From a 3-Timer to the New-Timer: My Advice About Using “Be Iron Fit”

Be Iron Fit by Don Fink is an amazing guide to self-coaching your way to an Iron distance triathlon finish.  The book is filled with inspirational stories, great triathlon training advice, and valuable information about how to conquer 140.6 miles of swim/bike/run.  The focal point of the book is the 30-week training plans, broken down into three levels to suit the needs of most triathletes.  You can follow the “Just Finish, Intermediate” or the “Competitive” training plans.  I have used the Competitive plan for my three Ironman finishes and I was very confident that I was well prepared.

I belong to a handful of Facebook pages for the races I have done and to one awesome page in particular that is devoted to users of the book.  We often support our fellow triathletes in their goal of finishing an Ironman using Be Iron Fit, and never hesitate to offer opinions on training and racing, and help when questions arise.  Each new season brings in a new crop of first-timers that often have the same experiences and questions about the plan.  Here is my advice that I can offer you about using the book in your pursuit of becoming an Ironman.  (FULL DISCLOSURE:  I am not a coach, a top age grouper, a pro, or anything that makes me evenly remotely qualified to offer advice.  I’m just a three-time finisher sharing my thoughts on the training.)

READ THE BOOK – Most of us that hear about the book or are referred to it are looking for a training plan to follow.  Be Iron Fit has three plans to fit most peoples needs.  But that is just a part of the book.  Of course the plans are the main focus, but the book also goes into depth about training and triathlon in general.  In the book, the author Don Fink explains most of the reasoning for the method he uses. But newbies will inevitably ask a question that will be a clear indication that they didn’t read the book.  The swim training is probably the most confounding to people, myself included.  The explanations are in the book, but someone will inevitably ask what “@20sec” means.

ONE SIZE FITS ALL – Be Iron Fit is a one size fits all program.  Don Fink doesn’t have the luxury of knowing you were a great high school or collegiate swimmer, or you are a competitive cyclist, or you have qualified for the Boston Marathon.  He wrote the book to help the average Joe and Jane balance life and training in attempting long course triathlon.  Imagine a line drawn down the middle of all types of abilities.  Some of us may be right on that line, some of us may be above it, and some below.  Those on the line can do the training without many issues, and those above it may have to drop off some.  The below people may need to work harder, but should find success as well.  If you are way off the line, you may need to rethink your goals and decide if this book suits your needs.

There was a guy who joined the Facebook page devoted to BIF and had a dilemma:  He was a so-so swimmer, a so-so biker, but he humbly claimed he was an above average runner.  I looked him up on Athlinks.  He was a sub-2:50 marathoner!  Yeah, that’s above average for sure.  He struggled with the run training because he didn’t want to lose his run conditioning, dropping down from the 50+ miles of high intensity running per week to 15 minute jogs.  We suggested a personal coach, someone who could take that into account and create a training plan around that, because BIF can’t change.  So yes, Mr. or Mrs. Fastrunner, you have to adjust yourself to the plan or find alternatives.  The beauty of the program is that he has given us three levels in hopes to satisfy all athletic abilities and goals.

COACH YOURSELF/HOLD YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE – Fink gives you three levels of plans to choose from and train for Ironman.  Words of wisdom are in the book, and plenty of your questions can be answered by others seeking the same goal.  But the book can’t coach you like a real coach.  You can’t email it with a question about missing a few days of training and get a response.  You can’t have it realign your training if you get injured.  You have to do that on your own.  You have to follow the plan in order to expect the results that the plan was created for.  If you follow the plan you can expect the results you are hoping for.  But if you need to rearrange the plan to fit your life, by all means do it.  You just need to get the work in, especially the weekend workouts.

TRUST THE PLAN – How did the first couple of weeks go?  I’m guessing you have done a few 15 minute runs and have wondered how that is going to get you through a marathon after a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike ride.  Look, this is 30 weeks of training.  It is a long time.  You will slowly and methodically build to the point that you will be ready.  You have to adopt the motto – TRUST THE PLAN!

