Let me tell you what’s a trip: waking up at sunrise to start your training for the day, and heading out with headlamps to finish it off (with very few breaks in between).

14 hours of swim/bike/run in pictures.  First picture is heading out to the swim in the 7-o’clock hour.  The last picture is me waiting for food to drop from the sky into my face at about 9pm.

I had read about Long Days in preparation for an Ironman, and I knew I had to put some on the plan.  I’m always tempted to over-prepare for races, and this seemed like a great way to simulate the feeling of what I’ll go through on Ironman Day without the massive recovery needed of trying to do something stupid like a 100 mile bike/20 mile run brick.

Part of the process is you’re supposed to wake up early and start like it’s race day.  I failed at that one.  Two nights of uncharacteristically bad sleep meant that 5am was NOT a good idea.  So we slept in until 7:15.  I can’t believe I’m using that phrase and time in the same sentence, but it is what it is…

The good part about sleeping in was the gym didn’t open until 8 and it would have sucked to show up at 7am.  The bad part about sleeping in was I didn’t get to fully practice race day breakfast, so I wolfed down a cliff bar an hour an hour before I swam.  I hope to NOT do that the day of, because I was burping up chocolate peanut butter and it wasn’t super pleasant.

The day before at the lake – super nice and like 80 degrees.  Saturday morning?  Freeeeezing…

We wanted to hit the lake, but it was 40 and windy, with a lake temp of 62, I decided I didn’t want to jeopardize my day being chilled to the bone since I’m a cold water weenie and played it safe.  Other than that, the swim was totally fine.  I managed 3100m in the pool in an hour at a relaxed pace which felt like a warmup the whole time.   I remain unworried about this portion of the race, minus a little nagging at the back of my head about getting some open water time before April 22nd.

The plan calls for 90 minutes between each segment, and with my first break, I ate the rest of my breakfast (english muffin and some fruit and coconut water).  You’re supposed to stay off your feet and relax, but we had to get everything ready, so we didn’t do a great job at that.  Different personalities are different – I was enjoying EVERY moment of the 90 minute breaks, Zliten was so antsy and just wanted to get going each time.

For some reason I was SUPER dreading the bike, and when we got to our loop, they had changed the flow of traffic and it made me super grumpy to start.  However, after a lap, it seemed do-able, probably even better the way it ended up.  Nothing fell off my bike for the first hour, my legs stayed on my body, traffic was less annoying than I expected.  I realized I had to ride one less hour in much better weather on less hills than Pace Bend.  My mood actually stayed on the up and up most of the time!

I did have some back and neck issues with aero later in the ride, but I think I just need to come to terms with the fact that I’m going to be adjusting my position a lot on the second half of the bike.  The good news is nothing that ends up sore at the end of the bike are running muscles, so that will be a major reset for me.  It was a super pleasant ride for most of it, and more comfortable bibs would probably have solved most of my issues.  I did 80 miles in 5 hours with some MAJOR wind.  Looks like, at this pace, I’d finish in about 7 hours, so hey, only 2 more to go on race day!

I think I had less crazy eyes going on Saturday than I did here.  Progress!

It was really weird to face the fact that I had just spent all afternoon riding, and I still had a 2 hour run on the plan.  During my second break, I took a shower since I did not want to sit on the couch with my nastiness, sucked down a coconut water and a recovery shake and used the recovery boots and around 6pm, we headed out for a 2 hour run.

Something magical happened.  I don’t know if it was pixie dust, or my fitness actually coming together, or the cooler weather, or maybe the drinks and the massage, but we were both running about 10:45 pace and it felt… good.  I mean, good in the sense of “I’m on hour 7 of the day” which meant nothing was falling off, but holy hell NOTHING WAS FALLING OFF and it even felt mildly conversational.  I kept waiting for the point in which I would have to slow down and it just didn’t happen.

Around mile 7 it started getting hard.  Around 8.5 I kind of wanted to die a little and I definitely wasn’t seeing 100% straight.  But my legs kept with it and we ended at just over 11 miles for 2 hours running.  Let’s talk about this.  At that pace… I’d PR my standalone marathon by 15 minutes.  Off the bike.  I know I probably didn’t have 15 more miles at that pace Saturday, I don’t expect to hold this pace at all, but this 26.2 miles off the bike may potentially be a little less of a shit show!  Let’s also put out there that this was 5 days removed from a 19 mile long run.  Hi endurance fitness!  It’s SO FUN to be BFFs for a bit.

It’s nice to fiiiiiiinally be at a point where the runs feel like this instead of ><.

I definitely feel like this helped prepare me for the race.  I have continued confidence in the swim.  I need to keep reminding myself the bike isn’t going to be so bad even if dang, that’s going to be a long time in the saddle.  I keep showing myself that my run fitness seems to be peeking it’s head out at the right times to give me confidence that I probably can survive this little 26.2 mile cooldown jog, and maybe possibly kick it’s ass if I have one of those magical pixie dust unicorn days.

