and decided to stick with him. He had paced a lot of half marathons and marathons in the area, but he said he wasn’t pacing as much this year because he was training for something. I asked him what he was training for, and he said he was training for Ironman Coeur d’Alene! So we chatted about that for a bit. He wasn’t a swimmer, so that was his biggest worry with training. I suggested he look for a masters team because I suggest that to all triathletes whenever the opportunity presents itself.
The first couple of miles were mostly downhill with a few steep, short hills thrown in. We hit mile one a little fast, which makes sense considering the course profile. There’s not a ton to say about these miles. It was still a bit dark outside, and I was still pretty chilly because I was just wearing my compression capris and a long-sleeve dry-fit. However, I was feeling strong, even if I was a little worried about wearing my legs out on the uphill bits. We hit mile two at just ahead of an 8:00/mile pace.
We had another few climbs throughout the first half of mile three, but after that, we had a long downhill section for the next couple of miles. This portion of the race was the prettiest by far. We ran through a wooded area on a single lane road. The sun was still coming up, so everything was still lit with that soft light of dawn. I was still running with the pace group, which gave me a bit of security and made the miles feel easier. The fact that it was downhill only added to the enjoyment.
I saw Rob for the first time near the end of mile five as we came back into the city. After dropping me off at the train station, he had gone home and gotten on his bike with the plan to see me several times on the course. The bike allowed him to get around quickly while avoiding a lot of the hassle of stopped traffic and closed roads that cars were dealing with. I can’t remember how many times I saw him on the course, but it was a lot. He’s a super-spectator!
After mile 5, we were basically back in the city. At this point, I felt myself pulling away from the 1:45 pace group. I was a little concerned about going too fast, but my legs felt strong and I was running with another woman from the pace group. We hit a long-ish incline, and I felt quite strong going up it, even though I could feel it on my legs. This was one moment where I was glad I was running a local race. I “knew” this incline. I knew to expect it, and I knew it would be a pretty low grade but that I’d feel it. I also knew that I’d be greeted by a nice downhill section after the climb.
As we descended, I found I was getting passed more often than not and that the woman who I had left the pace group with was getting further ahead of me. I knew it wasn’t yet time to push, so I just let it happen. All the mile markers were still showing me about a minute ahead of a 1:45 pace. I lost a bit of time for one or two of these miles, but not much. Right near the end of mile 8, we went up a fairly steep and unpleasant hill. However, I started passing some people on the climb without increasing my effort too much. All those hills I ran up during my long runs this winter have paid off! The hill was followed by another easy decline, and I knew the rest of the course would be either an easy decline or flat.
The marathoners broke off right near mile 9, and I was pleased to see that a decent number of the folks who had passed me the previous mile were marathoners. Of course, some were also half marathoners that I never saw again! Because I was still running about a minute ahead of an 8:00/mile pace, I felt fairly confident that I’d hit my 1:45 goal. However, I still felt pretty strong, so I started to push the pace a little bit more during this section. We ran a little twisty route through a neighborhood (which meant some quality spectator support) and then hit familiar streets for me, so this section went pretty quickly. I was feeling the “homeward draw” that happens near the end of races and long runs. I knew that the faster I ran the faster I would be able to sit down.
Mile 12 took us through the park that I have been running in quite a bit the past few weeks. It felt good to be somewhere so familiar. I wasn’t reeling in people left and right, but I did pick up the pace, and I was passing some people which also gave me some energy. When we ran track in high school, my dad always used to tell us that when we passed someone, we sucked up some of their energy. I always try to think of this when I’m passing people. (I try not to think about it when they are passing me!) There was another Rob-sighting in the park which boosted my spirits as well. At this point, I could feel my form flagging a bit. I was moving away from my quick cadence and midfoot/toe-striking and moving back to my slower cadence with a heel-strike. I was pretty fatigued at this point, so I didn’t work too hard to correct it, considering I was so close to the finish.
Since I had sped up some and was actually increasing my gap on the 1:45 goal time, I wondered if I should push the pace more during the beginning of the final mile. I went back and forth between “I feel okay—I should pick it up more!” and “I still have over a mile left… I think maybe I shouldn’t pick it up!” In the end, my intuition did the work for me. I do think I picked it up in the final mile, but I didn’t wait too long because I didn’t have much left at the end. Rob showed up again partway through the final mile, giving me a boost that I needed. Right after seeing him, I managed to pass a woman who I had been in my sights for a while. Then, we made the final turn. I could see the finish line still about a block away, but I pushed myself as hard as I could. I didn’t have a sprint finish, but I did have a bit of a kick. I crossed the line and saw 1:42:38 on my watch, which was far beyond what I thought I could do on this particular day (and which ended up actually being my official time).
I found Rob pretty quickly after the race. Turns out, it’s not all that hard to find a tall guy with a helmet and bright blue jacket. After a few minutes of sitting in the wet grass, we looked for somewhere dry to sit. After a few minutes of sitting on a bench, we set off to round up the stuff I had checked in at the start. I had no idea where to look, and I didn’t see any helpful signs, so I approached a group that already had their gear (I recognized the plastic bags we had been given). To my surprise, it was the woman who I bought my car from a couple months ago! We chatted a bit, and I told her my car was doing great.
After Rob and I got my stuff, we decided to head back to his place. I thought about sticking around at the finish line, but I was tired! He asked me if I wanted him to ride home and get the car to pick me up, but since the finish was just a few blocks away from his place, I told him not to worry about it and to just go ahead and ride home. The walk back was pleasant. I walked for a bit along the course and cheered for the runners and enjoyed the morning. Several people noticed the medal and congratulated me which was surprising (and fun!). And I got back to Rob’s place in time to listen to “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” on NPR.
