I know there are many ways to skin a cat. I’m not sure why you would want to, but this is what they say. Maybe we should update this to something more pleasant. There’s more than one way to eat a pizza? More than one way to take a nap? Think of the poor kitties everywhere.
Nachocat says… let’s get on with it, shall we?
Anyhoo, what I’m trying to say is the way I train is not the only way to train, obviously. Many people find success in many different ways. For example, many Ironman programs prescribe a weekly long run Saturday and ride Sunday. That doesn’t work for me. Doing a back to back doesn’t fit in my life and I don’t feel like grinding down my legs on Sunday every week would do anything but set me up for injury and burnout. So, I cycle one long effort per week, two when I get a chance (for example, a 3 day weekend), and make up for it with plenty of mid-week volume.
However, I do not know how anyone, especially first time Ironman peeps, could be mentally and physically prepared without at least one of these long days. They have been amazing, difficult, and hugely important days I’ll pull from when I toe the line April 22nd.
There are things you need to get used to.
First of all, I don’t do a lot of swim/bike bricks (pretty much… just in triathlons), and it’s usually no big deal because the quick dip in the lake (for up to half ironman race distance) feels like a nice wakeup and warmup. Swimming an hour 30 in some choppy lake? Big difference. I felt a little more exhausted than I would have liked getting out of the water when I knew I had about 8 hours left. I’ll have a small dent in my endurance when I get out. I’ll have to be ready for that.
The whole endurance athlete thing is a lot of time in your own head. To do this Ironman, you really have to learn how to be your own friend or you’re going to have a really interesting day with yourself. I spent a lot of the swim being cranky at myself, my pace, my terrible sighting, and then when I passed the 4224 yards I saw my watch hit 1:31… and my time goal for the race is an hour 30. So, yes, MUCH slower than I swim in the pool, but I was doing just fine. I tried to take that lesson on the bike with me and kept my head positive.
My legs typically feel awesome off the bike… for a little while. I’ve done so, so, so many bike/run bricks and in practice, I generally get my legs rather quickly and run better and faster (to a point) off the bike then I do standalone without a warmup. However, it’s always very mentally challenging to start a run after a long day already. Both of my long day runs have started at night, which is good because I’ll be running into the evening. However, both of my long day runs have started at night, which has meant they were cooler and I didn’t have to deal with starting a marathon in the late afternoon (I expect I may start running around 3:30 or 4) in the heat of the day.
Scenes from training from 8am to 9pm. Yes that is electrical tape holding my bike bag on and it’s staying like that. 😛
I would recommend these long days to anyone training for an IM, I did one 8 weeks out, and this one was 4 weeks out. They are supposed to be followed by a day off, which I have done, no problem, you really don’t want to do anything the next day anyway minus a walk to shake the sludge out. They are also supposed to be followed by a rest week, which I have not done because the timing didn’t work out. What I did (and will do this week) is take the first half of the week conservatively, for example, I just don’t feel up to my swim/weights plan tonight, so I’m going to eat dinner and go to bed instead. I’ll rest up for longer efforts at the end of the week and the weekend (and follow THAT with a rest week).
At this point, I’m mostly set. I think. Perhaps.
I’ve figured out what I’m wearing for each sport. I’ll be making two changes – bathing suit under wetsuit -> sleeved jersey and super padded bibs for the bike ->tri shorts and tri top for the run. It will be some extra time but I’m super OK with it. I’ve figured out where I need to aquaphor to not get wetsuit chafing. I’ve figured out that I need to bring some butt butter to reapply every so often on the bike. I *know* where I need to aquaphor on the run.
I’ve figured out some of my nutrition. I actually OVERATE this long day on the bike and had stomach issues on the run where I felt nauseous and couldn’t eat. This is fine for an hour, but not for 5-6+. I think I figured out what went wrong. Around hour 4-5, I put wayyy too much in the hatch too fast (two gels and my special needs reese mix plus some strong gatorades). I was fine for the rest of the bike but I refilled my last bottle with water instead of gatorade and only ate one gel in the last hour and a half. Result: I felt absolutely gross on the run. I need to time things better. It probably wasn’t too much food overall but too much at once.
The good news is I felt MUCH better once I stopped running, had a recovery drink (tasted EWWW so sweet but helped) and had cheese pizza, so I think some chicken broth would have solved things. I need to figure out something that can break up the sugar buffet, even with my daily cake fueling consumption trying to train my stomach not to revolt, I need to break up the gels/blocks/gatorade with something NOT so sweet, I think.
