I have two really gritty posts about fear, rejection, facing the unknown for about a month… but to be honest?  I’m really tired this week and looking at them is giving me the heebie jeebies, so they’re staying in the drafts folder. Maybe I need to ignore all that stuff until #projectspringencore

So, instead, let’s talk about the lesser known side effects of training for an Ironman.

#1 – The food situation is in teenage boy territory and I’m definitely not gaining weight by eating this way.

Right now, this is an appetizer…

I know I joke about this a lot, but it’s the truth. I’m buying at least 20% more food at the store every week, and I’m still supplementing with the occasional snack and just as many meals out (probably more) as normal.  I am legitimately eating 4 square meals and snacks on training weeks and 3 big meals with lots of snacks on recovery weeks.

Try as you might to eat good quality food (and you should, because you can definitely feel the difference if that’s lacking), you can’t stick to it 100%.  Here’s the real talk – complex carbs have FIBER.  This is a great thing.  But when you’re eating about 2-3x a normal human’s carb intake, you absolutely DO NOT WANT 2-3x the daily recommended value of fiber.  Ask me how I know.  The upshot is, you need some crappy simple carbs in your life to make your ratios and be properly fueled.

You will constantly complain about how things have not ENOUGH carbs, not too many.  I wish someone could fit more than 25 carbs in 100 calories but it’s just not possible.  Some days, to hit my ratios, I should be huffing pixie stix.

#2 – You will be in the best shape of your life.  Too bad you probably won’t look it most days.


These weekend workouts that are approaching a full eight hour work day?  They’ll make your weight swing up and down with dehydration and refueling and you’ll go from feeling empty to pregnant with a liquid baby and back again.  I don’t swing much normally on the scale, but I was up and back down 6 lbs in the stretch of 5 days.  Some days you’ll feel great.  Some days your jeans won’t fit because you’re super bloated and rocking inflammation all over.

That shouldn’t affect my super hot, shapely legs, right?  Well, I certainly won’t be accentuating them with some killer heels any time soon.  When you’re putting so many miles on them, your choices are a) cushy flat sandals or b) sneaks and maybe c) occasionally flat boots.  But not too often or your feet will still get cranky.  Hopefully, like me, you’ve found the pair of sandals that is BARELY acceptable to wear with a nice dress but also works after a 20 mile run (and I order them once a year on Amazon when they wear out).  And live somewhere where 90% of the time, it’s sandal weather.

Let’s go up top.  Higher.  The frizzy mop on my head.  While I’m not known for my moments in front of the mirror at any point of the year, things get interesting during this cycle.  Washing the hair is for a) after swims and b) after the long effort for the week.  The apres swim wash is in the stuff the gym provides which is actually all purpose wash, so I use real shampoo about once a week.  And… if you do the math between 3 washes and about 12 workouts per week… my hair is sweaty probably about 75% of the time.

#3 – Training just becomes something you do.  Motivation really doesn’t factor into it.

Ride to work, run home, this is just how we do nowadays

I get a lot of comments about how we must be such motivated people.  Like I get up every morning at 5am and shoot rainbows out of my butt and say “let’s go run and swim and ride bikes and smile and be happy all day! Wheee!”  I’ll let you in on a secret – most of the time I roll out of bed around 7:30-8:30am (headlamps are my BFFs), and I honestly suck at motivation.  If I really don’t want to do something, I’m GREAT at inventing ways to justify getting out of it.  I am the queen of procrastination.  My couch has an INSANE gravitational pull.

You are what you repeatedly do.  The first week or two of any cycle after offseason is hard, but then it just becomes habit.  Training 7 days per week, 2-3 times a day sometimes, is just what life is right now.  Honestly, sometimes the fear of not being ready for April 22 plus the mental gymnastics about when I could possibly reschedule a session typically equals showing up and powering through instead of flaking.  But sometimes I flake, and that’s alright too.

And, while right now it’s all a very lot right now, I try not to lose sight of the fact that I get the opportunity to do this shit!  I have a strong and healthy body that gets to play bikes with friends and swim forever staring at the black line spacing out and thinking up new blog posts and explores new places (or just my ‘hood for the thousandth time) on foot.  There is no better way to spend a beautiful day when you feel great… it’s just showing up to all the other days that takes a little oomph.

#4 – You will never sleep better about 99% of the time.

It’s all about the recovery.  Yep.  EVERYWHERE is a potential place to nap.

As my training hours go up, so does my sleep requirement.  8 hours is a requirement, not a suggestion.  9 hours is better, and 10 is awesome.  While I’m not one of those “up with the sun” triathletes, I still go to bed pretty early most days to make sure I’m getting enough ZZZZs.  If I try to shortcut that, my body just shuts down.

My body also seems to do it’s part and respond by spending more time in deep sleep.  Saturday night, after my long run, I spent 5.5 of my 8.5 hours there, according to my garmin (and I woke up feeling pretty awesome, so I wouldn’t disagree).  I’ll be interested to see what it’s like during offseason, but I *know* I don’t sleep as well, quickly, or deeply.

The downside?  I’ve not had a book take me THIS long to finish in months.  The upside?  That crazy thunderstorm at 2am?  Yeah, I have ZERO recollection of it.  Except that Zliten told me I mumbled at him to stop making noise, rolled over, and went back to sleep.  Oops.  While you might have the occasional thrashy night if your legs are super sore, overall, you’ll have the best sleep of your LIFE!

#5 Ironman brain is a real thing.

Six hours of riding produces the crazy eyes.  Brain not far behind.

I just spent 5 minutes attempting to untangle my backpack string from my bike lock.  I’m having trouble remembering the word I want to say.  My writing is probably starting to look like a grad school child’s, and it’s all IM training’s fault.  When they say Ironman triathletes are not right in the head, they’re not completely off.

Normally, I enjoy the juxtaposition of my job (very sendenatary, very people oriented and communicative) and triathlon (very active, very solo focused in my own head).  However, while I’m handling the TIME commitments alright, it’s the MENTAL stuff I’m having an issue with.  It’s like, my body’s hanging in there like a trooper, but my brain is checking out about 75% through what needs to be done on any given day.

I’ll definitely not knock it, I’m feeling like I’m getting prepared for the race, so training is doing what it’s supposed to, but the side effects are very unexpected!

Question: What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you when you started working out?