QUESTIONING FINK – At some point you’ll be asking what is the purpose of doing a specific workout, or you will have an issue with the heart rate training.  Or someone will say that they chose to do it differently.  It’s okay to have a different approach, but it always amuses me that these first timers think they know more than the guy that wrote the book.  He is an accomplished triathlete and well regarded, certified triathlon coach.  Stop questioning him, and TRUST THE PLAN!

DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS – Someone on the Facebook page will eventually comment that they are seeing others being able to swim at a much quicker pace than they can, or that others are averaging 18 mph on their bike rides and wonder why they are not doing the same.  The truth is there is a wide range of abilities on these forums, from multiple finishers, athletes with finish times in the sub-11 hour category, and those that are at the other end of the spectrum.  Don’t compare yourself to the others in the group.  You may be in the 40-44 age group and be comparing yourself to comments made by someone in their 20’s.  What you should be aware of is the time cutoffs for the race and where you stand against them.  For most first timers, you are racing the clock, not the others on the Facebook page.

STAYING IN Z2 – You can’t stay in Z2 on your run, can you?  Neither could I when I started and I thought I was a decent runner.  Guess what?  Maybe you and I aren’t as fit as we thought we were.  Maybe the reason is most of us come from competing in shorter distance stuff where the focus is running faster and being quick.  Finishing an Ironman marathon means you have to budget your effort to go the distance.  Fink uses heart rate monitoring to help you build endurance and keep you from burning out.  If you are doing your early training stuff above the recommended HR zone, you risk overtraining and injury.  The goal is to be able to finish a marathon not just after swimming and biking in the race, but also after 30 weeks of training.  You need to learn to pace yourself.

SPINNING AT 100 RPM/100 BPM – I’m guessing you can’t do this either.  This is something that you will be able to accomplish over time, but it will take a while.  The point of this workout is to get you to learn to spin your legs on the bike in an efficient manner without taxing your muscles heavily.  These spins build cardio, promote good cycling technique, provide butt-in-saddle time to condition your butt, and keep you from overtraining.  I relied heavily on the spin during the hillier portion of my three races and watched with some amusement at the others mashing up the hills out of the saddle, only to be completely out of breath at the top of the hill.  I would usually pass them easily going up the hill, and would be much less tired at the top while they needed time to recover.  Spinning an easy gear is smart training and will also be smart racing when attacking hilly courses.  Plus you will be saving your legs for the run.

WHERE IS ZONE 3? – Go grab your book and find a workout that Fink says to do in Z3.  I’ll wait.  Did you find one?  There aren’t any.  Why?  I wondered that myself, especially when I couldn’t stay in Z2 on my local hilly running route.  Here’s my idea on it:  I think Fink knows that we will struggle with Z2, and as long as Z3 doesn’t morph into Z4, he’s okay with you being in Z3 occasionally.  But he just doesn’t want you training in it all the time.  Most of the Iron distance racing pace advice you will find is to stay within Z2 for the race, so training in Z2 is the best way for you to learn the feel of the pace.  Plus it keeps you from overtraining and injury.  I found for myself that the local hills I run on my usual running route will push me out of Z2, but it is brief and I learned that I will quickly get back to Z2.  Conclusion:  Z3 is okay, but don’t live there.

THE THINGS I DID DIFFERENTLY – I followed the Competitive plan for my three Ironman races.  I felt that I wanted to do the best I possibly could, and I had the time to put into the training that the Competitive plan called for.  Plus my training buddies were also following the Competitive plan, and we thought it was best to all be following the same plan.  But I have to confess to making some changes.