I learned on Monday night (after my long run), I need a certain level of booze, not too much but also not too little (or I guess ibuprofen would work, but that’s WAYYY less fun) in your system to sleep well after a super long effort with sore legs.  Thanks, vodka!  I also spent multiple hours in the recovery boots and used the stick.  The legs seem to remain firmly in tact.  I was able to get out and walk ~45 minutes yesterday, and today I plan on *something* for about an hour after work, super easy-peasy.

There was no way I was eating back the 6k+ calories I burned in one day.  Even eating them back in 2 days is a challenge.  My first real meal was at 9pm Saturday.  It was Sonic – because that’s what was easy – a burger, boneless wings, and a few cheese sticks.  The next day, we ate a tub of family size mac and cheese, taco shop delivery and wing shop delivery.  My stomach feels pretty gross today and I’m up like 6 lbs of bloat again, but my body DOES feel like it got the calories it needed back to keep on chugging through the week.

Next time, we’re going to plan ahead and have slightly healthier fare ready to go.  The mac and cheese was actually PERFECT (easily digestible and palatable carbs with a little protein and fat).  I was dreaming about wings so getting them once was fine but I actually ate three different types.  I think I had 6 different types of fried food in the span of 24 hours.   Lesson learned.  Today, I’m back to fruits and vegetables, and life will go on.

This would have been an appropriate thing to have handy this weekend.

As a reminder for myself for next time:

Before:

  • Pre-race dinner of sketti, meatballs, garlic bread, and salad worked for me.
  • Get to bed earlier, get up a little earlier so you can try race day breakfast again.
  • English muffin/cream cheese/bacon good.  Cliff bar… meh.  Coconut water: <3.  Hopefully the watermelon at the store looks less like it will spoil any second, and try that.
  • Have EVERYTHING packed up and ready to go so we get the full rest intervals (which are actually shorter)

Swim:

  • Remember the gym doesn’t open until 8am.
  • Try to do the next swim at the lake if the temps allow.
  • Pacing was perfect.
  • Plan is to do the full race distance (3850m, or maybe a little longer, as the loops dictate).

Bike:

  • I had my base layer, jersey, sleeves, and a fleece jacket on well into the 60s with the wind.  I definitely am going to have to consider my wardrobe depending on the weather.
  • The bike went really well.  The 3.5 mile loop of Shoal Creek simulates the toll road part of the course really well and having the car with an aid station (and a porta potty right next to it) was great for quick refueling stops.
  • Pacing was also perfect at about 16 mph/120W.  I never felt like I was huffing and puffing and I built speed over the whole 5 hours.  It was probably even a little too conservative but TBH?  I’ll take a little less output on the bike and a strong run.
  • My plan for next time is to do the full distance (112 miles).  *shrug*, if I’ve done 5-6 hours of little loops, I can do 7, right? 🙂

Run:

  • Chicken broth right before was awesome.  As soon as they start offering this on the course start taking it.
  • Running at night was fun.  I think I enjoyed this run MORE because it was right around sunset.
  • I meant to run/walk this, but honestly?  If my legs are ready to sustain 10:50s, I’ll take it, even if it’s just through the first half.  I know how to run/walk when things get tough, I think just the *permission* to get through this race however I need to is fine.  And if that’s running faster than expected, that’s great!
  • Push the calories as much as possible as long as I don’t have stomach issues.  I definitely felt the calorie deficit by the time I was going out for this and I needed every calorie I could stomach.  Blocks were awesome because I could spread them out but they were problematic because I would forget to take them.
  • Next time, if we do the full swim and bike distances, we’ll limit this to 1 hour instead of 2.

After:

  • Have a plan and some forethought.  There needs to be a bunch of easy meals available.  I need to be more amenable to eating anything in the house, even if it’s for another day.  The tortellini soup I just ate for lunch today would have been AMAZING post-run.
  • The planned food needs to be easy on the stomach.  While I didn’t need to go with such a junk food takeout orgy, I know my body is NOT into something like chicken, quinoa, and kale after a long effort.  I need to split the difference.
  • Food needs to have ZERO barrier to entry.  For example, I was craving a salad.  I didn’t order it to go because I couldn’t justify spending the money when I had it at home.  However, it needed to be washed and cut up.  Guess who didn’t eat a salad all weekend?

Hopefully I can end the day this happy and this upright…

A lot of words about one day that wasn’t even a race, I know, but it was such a new experience, I wanted to record it all.

As a side note – I feel SO ready with this amount of training to rock a 70.3 race.  I’ll have to remember that for future cycles.

So, long story short?  Confidence?  Riding pretty high.  April 22nd is going to be a long day.  It’s going to be a hard day.  There is nothing I can do with this body and the remaining 8 weeks to change that.  I can improve my tolerance for hard, but it’s still going to be a beast of a day.  But… if I got through this, I think my training is on the right track to deliver me to a finish line in less than 17 hours, as long as I keep problem solving and shoving calories in my face.  And that’s what matters.

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