I feel like I executed an excellent race and ran almost as fast as possible at my current level of fitness. I started off with the pacer and stuck to an easier pace the first few miles, even though the downhill would have made it easy to blaze through the beginning of the race. I kept my pace through all but one or two of the middle miles and was able to speed up at the end. I ran a 7:36/mile pace for the 5k of the race. Passing more people than were passing me at the end helped keep my morale up, and I think high morale is a big factor for me at the end of longer races.
During the race, I ate three gummies on two occasions—one around mile five and the other around mile eight or nine. I initially planned on fueling one more time, but I started to feel my stomach get a little funky. Since I was feeling fine, I ended up not fueling that final time to avoid feeling nauseated. I drank water from a few aid stations. I didn’t use all of the aid stations, but I tried to use most of the ones in the middle. I skipped the first one because I was still well-hydrated from my pre-race water, and at the end, I knew the water wouldn’t do me much good because I was almost done.
The race was very well executed. There wasn’t a ton of free stuff involved in running this race, and the quantity of swag was a little sad. However, everything that was offered was high quality, and the convenience of a race that runs smoothly outweighs a bunch of free crap that will just end up in the back of my closet anyway. I paid $50 for this race back in the fall, and it was worth it. I would definitely run this race again.
10-mile split—1:18:58 (7:54/mile)
Monday: Swim—3000 yards; Run—45 minutes (5.53 miles); 8-minute abs
I had another weird night of sleep. Lately, I’ve had random nights where I wake up in the early morning (anywhere from 2am-4am) and can’t go back to sleep until about thirty minutes before I need to leave the house. Fortunately, this time I didn’t wake up until around 4am, so I didn’t get a terrible night’s sleep. Still, it’s always a bummer to go into a Monday feeling tired. I was pleasantly surprised at masters that we were doing a 500 set somewhat similar to one that my training plan actually calls for this week: 300 swim 200 kick 100 pull 4 x 50 (distance per stroke) 4 x 50 (closed fist) 5 x 100 pace (rest :20) 500 build 10 x 50 (whitewater kick) @ :50 500 negative split
This workout was harder than I expected. I knew the ten 50s would be tough, but I didn’t expect the rest of it to be as tough as it was. I swam the 100s “comfortably hard” because I knew that I had those 50s coming up. I managed to do decently well on the 500 build. I always struggle to start slow enough that I can increase the pace, but while I may not have gone faster every single 50 or 100, I did get faster at the end than I was at the beginning. Though I didn’t catch my exact time, I think I came in around 7:40 for this 500 as well which is a good time for me. I swam it hard, and I only took a minute or so of rest before I started in on the 50s which left me exhausted. In the past, I’ve done this set on :55 instead of :50, so this was a step forward for me. And then I started on my final 500. I honestly thought I was sandbagging it for the first half (which I swam in 4:15). And then I sped up for the second half and realized about 50 yards into that half that I hadn’t been sandbagging it at all. I did negative split (swam the second half in 3:59), but I didn’t negative split by all that much, so I was grateful that I had decided to start at a pace that felt ridiculously slow. My run in the evening went well—no pain, although I certainly didn’t have much pep in my legs. After a ten minute warm-up, I did 20 second strides every five minutes where I picked up the pace. These aren’t supposed to be hard, but they felt pretty hard for me. I just didn’t have much speed in my legs. But I couldn’t complain about a pain-free run! I did some core work in the evening and called it a night.
Tuesday: Run—46:26 (5 miles); Strength—30 minutes; Bike—1:01:14 (15.7 miles)
Oh. My. By 7:00am, I was ready to quit Ironman training. I got up at 4:10am so that I could get in a run and strength training before work. (An aside: I get cranky when I have to get up before 4:30am. It just seems unfair.) I would be trying my first morning run in a while. I just didn’t have the time to give myself a relaxing morning and allow my legs to wake up naturally. So I did my typical stretching routine and headed out the door just around 4:40am. I have never been fast in the mornings, and I know to expect that. This run was discouraging, though, as my pace was over a minute per mile slower than my eleven miler over the weekend… and it didn’t feel much easier, either! Additionally, my knee started hurting a bit partway through. This was the first knee pain I’ve had in a week, and it told me that I’m not quite ready for early morning runs yet. So then, I drove to the office gym and did my strength workout. Usually, my strength workouts aren’t hard. They leave me tired, but they aren’t hard in the same way that a masters practice or a tempo run is hard. This time, my strength work was hard. My legs were pretty fatigued from two runs within the past 12ish hours, and every exercise was a struggle. I had to give myself a little pep talk to do the next set of exercises several times. But I finished the workout, even if I was certain by the end of it that I was going to fail Ironman training before it even really began. After a cup of coffee and a banana with peanut butter, I started to feel much better. In the evening, I headed out for an hour on the bike. I was feeling my early morning again at that point and wanted nothing more than to put on a movie and cuddle the cat. But I forced myself out on my bike. And, after I climbed the nasty hill at the beginning of most of my rides, I felt great! Not “wow, I’m going so fast” great but rather “hey, I’m out on the bike having an awesome time” great. The ride actually rejuvenated me and made me feel less tired, not more tired.