For my first race at Ironman Wisconsin in 2013, I followed the plan as close as possible in training – until I could no longer stand using the heart rate monitor and staying in Z2 all the time.  Early on I was resorting to walking some of my run workouts, and being a long time runner there was just no way I was walking a run workout.  Plus, after 25 years of running, I had a pretty good sense of pace and was confident I knew what each zone felt like.  So I switched to “perceived effort,” which Fink warns against because he knows most of us can easily be enticed out of the zone he wants us to stay in.  But I understood the importance of Z2 and knew as long as I didn’t live in Z3, I would be okay, and I was.  I did Ironman Wisconsin very conservatively, finishing in 14:37.

Three years later (2016) I did Ironman Lake Placid and again followed the Competitive plan.  For this race I had gotten better at my swim technique and would sometimes skip the Friday swim workout, or just do straight swims in training when it called for a specific workout.  I always thought that the swim workouts were much more intensive than the bike or run workouts were, especially during the Base Phase of training.  As a matter of fact, I did do swim workouts in the last 10 weeks of training that took me to the 2.4 mile distance, whereas I reached 100 miles on the bike and 20 miles running only once each during training.  The other thing I did at Lake Placid was move out of Z2 more.  The cycling course there almost forces you to, and I wanted to PR badly.  I kicked hard for the last 4 miles of the run and finished strong.  I improved my times in all three disciplines, finishing in 12:52.

The most recent finish was 2017 Ironman Louisville, again following the Competitive plan.  This time though I said screw the swim workouts and did just two 45 minute swims per week for most of the plan.  Occasionally I would do some drills and throw in some tempo/speed workouts, but mostly they were just straight swims.  I did add some additional open water swims of longer lengths just to give me confidence.  My swim finish at Louisville may have been partly due to the current aided Ohio River course, but I PR’d by about 10 minutes over Lake Placid and 20 minutes faster than Wisconsin.  I finished with a PR at Ironman Louisville with a time of 11:46.

Here are some other changes I made:

  • Fink prescribes two races during training, an olympic and a half-Iron distance race. I couldn’t find a local race close enough or cheap enough to warrant racing, so I did them at home.  Luckily for me, I have a pool at home to train in, and I could relax and do them without all the anxiety and cost that comes with racing.  Plus, I didn’t want to risk an accident or injury racing.  Devoting 30 weeks to a goal is a lot of time to invest, and I didn’t want to jeopardize not getting to my A race in one piece.
  • I would sometimes skip the Sunday bike spin prior to the long run, or would do it after the run later in the day.
  • I didn’t do a single weight training workout.  Not a single one.  I hate lifting weights.  No core stuff either.  No thanks.
  • I skipped a week of training to chaperone band camp.  I missed all of the swim and bike workouts for the week, plus 4 hour weekend ride and 1.5 hour long run.  I worried about missing them, but in the end it didn’t matter.
  • Although not anything related to the training plan itself, I did buy a tri bike late in the training plan.  This was something new I had to adapt to, but it did not take long to adjust to riding an aero bike vs. a roadie.
  • As if just being an Ironman finisher wasn’t enough, I started a running streak on January 1, 2015.  This meant that I ran at least a mile on the Monday rest day, and also on the days where there wasn’t a run planned.  It was sometimes very taxing.  I was able to handle it, but it probably didn’t add much to my ability to finish an Ironman.  The only positive I can feel came from it is that I did a lot of bike/run bricks, and they became no big deal to do.

CONCLUSION – I went from being a doggy paddler afraid of open water to being a fairly confident swimmer.  I went from thinking 30 miles was a long way to bike to crossing the century mark for the first time during my first Ironman race.  I went from thinking I knew everything about running to learning new techniques.  I went from watching the Ironman World Championship on television, wondering how finishing such a race was even possible, to being able to do the distance myself.  I went from being only a runner to being a triathlete.  I went from questioning myself to having confidence in myself.  I went from fear of the unknown to having confidence in myself.

I’m a three time Ironman Finisher thanks to Be Iron Fit.  TRUST THE PLAN!

Do I Really Want to Call Myself That Anymore?

