Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ironman Training for Mortals

Okay...after over a hundred miles on the bike, 3 miles of swimming, a "brick" workout (no running, promise) and 10 hours spent in the ER/playing nurse (no, I'm fine-it want' me :-P) plus a dirty house and regular weekends errands to contend with...I'm a bit pressed for time.  We'll play a lil catch up catch up tomorrow, sound good?  In the meantime, how bout another old guest post?  Since it's summer time and race season...I know alot of people out there thinking about jumping on that 140.6 bandwagon..behold some of my tips after 2 times at the big dance :-)
I've been a triathlete for 6 years, and have competed in every distance from sprint to Ironman. It's been a long, interesting, fun "Iron Journey" starting back in 2005, when I couldn't run a mile to save my life, to 2010, when I finished Ironman Lake Placid with tears in my eyes and a big smile on my face.  Since then, I've done another Iron Distance race, and can't wait to do my third!
Now, trust me when I say...if I can finish an Ironman, anyone can.  And no, it doesn't take 40 hours of training a week or a diet of celery sticks.  But it does take discipline, a can do attitude...and a plan.

So, you want to take on 140.6?  Well, here's a little help getting started....

1.  Pick a race.  It's ok to pick a race a few years out...I really recommend moving from a sprint triathlon (.5 mile swim, 12-15 mile bike, 5k run) to an Olympic (.9 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 10k run), to a Half Ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, half marathon) to the actual Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run).  I took on one new distance each year, which made it seem a bit more do-able.  Enjoy each distance, then move on up if you love it!  Most Ironman races sell out a year in advance, so you have 364 days to contemplate your madness once you've plunked down your entry fee....

2. Find a training plan. Some athletes hire a coach, and there are plenty of good ones out there.  However, I am a social worker, so my budget doesn't really cover it!  I bought my training plan off of, and paid 25 bucks for it.  It detailed all of my workouts for the 37 week plan, and gave levels based on my fitness and how I was feeling that week.  The weeks ranged from 10 hours a week to 20 hours a week, which sounds ridiculous, but is do-able if you plan ahead. 

3. Get organized.  Work backward on your calendar from your race date and find your training start date.  Put your training plan on an actual calendar so that you can see when your key workouts fall and can adjust your schedule (yes, this takes some time,  But it really is worth it to know months in advance when your "peak" weeks are so that you can plan your life!)

4. But be flexible.  Every training plan has some flexibility.  There are some workouts you should not miss, like your hundred mile rides or 20 mile runs, but some can be altered, shortened, or skipped.  Most people will confirm that as long as you follow your plan 80% of the time, you should be good to go on race day.

5. Recruit an "Iron Sherpa".  Ironman is not a journey to go at alone.  You need someone to support you, understand what you are doing, and help you out in terms of everyday life and with your mental sanity.  I am lucky enough to have a husband that is not only supportive, but is also a triathlete.  He gives excellent foot rubs and even does laundry on my 7 hour long ride days!  I knew I married him for a reason....(I kid, I kid).

6. Get some toys!  Ironman is expensive.  But you don't need a $3,000 bike or a million expensive pieces of equipment to complete the distance.  However, there are some training gadgets that really help!  Of course you need the basics-wetsuit, bike, helmet, running shoes, etc.  But there are a few extra things that really help when going the distance-I love my bike trainer (especially living up north-I never miss a ride), my swim mp3 player (super helpful for long swim sets) and my grid foam roller (awesome after a long brick or run to roll out the knots, and so much more affordable than weekly massages!).  Toys for race day:  An aquacell for hydration and my cw-x compression tights for the marathon-my legs need all the TLC they can get after a 112 mile ride!

7. Create goals.  After you have been training for a few months, you may have some ideas as to how long it will take to complete the distance.  Goals are great, but I suggest making A,B and C goals (with the C goal being to finish!) especially for your first time at the distance. You never know what can happen on race day, and be ready should things not go according "to plan"!   The day is long, and no 140.6 is perfect.  I created an A goal of 14 hours, a B goal of 15, and C for finishing,  When I crossed the finish line in 13:54 my first time, I was elated!

8. Have a good reason.  Why Ironman? Because it's on your "bucket list"?  Because you want to prove something?  WHY?  Have a darn good reason for doing it.  Ironman is time consuming, expensive, and it hurts.  And at mile 130, your mind is going to need to give your body a darn good reason to keep moving forward, because your body will be saying NO!  I spent alot of time on the mental aspect of training, and had some pick me ups on race day (notes from family in my special needs bags, miles dedicated to people on the marathon) and it really kept me going.  The day can be so much fun (best day of my life after my wedding day) but you really need to be ok with the space between your ears to do an Ironman.  And I know you can!

9. Do your homework.  Know the race it, or better yet, go train on it if you can.  I drove up to Placid for a weekend training camp a month before the race, and it really helped me figure out where to take in nutrition, where to coast, and where to push it.  I also talked to people  with Ironman experience...there are some really good sites out there for triathletes where you can ask people that have done the race and have wisdom to share.  There are also a rising number of triathlete bloggers who can help you out (email me anytime!)There is no such thing as a dumb question!

10. HAVE FUN!  You put in the miles, you created a plan, and you've spent 6-9 months training.  Enjoy the journey-it's amazing what your body can do.  And enjoy your day-it is an amazing feat to take on 140.6, and so worth it once you cross the finish line and hear "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"
Well, I hope that gets you started,or at least thinking about the multi sport lifestyle.  It is an amazing sport with wonderful people, and if you have any questions, feel free to email me.  Thank you!

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