Wednesday: Swim—2500 yards; Bike—1:00:31 (16.84 miles); 8-minute abs
I thrilled that I didn’t have to get up until 5:10am on Wednesday morning. I got to the pool right when it opened at got started on my workout, which was basically two 1000s with a brief warmup and cool down: 250 swim 2 x 1000 @ RPE 4, RPE 6 (17:55, 17:07) 250 swim
Neither of my 1000s were supposed to be swum at a very high effort, but the second was supposed to be a little harder (RPE 6) than the first (RPE 4). I feel like I hit the intent of this workout perfectly. I cruised through the first 1000 and then pushed a little harder during the second one. However, at the end of the workout, I didn’t feel all that tired. I used this swim as a recovery/aerobic workout, which is exactly how it was intended to be used. I’m trying to learn to do easy workouts this training cycle, and I think I’m making progress! In the evening, I had a cycling workout that actually contained intervals, which was a little exciting: 10 minute warmup 4 x (8:00 @ RPE 4-5, 2:00 @ RPE 2) 10 minute cooldown
When I got home from work, the sky was ominous. There would be rain. The only questions were when and how much. The plus side of the stormy sky was that one of the local parks was almost empty, so I was able to do my intervals around it because there weren’t many pedestrians or cars around. I pushed the workout pretty hard and felt good about it. My Garmin clocks 5 mile laps, and for the lap where I was in the park the whole time (and thus unaffected by any stop signs), I averaged 18.75 mph. That’s really solid for me, especially since the road around the park isn’t entirely flat and has a couple of hills that can wear you down. While I was sprinkled on some throughout the workout, the majority of the rain held off until I was safely inside again. I did some core work in the evening and was feeling pretty good about everything by the time I made it to bed.
Thursday: Swim—1500 yards; Strength—15 minutes; Physical therapy; 8-minute abs
I woke up feeling ready for my semi-recovery day. I had a short speed set in the pool, but I wanted to be careful not to push it too hard because I swam hard on Monday. I’m really working on this “not every workout is 100% kill yourself” thing. The main meat of this workout was a set of 100s: 300 swim 10 x 100 @ 1:45 (descend 1-5, 6-10) 200 (50 swim, 50 kick)
Basically, I was supposed to go faster throughout the first five 100s and then again through the second five. I failed miserably to do this for the first five. I swam the first one by feel and finished just under 1:30, which I knew meant I would not be able to get faster and faster for each successive 100. I was better prepared for the second set, though, and did manage to (mostly) get faster throughout. My final 100 was somewhere between 1:20 and 1:25. I felt good at the end of this swim—tired, but not beat like I felt earlier this week. Physical therapy went well, too, though it was more of a workout than it has been in the past. I was tired. BUT I GRADUATED! I’m officially done with PT (for now). In the evening, I did fifteen additional minutes of strength work and some core work.
I took a rest day on Friday to prepare for the half-marathon on Saturday. I’ve never understood bloggers who talk about hating their rest day and feeling completely antsy and miserable during it. Do I feel a little antsier on rest days? Probably. Do I care? No. I love sleeping in a bit and knowing that I have a whole evening free to do things around the house watch crappy TV. I usually feel rejuvenated after a rest day as well, so I can feel fairly confident that I’ll have a solid workout the next day. It’s a win-win!
Saturday: Run—13.1 miles (1:42:38)
Expect a race report later this week, but the short story is that the race went very well and I was super pleased with the results. I think I like the half-marathon distance way more than the marathon distance, partly because I was home by 10am with a legitimate excuse to do nothing for the rest of the day!
Sunday: Bike—2:00:33 (30.97 miles); Strength—15 minutes
I woke up the day after my race feel sore, but not cripplingly sore. I was grateful for that because I had a two-hour recovery ride scheduled. Ah, Ironman training. In the morning, I did a light fifteen minute strength routine with side-steps using my resistance band and MYRTLs. Then, after church, Rob and I went on a ride with a friend of ours. We did the coffee shop loop. We rode out to a coffee place in the south of the valley, had coffee and pastries, and rode back. I stopped by the park and did a few loops there so I could hit the two-hour mark. The wind was pretty intense during our ride, especially after the coffee shop stop. However, other than the wind, I felt strong on the ride, considering my race the day before. After my legs warmed up, my legs felt pretty loose and my pedal stroke felt pretty fluid, even if I wasn’t at my strongest. Week two of Ironman training, check!
Do you ever wonder if your life is interesting enough to sustain a blog?
Well, so do I.
As I was thinking about what kind of post I wanted to write this week, I thought, “Hey, great! I took a road trip! I can blog about that!” And then I realized that I think that every time I take a trip to visit my family and that it’s always the exact same thing. I drive to Idaho. I celebrate something (sometimes a holiday but usually the birthday of a niece or nephew). I run with my dad. I ride my bike. I drive back to Utah. Even when I’m shaking things up, I’m still boring.
I wish I could tell you that this weekend was different, and I was totally interesting and did things that millennials do like become florists and go to the moon (props if you get that reference!). However, that’s not the case. And I’m okay with that. When the most interesting fact about yourself is that you are training to do cardio for 15 hours straight, you need to come to terms with the fact that you are, at your heart, a boring person.
The ride up to Idaho was (thankfully) uneventful. Most of the drive takes place in a stretch of desert that many people would describe as ugly and boring, but I’ve always really liked it, even in the summer when it’s just brown. However, as it is currently spring, most of the landscapes I drove by were quite green. The green rolling hills and flat plains against the blue sky were absolutely gorgeous. For most of the drive, I found myself wishing I were out on my bike enjoying the scenery and sunshine instead.
Because I left for Idaho after work on Thursday, I was up pretty late (for me). A bonus about this visit was that since Rob wasn’t with me, I got the nice bed for adult guests in the basement instead of the bunk bed that I grew up sleeping in. For some reason (maybe it’s the coolness or the extra darkness or just the bed itself), I always sleep like a rock in my parents’ guest bedroom, so even though I didn’t get to bed early, I got plenty of sleep.