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 29 – October 2 > October 8

I typically write my weekly Ironman training wrap-up on Sunday, when all of my workouts have been completed, and share something worthwhile during the week that I find interesting in my journey toward my goal of doing a third Ironman race. Usually the long bike on Saturday or the long run on Sunday will give me something to reflect upon.  But I find myself typing this on a Wednesday instead, a couple of days after another mass murder in the world involving gunfire, this time in Las Vegas, Nevada.

I have become somewhat numb to these shootings, and I believe most of the world has as well.  They seem to have become routine or expected.  I guess most people think that it won’t happen where they live.  I also believe that I live in a pretty safe place in the world, the south suburbs of Chicago, a place where if you go a couple miles north you are certainly in the urban life, and if you travel a couple miles south you are definitely looking at cornfields.  But I’m not fooling myself with that.  At this writing, 58 people lost their lives in Las Vegas.  The City of Chicago loses that many people in a month to gunfire.  September 2017 alone registered 60 people murdered in Chicago(1).  Chicago has a Las Vegas every damn month.  Let that sink in.

I’m not anti-gun.  I’m for protecting 2nd Amendment rights.  But I’m also thinking we need much stricter gun ownership rules.  I don’t even know what that entails, really.  I just don’t want people to lose their minds and have access to guns and wipe out scores of people because they woke up on the wrong side of the world that day.  With all the killings going on in Chicago, I have recently thought about purchasing a small handgun for protection and taking the two day concealed carry licensing course.  But I haven’t done that, and may or may not.  I don’t like to think about having to have to do that.  I don’t want to have to get to the point where if I leave the house I have to carry a gun.  I don’t want my pre-ride checklist to include water bottles, gels, a helmet, some spare tubes and a handgun.

My father grew up in Nebraska and was a farm boy, so I’m pretty sure that hunting was a common practice for him.  I don’t remember my dad having guns around the house, maybe an old .22 caliber rifle that must have been in his family.  Our house was on four wooded acres and my older brother Jon had shotguns and would walk the woods and the adjoining cornfields to shoot at pheasants and rabbits, and occasionally I would tag along.  He gave me a gun to carry that I’m guessing he thought was perfect for me.  It was an over/under type long gun, with a .22 caliber rifle on top and a .410 gauge shotgun on the bottom.  I don’t remember ever shooting the dumb thing, but I do recall that it was heavy.

My friends were very avid hunters, and good at it too.  I’m not anti-hunting at all, but I guess my path as a kid was more about playing wiffle ball, riding my mini-bike, and listening to rock and roll than it was about killing rabbits in the back yard.  One year Jon must have thought that I was big enough now to carry a .20 gauge, and we traipsed once again through the woods.  He saw some ducks swimming in the creek that ran through the property and he yelled “SHOOT THE FUCKING DUCKS!”  I pulled the trigger and killed a duck.  When we pulled it out of the creek we saw that this duck must have lived the high life, because he was huge.  Most likely a duck that was fed pretty well by the neighbor to the north.  I most likely had killed someone’s pet wild duck.

We were into taxidermy at the time, so my buddies helped me stuff that damn thing.  We hung it from my ceiling like he was flying, which in all likelihood he was too damn fat to do, and likely the reason he was in essence a sitting duck to a kid who couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn from 10 feet away.  That hanging duck in my bedroom kind of became my albatross around my neck, just like in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  I looked at it everyday and eventually came to the conclusion that hunting may not be my thing.

After marriage and becoming a father, I just didn’t want any guns around the house.  I have a valid Firearms Owners Identification card, but have never owned a gun.  I work in non-sworn position in law enforcement and just maintain it in case I find myself possessing a gun for some reason.   I’m a rule follower.

So how does the terrible event in Las Vegas have anything to do with training for another Ironman?  Well, my group of buddies and I call our team “The Gunners”. 