I needed some breaks in the day. I will probably get off the bike at an aide station here or there and definitely at special needs. I will take care of what I need at run course aide stations and not feel guilty for not running through them. I’ll try not to be an ass about it, because I’d really like to comfortably finish and I’d like to not look back on my time and think about what could have been, but it’s a long day. If I need a few minutes somewhere to compose myself, that is OK.
Like my husband said, I’m pretty sure my endurance is not to be fucked with right now. If it came out of my body, personified, and I saw it in a dark alley? I’d run away screaming. It’s absolutely insane how I’m able to persist right now. Riding my bike at 16.2 mph or swimming at 2:11/100 yd is not impressive in and of itself, but I can do it for a damn long time. I know it’s going to be a long day. It’s going to be a difficult day. There are going to be curveballs I can’t even anticipate right now. However, I think I’ve done well to prepare myself to tackle this thing.
I have to remember that I put in the work and I rock… (badup, ching!)
I only have two things I couldn’t really figure out and need to do something about in the next few weeks.
Problem #1: I have not yet gotten to truly test IM day nutrition because I have not been able to get up early enough. I’m not willing to sacrifice sleep to get up early. This thing starts early. I need to be less of a zombie before sunrise.
Solution: I need to start shifting myself more to a morning schedule. This means, closer to the race, I need to give up my evening workouts. I think in the second taper week, I’ll do the cycle class, the BSS ride, and then aim to do either AM or lunch training ONLY for the next week and a half.
Problem #2: I was super anxious the night before and kind of dreading this workout up until the part I actually got in and started swimming. Even though the last one went REALLY well, I had figured it was a fluke and there was no way I was ready to put out this much effort in a single day again. I was nervous about the lake swim since it was my first OWS since December (and really since October, because that was 400m in a warm saltwater lagoon). I was nervous about 112 on the TT bike and that I hadn’t ridden long for the last two weeks and that I would forget how to do that. My confidence needs some encouragement.
Solution: Well, I fixed some of it by just getting out and doing shit. The second day went just about as well as the first, so it WASN’T a fluke, I have the fitness. The lake swim, while I wasn’t thrilled with it at the time, was probably my best open water season opener yet. I had a very successful, and reasonably comfortable (for smashing my crotch against a saddle for 7 hours) TT ride, even a little faster than last time. I know by the time IM day comes I will probably forget that I remember how to do all this stuff and be nervous, but I can draw on the fact that I’ve done two long days and this is just going to be long day #3.
And… I mean, I’ve got an official badass medal. So, I’m good, right?
The second part of this is harder to quantify and to do anything about. I remember being about 90% excited and 10% terrified with my first 70.3. Something happened in the years since then where I haven’t been giddy with joy on race day a lot. I am really excited for this one. I mean really, really excited. For the last 5-6 years we talked about doing an Ironman by 40. It’s here, it’s here, it’s really here, and my body is actually kind of ready. They hay is all in the barn. At this point, I just need to make sure it stays there and no one (read: ME) sets it on fire.
I joked to Zliten that I solved my burnout by training for an Ironman, but it’s really true. My head has stayed in the positive MUCH more of this cycle than what’s usual, lately. The experience of doing something so different, devoting myself to training for a few months and feeling OK if I’m putting other aspects of my life on the back burner, it’s been kind of magical. I let up on the pressure of trying to have it all. I didn’t want it all. I just want this one thing and it’s really close. I also don’t give two flying fucks what the clock says, as long as it’s within the 17 allotted hours, so there’s no stupid voice in my head saying that if you don’t hit x-pace, you’re unworthy. I just want to officially finish. Truly.
So, how do I prevent myself from waking up on race morning and my head going to the place where I’m not excited at all and just want to go back to sleep? I need to train for that too. I need to arm myself with all the positive thinking, the power songs that I’ll play while I get ready that morning, all the mantras, and I need to remember that this is my day, bitches. The day that I’ve been picturing for years. I will not allow myself to fuck it up with negativity. I will celebrate the culmination of all my training, every step I’ve taken to get from that first mile I ran just to see if I could back in 2008, every one of my six half ironman races and six marathons, and every time I surprised the heck out of myself by pulling out a new feat of strength this cycle.
I need to remind 3-weeks-5-days-in-the-future-me to be brave. You’re ready for this, physically and mentally, and it’s time to show the world. Be relentless. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. Solve problems as they come up and move on. Enjoy the day. Hope the song that gets in your head for the whole bike is a good one. Live in the moment, don’t think too far ahead. Be your own friend and encourage yourself along during the day and don’t be a bitch.
And above all, savor every awesome and shitty and wonderful and terrible and painful and euphoric moment. Because you only get one first Ironman race.