My dad and I planned to go on a run on Friday, and I was nervous. I felt like this run would be a test. Up until this point, all but one of my post-marathon runs were under an hour, and the one run that was an hour felt like too much and left my IT band sore the next day. And on Friday, I had a 90 minute run scheduled. I flipped back-and-forth about whether I was optimistic about the run or sure it would prove once and for all that I would never run more than a few miles again. I dutifully stretched before heading out and even popped a couple of ibuprofen just to be safe. It was a beautiful and warm day, but it was early enough that the air was still crisp. The sun was shining, and there was just a hint of a breeze.
My dad and I started chatting as we ran, and before we knew it, we were almost halfway through the run and discussing the concept for a software program that high schools could use for a personal finance class. I hadn’t felt my knee at all, but when we hit that point I was a little worried my fitness would fail during the second half of the run, especially as I considered that I hadn’t run longer than an hour in over a month. But my dad and I kept chatting and I kept feeling really good. Before I knew it, we were almost done with his ten mile route. I had said beforehand that I would decide whether to stop at ten or keep going until I hit 90 minutes depending on how I felt during the run. I still felt great, so when we got to my parents’ neighborhood, we turned left instead of right and added an extra mile on. Even at the relatively quick pace (for me) of 8:11/mile, I felt great after the run. My dad did too. It was one of those rare, effortless runs, and it was exactly the confidence-booster I needed.
In other words, I’m no longer absolutely certain of my failure, and I actually think that I may have a chance of pulling this off.
I spent some time Friday afternoon playing with my little nieces and nephews. I have to be honest here. Usually, they are so sweet it makes your teeth hurt, but I’m starting to suspect the older two might be little sociopaths. They have a doctor kit that they love to use to treat their collection of tiny Beanie Babies. So, as is common with them, they opened up the doctor’s kit and pulled out a little stuffed animal to treat. In the past, I’ve been a little horrified by the diagnoses these animals get. Jordyn will put on the stethoscope and listen to the duck’s heart and mutter, “Not good, not good.” Clayton repeats, slightly less understandably, “Not dood, not dood.” Typically, I ask Jordyn what the animal needs, and she’ll give him a shot or pretend to perform surgery. Normal stuff. But when I ask if the animal is better, she invariably replies, “Nope.” The answer is the same when I ask if the animal will ever get better.
This time around, they chose a duck as their victim patient. They inspected the duck and then Jordyn grabbed a pair of fake scissors. “We have to cut his feet off!”
“You have to amputate its feet?” I asked. “It won’t be able to walk!”
“Yep,” she confirmed, before pretending to cut its feet off.
Clayton grabbed the duck and the scissors next and proceeded to “cut off” the duck’s bill.
Jordyn loomed over, making sure he was doing a good job. Then she had an idea, and her eyes lit up with excitement. “Let’s amputate its eyes!”
See what I mean? Little sociopaths in training!
Saturday morning was fairly early for me. I went to the local pool and did a short workout, then went straight to my sister’s house to watch the kid’s while she and her husband went for a run. We played outside, which meant I pushed all three of them on the swings at once. Super aunt! They started telling jokes, and it didn’t take me long to realize that their jokes were basically a template that they filled in based on the things around them.
______ and ______ dancing on ______’s underwear!
Swing and trampoline dancing on Aunt Katie’s underwear. Shadow and fence dancing on cow’s underwear. Grass and cow dancing on fence’s underwear. The possibilities are endless! They were so sweet and cute on Saturday morning that I almost forgot I was potentially babysitting future serial killers.
My sister and her husband got back after running 10 miles at a 7:15/mile pace (see why I don’t just do open running events?!), and I went back to my parents’ house to get ready for my bike ride.
If the whole weekend hadn’t been so chock-full of fun and/or encouraging activities, my bike ride on Saturday would have taken the case. The weather was perfect, and the course was fairly flat. I rode on the same course that my dad and I ran our marathon in February. Riding it was way more fun than running it was! There’s not much to say about the ride (I pedaled, then pedaled some more), but I did get a few pictures that do a fine job of showing just how pleasant the ride was. Oh, and the flat course without many traffic stops allowed me to hit an average speed of 17mph, much faster than I’ve managed when riding around Salt Lake City. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was for me to hold that higher pace. I would often look down at my computer and see that I was just cruising along at 17-19mph. Another encouragement, and a welcome one, considering I was just finishing up my first week of what will be a long and arduous training cycle.
That evening, we had the main event—my little nephew’s second birthday. He must have shouted “choo choo train!” about three hundred times because literally every present was train-related. Train sets, train engines, train pajamas. He was elated. My phone’s memory rather unfortunately filled up during the party, so I didn’t get many pictures. I did get a few, though, including one that totally captures his goofy grin when he’s happy.
After the party, my parents and I went back to their house, and I got one last good night’s sleep in the basement room before driving back to Utah in the morning.
I’m a homebody at heart, so traveling is always a mixed bag. But I’m never sorry when I spend a weekend with my family. Not only was it great to spend time with them, but it also helped me gain some confidence in this whole Ironman training thing. Most of my workouts last week were pretty average, but I nailed my workouts over the weekend. The nice weather, the change of scenery, the good sleep, and the lower elevation combined to give me a few workouts that I needed. With my IT band issues and my poor performance in my marathon, I’m starting this training cycle a little cautiously and a little worried. Now, I’m feeling a little more confident that I didn’t bite off more than I could chew and that I can, in fact, have a successful training cycle. And hopefully a boring one, where the only things that stand out are planned!