When we decided to do our second Ironman in 2016 in Lake Placid, New York, I thought that since there were five of us doing the race, we should have a cool team name, along with matching tri kits.  But there wasn’t any theme or idea that really resonated with us until my buddy John suggested Gunners.  That suggestion was made because the youngest of our group, Alex, had a habit of going full throttle in races, gunning for the win as they say.  I had heard the term used in sports many times, especially in auto racing.  “HE’S REALLY GUNNING FOR THE LEAD!” and stuff like that.  And to be honest, I think the rest of our group was highly competitive as well.  We all gun for the win.  The name was bad ass.  Not only did we want to be bad ass, we wanted to be GUNNERS!

I had trouble coming up with a logo, and thought about using a cannon in the design, kind of like Arsenal FC, a soccer club in London, who also went by the Gunner moniker.  But I thought, maybe it should just be about the what we wanted the word to reflect, that we were highly competitive, gunning for the podium.  In the end, I asked the company that we used to make our team kits if they could assist with a team logo for us, and they came up with the word Gunners in a fast looking script, with three stars above the name.  They also suggested a logo having a handgun sticking out of the end of the “S”, but it looked really stupid, and it wasn’t what we were trying to express.  So the Gunners logo with the three stars was our choice.

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As we rapidly approach Ironman Louisville on October 15, we typically also make some t-shirts for ourselves and our family and crew of supporters that come along.  My wife and I designed some cool looking shirts with the Gunner logo and the IM Louisville fleur-de-lis design similar to what they use, and ordered a few hundred dollars worth of shirts.  A couple days later a crazed gunman went full gunner in his own way and mowed down 58 people and wounding scores more.  What an asshole.  He died too.  He just got the order of who to shoot first wrong.

So now the question for me is, do I really want to plaster the word “Gunners” on my chest, and parade through 140.6 miles of Louisville, Kentucky?  Not really.  But yes, dammit, I do.  Can I expect that people will understand the context of the word that we want it to portray, or will they look at it and say WTF?  Is being a Gunner still bad ass, or just make me look like an ass?  I’m not sure I have the answer to those questions.  I feel like this guy stole something from me.  But really, can I be upset about that when all those people in Las Vegas had their lives stolen from them?  The answer to that is no.

I have a week and a few days to decide as to whether I’m going to represent the team name at Ironman Louisville.  I probably will.  I’m just bummed about the killings.  But I know that I am a Gunner, and my teammates are Gunners, and we will all be gunning it on October 15, whether we are wearing it on our chest or not.

 

TOTALS:

2 Swims – 5500 yards this week / 110250 yards total

4 Bikes – 82.5 miles this week / 10571 miles total

7 Runs – 25.5 miles this week / 980 miles

(1) -DNA Info – Chicago Murders https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/2017-chicago-murders/timeline?mon=9

 

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GUNNERS ARE READY!  ONE WEEK BABY!

Laboring on Labor Day

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 24 – August 28 > September 3

I resist looking ahead to the weekend workouts because I don’t want to know what is coming.  Since last weekend was a five hour Saturday bike ride and a two hour Sunday run, I assumed that this weekend would bump those workouts another 1/2 hour each.  I’m not sure what possessed my wife Kari to crack open my training book and look, but I’m glad she did, because she made me aware that I only had to do another 5 hour ride.  Hooray!  I would have went out and did the 5.5 hour ride without even realizing the plan didn’t call for it.

But five hours on the bike is still no walk in the park.  On Friday I chaperoned the mega marching band at a local football game and there was a lot of standing, making my legs very tired.  I was all prepared to have to labor hard on Labor Day weekend.  But the gifts kept coming.  The weekend was beautiful!  Cool temperatures and mild breezes made for perfect training conditions.  I started the ride with a one piece tri suit with a cycling jersey over it, with arm warmers  and a long sleeve tech shirt, and gloves as I headed out and I was pretty chilled –  it was 47 degrees!  But 45 minutes into it, I was ready to lose the shirt and placed it on the ground near a stop sign. I came back and picked it up 3 hours or so later and put it in my jersey pocket.  I did shed the gloves, but kept the arm warmers on throughout the ride for protection from the sun.

