Ten years ago, I didn’t know what an Ironman was, but I did know that walking a mile to work sounded REALLY FAR and there was a hiiiilll so I never did it. Man, if I could live a mile from work now, I’d never ever drive!
Just a little different.
Skipping ahead through a lot of things, four and a half years ago, I did my first 70.3 (man, it feels like forever…). EVEN THEN, the thought was that it was a stepping stone to one day do an Ironman race.
I KNOW my impetus for my first marathon was that I was going to have to run one off the bike someday, so I better learn how to do that. I’m not sure when the seed took hold. I know Zliten wanted to do one right away after he finished his second sprint, and the goal was “before 40”. I remember “before 40” was actually pretty far away when we said it, and now it’s… well, this year or next year.
Each year since 2012, we’ve examined the landscape, looked around, and said “nope, one more year”. There was the year that I injured my knee. Then the next year when Zliten fought a bear and missed two marathons because of it. Then the next year when we made up those two marathons and I was so burnt out by the end I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take up underwater basket weaving instead. In 2016, we examined the landscape, cleared our schedules, and hit that 1500$ registration (for both of us) button.
Possibly the first Wednesday night recovery ride with the crew. Definitely not the last.
At that point, it was pretty much zero to Ironman. I’d taken a gloriously long #projectspring offseason that unceremoniously ended in July when I got antsy and decided that I’d like a schedule again and to mayyyybe break the 5 hours a week mark for activity. My first long runs were like 5-6 miles and they felt long. Our Wednesday 17-ish mile recovery rides with BSS were difficult and due to fear and lack of fitness, I’d be willing the miles to pass and they’d take foreeeeever (now I blink and it is over *poof*).
My instinct always leans towards NOT ENOUGH TIME NEVER ENOUGH TIME, but summer and early fall training did it’s thing just fine and delivered me to a sprint PR, a really solid Olympic distance RUN (rain on the bike made me sketchy), and then a decent showing on the bike and run for Austin
70.3 69.1 on a scorcher of a day on a pretty hilly course (especially DAT RUN during the hottest parts of the day after a 3 hour delay, and even still I notched a 2nd best in a half iron).
With about six months to go, we took a mid-season break. It wasn’t so much of an offseason as the spring, I just needed a little break from a schedule, so we did between 5-10 hours a week of whatever we felt like, and in the fall? It was mostly biking. This worked out great because I felt like it was the sport we needed the most work extending the distance.
First century attempt was May 2014. Took me almost 3 years to actually DO it.
Turns out I was right. My goal was to just go out and do a century ride already, and then during official training figure out how to make that easier/faster come race day. I tried a couple times before January, and found out it’s really hard to do 100 miles on the bike even if 60-70 is in your comfort zone. We’d have to spend a whole month riding bikes every single day before we pulled off our first 100 mile ride the last weekend in January. And it was a doozy. I still had no idea how I was going to run off a bike like that but I had a few months to figure it out.
Once I had the bike down, it was time to ramp up the run. Oddly enough, that focused block went rather well. Within a month, I knocked out an 18, 19, and 20 mile run. The 18 was a little reachy because it was the first run past half marathon distance of the year (and also super steamy), but both the 19 and 20 felt oddly good and like they hadn’t tapped out everything I had in me, and I did at least 1-2 hour workouts the day after each one.
The last order of business was to stitch them together with two long days. The first was a nice approximation of race day with some breaks – but a solid 8 hour training day with a STRONG 2 hour run at the end. I had ZERO issues. I didn’t feel broken at all after and after my requisite day off and taking Monday a little lighter, I was back at it Tuesday. The second one was a little tougher – the full swim+ in the lake, the full ride, and an hour run, with less breaks. I had nutritional issues at the end of the bike and felt yucky on the run. I think I figured out how to solve that particular issue, but the recovery on this one took TWO full days off after and cutting that next week’s hours from 11.5 to 8.5.
This is just long day #3, right? The first two went well, so this one should too. Yep!
I feel like my training went really really well. I missed some sessions but I hit the key points:
- Two race-length swims in the lake (I wanted more, but at least I got two). I supplemented this with plenty of 3k+ swims in the pool.
- Two 100+ mile outdoor rides. Most importantly, one continuous on my TT bike on a similar elevation profile to the race that also helped me get over the psychological hurdle of seeing my garmin tick over to 100 miles and still have almost an hour to go. I also had plenty of long hours on the trainer and the six hour race in the rain and cold and almost 5k climbing… so I’m good. Yep. Good.