Monday: Swim—2550 yards; Run—45 minutes (5.6 miles); 8-minute abs
First official day of Ironman training! I started it off with Masters in the morning. It was a good workout and included some timed kicking drills and some speed work: 300 swim 200 kick 100 pull 4 x 50 10-kick roll 4 x 50 closed fist 6 x 75 kick @ 2:20 (MMF, MFF, FFF x2) 100 easy 20 x 25 @ :30 300 (focusing on form) 4 x 50 sprint
I haven’t done timed kicking drills that I can remember, and I was pleasantly surprised with how I did. The coach had my lane do the 75s at a 2:20, but I probably could have (should have?) been doing them at a 2:00 interval instead. I feel like my kick is the weakest part of my stroke, but it’s nice that it’s not as weak as I thought it was. My 25s hovered around 19-20 seconds with about ten seconds rest, and I felt strong through the whole set. I never felt like I was sucking wind. My 50 sprints were between :35 and :38, which I think is good for me. The only timed-from-the-blocks 50 I’ve ever swum took me :33 (although I think I could go faster now?), so my sprints at the end of practice weren’t far off that. After work, I headed out for another pain-free run. This run felt tougher than my last run. Maybe I’m just getting used to two-a-day workouts. I felt like I was going much slower, but I actually ended up going the exact same distance (within a couple of paces, probably). Rob had to work late, so I made it his place before he did and managed to have dinner done right when he walked in the door. Domesticity, check. We then headed to the store to get a couple of things we needed, but we were distracted by a free showing of a movie he loves (Yojimbo, an old black-and-white samurai movie). So we ducked into the theater and watched that instead. Spontaneity, check. After that, though, I opted out of shopping and went home for the evening. I did my core work and was in bed by 10pm. Responsibility, check.
Tuesday: Strength—15 minutes; Run—45 minutes (5.14 miles); Bike—1:00:52 (15.55 miles)
Normally, I would have done my strength work and run before work, but I have a hard time warming up properly in the mornings, and I think tight muscles are a big contributor to my IT band pain. Instead, I got to work very early with the plan to do my strength work and run during a long lunch. It was the first time I’ve run two days in a row since I started dealing with IT band pain, so I was a little anxious about it. My strength routine went just fine, but I could feel the fatigue in my legs. I wasn’t looking forward to running because my legs simply felt tired, and I didn’t want to have a “bad run.” While I was doing my strength work, though, I realized I have to switch mentalities. When I was doing the Run Less, Run Faster plan this winter, all my runs were hard. That is one of the unique elements of the plan. In fact, my swims were mostly hard too, leaving me with just cycling as a more low-key, recovery-type workout. I can’t “go hard” for every workout of Ironman training. If I tried, I would burn out and injure myself. I need to learn to embrace easy workouts. The competition is in August, not today. So I went out with the intention to run more slowly than usual. I’m glad I did because it would have been a slow day regardless of my intention. There’s a little thing that happens in the spring that folks here call wind. The way out was great, but I knew what was coming my way when I turned around. Wind. Loud wind. Cold wind. Awful wind. The run back was pretty miserable. When I got back, I checked my phone which said the wind was blowing around 25mph. Yuck. After work, I headed out on my bike after reminding myself to take it easy. I did (mostly) take it easy, though I probably pushed the pace a little too much during the final fifteen minutes or so. Then I spent most of the rest of the evening sitting on the couch like a sloth. I can only do so much!
Wednesday: Swim—2500 yards; Bike—45:23 (10.99 miles); 8-minute abs
I headed to the pool Wednesday morning, but instead of jumping in with the masters team, I grabbed a lane of my own. I felt a little guilty, like I was cheating on masters with the Ironman. But mostly I was just glad I didn’t have to do whatever multi-stroke workout they were doing that day! Instead, I had a long set: 200 swim 200 kick 200 pull 200 swim 1 x 1500 (25:48) 4 x 50
I felt a little fatigued when I got in the pool. My legs were a bit tired and my glutes were a bit sore. However, after I warmed up, I felt okay. I was planning on taking this workout at a medium effort, and I did a good job of that. There’s not much to say about swimming thirty laps straight. It’s been a while since I counted laps, and I actually didn’t screw up which was a pleasant surprise. My strategy for counting laps during long sets is coming up with little rhymes and then repeating that rhyme in my head throughout the lap. That way, instead of thinking “three” when I finish the third lap, I’m thinking “Three, what a good day to be me” or something stupid like that. They are all infinitely stupid rhymes, but it gives the number a little uniqueness that keeps me from forgetting which number I was thinking of if I drift off for a moment. Instead of counting all the way up to thirty, I broke the set up into three sets of 10 laps. I didn’t stop between the sets—I just used it to help me better keep track of my laps. Anyway, I didn’t feel all that fast (and I wasn’t all that fast), but it was a solid swim and a good reminder that today’s “not very fast” would have been close to last fall’s “race effort.” I did my core work during lunch. I arrived at Rob’s place before he did after work. I started dinner but handed it off to him and took off on my ride when he got home. I was feeling the larger-than-usual workout load from the week and was glad I only had to go out for 45 minutes. It was nice to stretch my legs, but it was even nicer to get back and rest.
Thursday: REST; Physical therapy
Other than my physical therapy appointment, I took Thursday as a well-deserved day off. At physical therapy, I learned a few good exercises to add to my strengthening repertoire. The physical therapist seemed pleased with my progress, and I made an appointment for next week to have all my strength and running stride checked out again. Then, after work, I drove to Idaho for the weekend. It ended up being a pretty late night for me, but I slept well that night which made up for it.
Friday: Run—90 minutes (11 miles); Strength—15 minutes
My dad and I planned to do a 90 minute run, and I was nervous about it. I wasn’t sure how my knee would hold up or how my fitness would hold up. We ate a hearty breakfast of cinnamon rolls and coffee and gave our legs plenty of time to wake up. We left around 9:30am. And, much to my excitement, the run went wonderfully! I didn’t feel my knee at all through the run, my new stride felt most comfortable it’s ever felt during a run, and my endurance held up great. It was sunny, the perfect temperature, and just a tiny bit breezy. My dad and I chatted throughout the whole run, and we both lost track of time more than once. Even though neither of us felt like we were pushing the pace at all, we went 11 miles in the 90 minutes we were out, which works out to an 8:11/mile pace. There’s simply not much to say about this run because it was blessedly uneventful. In the afternoon, I did my strength routine and added in some of the new exercises I learned from physical therapy.