Saturday’s ride went really well.  I made it through 83 miles last week and didn’t enjoy it much.  But I managed to get in 91 miles of great riding in this time.  I followed that up with a 7.25 mile run and felt really great through that as well.

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Just me and beans for as far as you can see.  

Saturday’s effort was far from over though, as Kari and I had plans to attend the Barenaked Ladies concert in New Lenox, which meant doing a lot of standing on tired legs.  And since it was BNL, I figured I’d be doing some kind of bad dad dance routine, and I did.  I was somewhat surprised that my legs weren’t killing me.  Sure they were a little tired, but not achy or sore.  A great end to a great day.

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The Good Lady and me waiting for Living Color and BNL!  

I was expecting Sunday’s long run to be on some tired legs, but surprisingly enough I felt pretty good.  I got in 15 miles in 2:18.  Then I did a very easy spin over to Frankfort to watch my daughter and her mega marching band do the community proud in the Frankfort Fall Fest parade.  I didn’t leave myself time to grab something to eat, but I took whatever candy I could get from the parade as I sat in the shade of a little bush.  I spun the bike home and had a bowl of cereal.

I was fully expecting that this weekend would be laborious.  But it turned out that it wasn’t that way at all.  Maybe I should have titled this week “Not Laboring on Labor Day.”  It’s really a testament to the periodization of the training plan.  It sure is making me ready, not only for the race itself, but for each week as I progress.  Let’s see if I feel the same after next weekend.

TOTALS:

2 Swims – 4200 yards this week / 83550 yards total

4 Bikes – 147 miles this week / 9966 miles total

7 Runs – 48 miles this week / 773 miles

 

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I’M READY!!! Umm, wait – maybe not

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 21 – August 7 > August 13

I have trained for three Ironman races and I get to the point somewhere around Week 20  or so when I declare myself ready.  All it took for me to understand that I wasn’t was the Saturday long ride and run workout.

It started out okay, and it was a beautiful day – low 70’s, mostly sunny, light breeze if any. My only option for doing a long ride and not want to murder people on the bike trail is to head south from where I live to the more rural farmland of the far south Chicago suburbs.  I live right on the cuff of urban and rural living.  Harlem Avenue near where I live is a six lane motorway.  South of Monee, it is two lanes with barely any shoulder or traffic.  So I headed south with a plan to turn around at 2 hours and head back to complete the scheduled 4 hour ride.

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Feeling pretty good about myself around 1.5 hours into the ride.

I have a terrible sense of wind direction when I ride for some reason, but I was keeping an eye on the corn and plants and they weren’t moving at all.  So I felt strong and kept pushing.  I had built up an average pace of 18.6 mph before I turned around.  Then I felt the wind.  It was from the north, and I knew I was in trouble because 90% of the ride back would be back into the wind.  So I ended up battling my way back home, watching my average ride pace slowly tick back down to a more realistic level for me.  I pushed pretty hard, but it still took me an additional 11 minutes on the return trip.  I ended with an average of 17.9 mph.  Not only was I now super tired from the effort back, but I also had dropped below 18 mph average.

I ended the ride with a 5 mile run at a pretty good pace.  But I could tell that I was spent.  I showered up and went to Panera for some soup.  Between the Southwest Chicken Tortilla Soup bowl (super salty and full of chicken/protein), and about a half dozen refills of sugary Lipton Brisk Raspberry Tea, I was able to turn myself around and feel good again.  But after that 5 hour, 80 mile training day, I knew that I surely do need these remaining few weeks of training to be ready.

On Sunday, I ran the scheduled 1 hour 45 minute run not knowing what to expect.  Turned out I felt pretty good.  Ended the run covering 12 total miles.  Maybe I am ready!