- Three long runs similar to the pace I would like to run the IM marathon if I’m feeling good. I didn’t emphasize the brick run this time because 1) my legs have the opposite problem typically of feeling AWESOME off the bike but I can’t sustain it after a mile or two and 2) I anticipate my transition time will be in the 10 minute range, so I won’t even be running RIGHT off the bike at the race. However, I did do some running soon after biking on the long days, so I think I’m fine.
- While my overall volume was more at the minimum end of spectrum (11-16 hours for each week I was ON), I still feel like I did enough volume and intensity to prepare me to COMPLETE an Ironman, and I’ll head to the start line with that confidence. I feel ready but not overtrained.
As my cold subsides and my energy comes back, and the knees still complain about tapering but feel weirdly GOOD as soon as I warm, I think I can actually say without cringing that I think my BODY is prepared.
Something is not completely right up there… but that’s nothing new…
Now, about the mind.
The mind wants to convince me that it’s been too long since all that happened. The mind wants to tell me that running a marathon after an already long day on the swim and the bike is going to break me. The mind says “maybe you were ready three weeks ago, but now you’ve lost so much fitness you’re barely going to be able to do a sprint triathlon this weekend”.
Fuck you, brain.
Here’s where I remind brain exactly what this means to me.
For YEARS, Zliten and I would watch random Ironman videos on Youtube as inspiration. I would imagine what it would be like to actually be out there doing that stuff, having our big dance, our big long awesome IM day after months of training… and it seemed so awesome, but so far away. Even a year ago, heck, even six months ago, it was like… how the fuck and I going to do that? Now I’m actually going to go do that. In like, a few days!
Experiment of two, reporting for duty.
Normal people would hire a coach, but instead, I wanted to hoard all the knowledge for myself, so I set out to become one (results after certification? I think I want to try working with a coach for a cycle soon… but that’s a whole ‘nother post). Honestly, it really just showed me I had most of it to begin with, and coaching is really just a long series of experiments that get more precise with experience, so this is just sample #1 and #2 of Ironman training.
Somehow, I fought through a bunch of burnout by training for this race. Not just battled against it, but cleared it away. I feel re-energized, having gone through a completely new type of training, completely new experiences, and my body just feels… different. I’m not at my lowest weight (by far), I’m not fast (my peak power and fast mile run right now would be laughable), but I am sturdy and solid and I can go forever at a reasonable speed and not quit. That’s a fun place to be.
I guess the hard part is really over. I can (hopefully) do anything for one day. Even if it might be a really really really long one. In a few days, barring natural disasters, I’ll have shoveled myself to the start line with at least the hope, at least the feigned confidence that me, standing on top of the last 10 months of training, will be able to make it 140.6 miles in 17 hours or less.
Of course, I’ll do the dorky things like buy the all the Ironman gear and wear my stupid medal for a week and probably say “Quix, you are AN IRONMAN!!!” in my best Mike Reilly voice about twenty seven hundred and fifty-nine times. I’ll use that for an excuse to sit on my butt for a week and give my bike the side eye for as long as I need (honestly, I give it a week before I’m back on the cruiser, but still…). I will giggle at my running shoes beckoning until my legs no longer remember the abuse of running a marathon after a full workday on the swim/bike beforehand (pretty short memory these days – two weeks? three?).
And then soon vacation, where my swim training will look more like this…
But beyond the superficial stuff, I guess what really resonates in my soul is the follow through of it all. How often do you actually have a big scary dream that you actually get a chance to face? How often do you get to make a big check mark on the ol’ bucket list? How many times do you get to live the thing that you’ve been dreaming about constantly for years? How often do you discard those things because they are too scary, too hard, and you convince yourself that you can live without? I’m about to toe the line and find out a lot about myself on Saturday, and see what things I can and can’t live without.
This truly is a mad pursuit. Literally no sane person would ever refer to a marathon as a cooldown after 114.4 miles of swimming and biking. No one would pass the 100 mile mark on a bike and go, y’know what? I think I should just ride another 12 mile for the fun of it. The swim gets you almost halfway between two of the Hawaiian islands and that’s just the warmup. I think that’s why we do these things though… because they are crazy. Because they seem impossible and we are the kind of people that don’t like being told what we can do,
even especially when its our brain telling us NO and our heart instead says FUCK YOU, I’m going to give it a try.
If I can do this completely insane thing that seemed like a “can’t” a year ago, what else can I do in the future that seems crazy to me right now?
This is about proving that indeed, anything is possible.
If you want to follow my day, head HERE and look for bib #1056. I’ll see you on the other side.