Saturday: Swim—1500 yards; Bike—2:00:58 (34.3 miles); 8-minute abs
I was planning to swim on Sunday, but when I looked at the hours for the pool in my parents’ town, I realized they didn’t open until 11:00am on Sunday. I wanted to get on the road before then, so I went to the pool Saturday morning instead and did the following workout: 400 (50 swim, 50 kick) 8 x 100 @ 1:40 (easy, build, easy, hard by 25) 4 x 75
It was a simple enough workout, but I swam it hard enough to feel pretty gassed by the end. I also looked at my schedule later and realized I was supposed to do 6 x 25 as a cool down, not 4 x 75, so I got a bonus 150 yards in. After spending some time with my nieces and nephews in the morning after swimming, I went on a bike ride around 11:00am. I’ll post a little more about my bike ride in a post later this week, but it went really well. I rode around the lake and because of the relatively flat course that contained very few stops, my average speed was much higher than usual at exactly 17mph. It can be hard to get a good idea of where you are speed-wise on a bike because of all the stops and starts in a typical bike ride. Getting out and doing a nice ride on country roads helped me get a better idea of where I’m at. Turns out, I’m not quite as slow as I thought I was! Still, I’m thinking that my “A” goal for the Ironman bike leg was perhaps a little lofty. I set the goal as 6:30, which would equal a 17.23 mph pace over 112 miles. It didn’t seem unrealistic at the time, but now that I have actually paid attention to my speed on the bike, I think it might be. In the evening, I did core work. Swimming, babysitting, cycling, core work… I accomplished a lot for a Saturday!
Sunday: Strength—30 minutes
Because I swam on Saturday, all I had to do on Sunday was some strength work. I woke up early and did thirty minutes of strength work. I was surprised how tired my legs were after a couple of big days. The strength work was tough, and I felt like all the right muscles were fatigued. I was glad that I had scheduled myself with a light day on Sunday, not only because it will hopefully help me recover a bit for week two of Ironman training but also because long car rides don’t pair well with tough workouts. After my strength work, breakfast, and saying goodbye to all the kids, I drove back to Salt Lake City and relaxed the rest of the day.
This is my first real week of Ironman training, and I realized I haven’t yet shared anything about my training plan, my general approach, or the reasons behind my choices.
Free training plans for long triathlons are a lot harder to come by online than free marathon training plans. When I was deciding on a plan for my half Ironman, I had no idea was I was doing and stumbled on this one from BeginnerTriathlete.com. Since it was free and described a fitness base similar to my own, I decided to follow it. My half Ironman went better than I could have imagined. I felt prepared and strong and had a great (for me!) performance. The same author has written a training plan for a full Ironman. Because his half Ironman plan worked so well for me, I decided to go with his plan for the full Ironman as well.
It’s a basic plan, but it’s varied enough to keep things interesting. Other than swimming, the workouts are measured in time as opposed to distance. The intensity is measured in the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) instead of heart rate or pace. As a low-tech athlete, this is good for me. Most weeks have three sessions of each sport, though there is one short series where each week is focused on a particular sport, meaning you overload on that sport for the week. There are intervals for the bike and run scattered throughout the plan, but there is no true “speed work.” It’s just enough to keep you from spending the whole 20 weeks plodding along at the pace you’ll be doing your Ironman. It’s enough to add some excitement into training and to help your legs remember that they can go faster when necessary.
When I did the half Ironman plan, I did make some changes. First of all, I added time to my long rides. The longest ride in my half Ironman training plan was 3 hours. I basically added 30 minutes to each long ride, so my longest ride was 3.5 hours and brought me over the 56 mile mark. When I started training for the half Ironman, I was a brand-new cyclist. I wasn’t a particularly fast swimmer, but I was comfortable in the water and had swum a mile several times. Because of this, I cut out one swimming session a week and replaced it with a bike ride (or sometimes a run). I also switched the workouts around like crazy. I would look at my week and switch the days around depending on my plans and the weather.
As I approach this Ironman training plan, I intend to extend the long ride again. The training plan starts with a meager 90 minute ride and culminates with a 6 hour ride. I’d like to start out riding at least 2 hours and would also like to have at least one 6.5 or 7 hour ride so that I can hit (or at least get very close to) that 112 mile mark. I also fully intend on moving workouts around. Training for long-distance triathlons takes a lot of time, and it’s hard to fit it all in. I need the flexibility of moving workouts around in order to continue being a real person. I haven’t decided if I will embrace the three swims a week or not yet. The swim is actually the portion of the race that I feel most confident about right now. It’s so short compared to the other two disciplines that even a surprisingly bad performance will only lose me 20 minutes or so, which makes me wonder if I should take some of that energy and put it towards the unknowns of running and cycling. Then again, I don’t have an explicitly weak leg like I did when training for my half Ironman, and swimming is a nice, low-impact way to build aerobic capacity that offers some recovery for my legs. I plan to start out swimming the full three times a week with the understanding that I can switch that up and start replacing one of those swims with something else if I decide to later. The last change I’m making is the addition of strength training. I will continue working on hip, glute, and core strength throughout the 20 week plan. I’m not sure if I will continue to do as much strength work as I have been doing (almost 2 hours a week) or if I’ll cut it back. I hope to be able to cut it back, simply for reasons of time management, but I also want to make sure my knee holds up through the process, and that may mean spending more time than I would prefer working on strength.
As I look through the approaching weeks of Ironman training, I actually find myself feeling excited. After my emotional and physical crash-and-burn at the end of this winter, I was worried I would be over Ironman training before it even started. Sure, I am worried sick about my knee holding up for the running portion. But I’m so excited for long bike rides—climbing canyons and exploring new routes and eating all the Honey Stinger waffles*. I’m excited for summer to hit so I can explore all lakes I didn’t explore last year because they were too far away. I’m looking forward to getting stronger and working harder.
This whole Ironman thing has kind of been a crazy ride already. And it’s about to get a little crazier.
*Seriously, I am in love with those things. And I’ve only had the strawberry flavor so far, which probably isn’t even the best.
Monday: Swim—2800 yards
I slept pretty terribly on Sunday night, so it was a rough morning for me. However, I still swam pretty well, though I think I would have had a little more in my tank at the end if I were a little more rested. It was another workout with slightly longer sets (which are good for me): 300 swim 200 kick 100 pull 4 x 50 (distance per stroke) 4 x 50 (closed fist) 6 x 200 (3rd 50 fastest) 100 easy 500 (negative split)
I started the 200s too fast. I think I swam the first one in about 2:50. The rest were between 3:00 and 3:05. Swimming too hard for the first interval is pretty common for me, and it’s something I need to work on. I’ve been trying to pay more attention to my 50 yard splits during intervals (and to my interval times in general). I’m hoping a better awareness of pace and effort will help me get more out of my workouts. I didn’t destroy myself during the final 500, and I didn’t quite catch my time, but I’m pretty sure I managed a decent negative split which was the point of the exercise anyway. I was going to do either some core work, my short strength routine, or both after work. However, I left work to discover a flat tire on my car and had to deal with that. Fortunately, it was only a slow leak, so I was able to fill the air at a gas station and drive to a tire place near my home. Double fortunately, it was a super quick fix and they didn’t even charge me for it. However, the whole ordeal meant I didn’t get home until 6:00pm (which I realize is pretty normal, but it’s late for me!). I was exhausted and wanted to be in bed winding down by 8:00pm. The time got away from me, so rather than getting my heart rate up right before bed, I decided to prioritize rest over obsessively following a plan.
Tuesday: Strength—30 minutes; Run—5 miles (38:45); 8-minute abs
I woke up on Tuesday feeling much better and quite rested. It was another early morning, and I was at the office gym by 5:50am. I started with some stretching and then did my strength work, incorporating the nifty new resistance band I got from the physical therapist. I did my core work and stretching at lunch. It took just as much time to change as it did to actually do the work, but it’s always nice to get away from my computer during the day. After work, I got dinner started at Rob’s place. I turned the dinner duties over to Rob when he got there and prepared for my run. I stretched well and rolled my IT band with a tennis ball before heading out for my run. The stretching felt like it took forever. But I diligently completed it anyway. And then, I ran. I worked on maintaining a quick cadence and a mid-foot strike. And… I ran five miles without pain! I was going to go out for thirty minutes, but when that time hit, I knew if I completed my lap around the park and ran back to Rob’s place, it would be exactly five miles, so I just kept going. Oh, and another crazy thing that happened on this run? I met a local “celebrity”! I’ve been reading Eli’s blog It Just Gets Stranger periodically since I lived in Idaho (and since he lived in another hemisphere, I believe). When I moved to Salt Lake City, I started reading it more regularly because I knew he also lived in Salt Lake. He actually lives near-ish to Rob. (And, no, I’m not a creeper… I can just tell from what he posts!) Anyway. I thought I recognized him on the first loop (he was walking the opposite direction), so I almost stopped but then chickened out and looked like an idiot. So the second time around, I introduced myself. He was very nice… I’d actually met him before in a local bike shop which I didn’t expect him to remember because being recognized on the street is not entirely uncommon for him. Anyway, I met a celebrity. I ran five miles without pain. It was a good day!
Wednesday: Strength—30 minutes; Bike—30 minutes; 8-minute abs
The good news: I’m doing a great job getting to bed early. The bad news: I’m already sick of getting up so early every day. Still, I was rested and at my office gym before 6:00am again. My strength routine was a bit tough because I was a little tired from Tuesday’s strength work and run. However, I could feel the burn exactly where I was supposed to, so I was pleased with how it went. I did my core work during lunch again and my bike ride after work. It was overcast and a bit chilly, but I was fine with a base layer and tights. I’m a big fan of short, post-work rides. They help me perk up from my post-drive exhaustion (how I get so tired from basically sitting for eight hours, I’ll never know). But they aren’t long enough to eat into my evening too much.
Thursday: REST; Physical therapy
Is it still a rest day if I do physical therapy? I’m going to go ahead and say yes. Physical therapy (not surprisingly) includes exercise, but it’s more like trying things out and learning exercises to do on my own than a real workout. I did some fun ones, too. I bounced a medicine ball off a trampoline and caught it while standing on one foot on a Bosu ball. I was a pro at that one! And then I did single leg squats with a laser on my knee to see if I could keep my knee straight. I was bad at that one. The physical therapist seemed to think that I was in a good place and was on the road to recovery. I’ve got one appointment scheduled this coming week, and I’m hopeful that it’s my last one.
Friday: Strength—15 minutes; Run—45 minutes (5.6 miles)
I did my short strength routine in the morning and focused on trying to keep my knee in alignment. I can tell I’m getting more coordinated and am gaining strength, which is nice to see. I had only planned on one run this week to try to give my knee a rest, but because my knee felt so good on Tuesday, I decided to give it a test on Friday as well. I headed out with the plan to do at least 30 minutes and at most 45 minutes. It was a beautiful Friday afternoon and was the perfect temperature for shorts and a tank top. Just like last time, I tried not to get too optimistic until I had been running for about 15 minutes. After 15 pain free minutes passed, I felt much more confident. I can feel the different muscles at work when I focus on maintaining a shorter stride and a mid-foot strike. I definitely use my calves more, and I can also feel my hip flexors tiring more rapidly. I suspect that some of this additional tiredness in the muscles around my midsection is due to the fact that they are doing double-duty—strength work and the actual running. However, I know some of it is because I’m using the right muscles more when I run. However, even though the first half of the run felt tough, when I hit 45 minutes, I felt like I was warming up instead of tiring out and that I could have easily run farther.
Saturday: Strength—15 minutes; Bike—1:20:01 (21.1 miles); 8-minute abs
I did my strength routine in the morning, including one of the exercises I learned in physical therapy on Thursday. Rob and I waited a while to get out on the bike, and by the time we made it out, it was warm and sunny—probably the warmest ride I’ve been on all year. In fact, it was warm enough to wear my new sleeveless tri kit I got from Salt Lake Triathlon Club (of which I’m a member). Because I took a recovery week, Rob and I didn’t go out for a very long ride, nor did we try to push the pace. Basically, we went out for a nice, weekend ride. I felt strong throughout the entire ride (which is good, considering it was only twenty miles or so!). Plus, it’s always nice to go for a ride with Rob. It’s a really fun hobby for us to share. I also managed to do some core work in the evening instead of putting it off until it was too late. Success!
Sunday was my last hurrah of rest before Ironman training officially begins! Obviously, I didn’t work out, but I still tried to prepare for the start of training. Rob and I watched the Tour of Flanders in the morning (it’s one of his favorite one day cycling races). One of his favorites won in commanding fashion, so we were a happy household. After that, I did laundry, cleaned, went grocery shopping, and did some meal prep for next week. If I’m going to keep my sanity and train long hours, I need the rest of my life to be in order as well.
Now that I have a couple of physical therapy sessions under my belt, I thought I’d give a quick update about where I am in my IT band recovery process.
(I know, I know. Y’all have been just dying to hear.)
I decided to go to the same physical therapist that did my running analysis. I had a very positive experience and learned a lot through that analysis, so I was confident that he knew his stuff and would be able to help me. So, during lunch on Monday, I drove to his office for my appointment. One of the first things he asked me as he was beginning to run me through basic strength tests was whether or not I did any cross-training. I was a bit taken aback by this question because I found him through my tri club which I knew he remembered because he had already mentioned it. So I assumed I was missing something and replied rather tentatively, “Well, I mean, I swim and bike…” Apparently, he gets that answer a lot from triathletes. It turns out that one thing swimming, biking, and running all have in common is that all their momentum is focused on going forward. That can lead to a loss of lateral coordination. This will come back in a moment.
I was a bit surprised and quite pleased with the results of the strength tests. Unlike most IT band problems, it appears that mine don’t stem directly from weak hips and weak glutes. Regarding strength, I had almost full marks across the board (I had one 4+ instead of a 5… so close!). However, despite my good performance on the strength tests, when he had me do single leg squats, he saw some instability in my knee position (basically, it was collapsing inward somewhat). So, even though my muscles were strong enough, I lack some of the muscular coordination to actually put that strength to good use. The one other test I failed was flexibility. My hips are actually fine, but my calves, hamstrings, and IT bands are all very tight. I knew I was not flexible. But I had never connected it to my IT band issues before, probably because it never showed up on my good friend Google. It makes sense, though, that if those muscles that surround or attached to my knee and my IT band are tight, they could contribute to IT band pain.
So I was given three bits of homework. First, I should continue with my strengthening routine and make sure that some of the exercises include lateral movement. He gave me a couple of elements to add to the routine, but mostly, he approved of what I was already doing. Second, I should stretch four times a day (hamstrings, calves, glutes, and the TFL—the muscle attached to the IT band) and roll out my IT band daily. Third, I should keep exercising as normally as I can and try to continue improving my running form, specifically keeping a high cadence so that I stop heel-striking.
He also did something called ASTYM® on my whole leg. Basically, he beat it up. Using these hard plastic tools, he scraped and prodded my leg until it hurt. It was actually bruised for a few days. The reasoning behind this has to do with your body’s natural healing response. If you sprain your ankle, it gets swollen and bruised. That’s because your body was doing things like increasing blood flow to the area to facilitate healing. With chronic injuries, sometimes that process stops. The idea behind ASTYM® is that doing minor tissue damage, you can stimulate the body’s healing response and fix the issue that’s actually giving you trouble. To be honest, if I had read about this on the Internet, I would have been giving it the skeptical side-eye. But considering there’s a good chance that a physical therapist knows more about physical therapy than I do, I was more than happy to accept the validity of ASTYM®.
That evening after I got home from work, I prepared for my run. I stretched well and did some dynamic drills as well as the one of the stretching sessions I was assigned as homework. And I left for my run. Not long into my run, I started to feel cautiously optimistic. I felt like this might be a good run. But I tried to hold off those thoughts until I hit 15 minutes (typically, I start to feel little twinges of pain around 10 minutes). Fifteen minutes in, I was still pain-free. At thirty minutes, I still hadn’t felt any pain and decided to finish up five miles (which would be my longest run in weeks). During the last few minutes, as I was getting a little more fatigued, I could just start to feel the IT band—not pain, but I could feel that it existed.
Five miles without pain! That’s a pretty big milestone. I am finally feeling confident that I’m getting better. I’m looking forward to testing out longer runs and building my running endurance back up to where it should be right now.