TOTALS:

2 Swims – 5600 yards this week / 70050 yards total

3 Bikes – 131 miles this week / 9598 miles total

7 Runs – 41 miles this week / 646 miles total

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The truth lies in the Saturday and Sunday long efforts.

 

My Brain on Ironman

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 20 – July 31 > August 6

I read a recent article in Triathlete magazine that covered the subject of mental preparedness in Ironman.  I have always thought that training your mind to handle the effort in training and the races was almost as vital as the physical aspect of getting your body ready to spend the more than half a day swimming, biking and running.  Some of it can be very mind numbing for sure.

I find the swimming to be the most boring of the three.  You are either looking at a black line at the bottom of a swimming pool, the dark murkiness of a lake, or in my case a bunch of dead bugs lying at the bottom of my pool, a constant reminder that I also need to devote time to take care of things that get neglected during training.

Running can also be boring, but you can bring music if you are so inclined.  I don’t, but I do let the beauty of the area in which I run to keep me distracted from any suffering that may be going on.  I jogged behind a deer on Wednesday for about a minute until it finally took notice and bounded into the woods.

I find that I don’t have the luxury of being unfocused on the bike.  It’s the one discipline of triathlon in which you are required to focus.  You have to constantly monitor your surroundings, your effort level, and make sure that you don’t crash.  Certainly there are times when I can zone out, but something always quickly renews your focus on the bike – a bump on the road, a bug to the face, a gust of wind, etc.

Often times when someone asks about the Ironman, they only think in terms of how long it is – 140.6 miles – and are impressed that the distance can be covered under your own power.  But I find that your mind easily adapts to the distance if you break it down into manageable segments.  My training is 30 weeks long.  That’s a long time.  But when it is broken into its individual weeks, and then into each day, it is much easier to mentally handle the task.  The woman who inquired about my training this week asked me about the training, and I said for Wednesday’s workout I did 45 minutes on the bike followed by a 30 minute run.  A total of 75 minutes of exercise.  Lots of people can do that.  Break it up and it is much more manageable.

At Ironman Wisconsin in 2013, I found that I couldn’t bear to look out at the water where the swim course was being held prior to race day.  It looked enormous!  But on race day morning, I got in the water for the start and broke the swim up into small segments.  My plan was to swim from one orange buoy to the next.  On the bike it was all about riding to the next aid station where I could refill my water bottle and take on some more nutrition, then it was on to the next one.  Same thing with the run – one mile at a time, one aid station to the next.

So I guess the physical training for the race is the most important aspect of completing an Ironman.  But if you can train your brain to manage the race, it can make the physical portion of it much less of a burden.

THIS WEEK

Swimming in Lake Minocqua. 

I volunteered as a chaperone at this past couple of weeks at band camp.  Fortunately for me I was able to take the 3-6pm slot, and was still able to get my workouts done midday.  The weekend was spent in Minocqua with the family.  I felt the need to be with the family and spend quality time that is no longer a given. My son has his own job and is living out of state. And my middle daughter will begin her sophomore year at college soon. So to have everyone together for two short days was a luxury that I couldn’t pass up. So I skipped the scheduled four hour bike ride. But I was able to get an open water lake swim in as well as the two hour Sunday run. That run nearly wiped me out physically and mentally. I’ve got some work to do in the next ten weeks. 

TOTALS:

2 Swims – 4400 yards this week / 64450 yards total

2 Bikes – 41 miles this week / 9467 miles total

7 Runs – 40 miles this week / 605 miles total

Week 20 complete. Bring on the Peak Phase!

Swapping Weeks and Gauging My Readiness

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 18 – July 17 > July 23

A couple of twists to this week of training.  First, I looked at the training for Week 18 and saw that it was to be somewhat of an easy week ending in an Olympic distance triathlon.  Usually I just do the Oly distances of the swim/bike/run at home on the weekend and skip the racing, as racing can sometimes pose the risk of injury (i.e. bike crash, drowning, etc.) that you can avoid by just doing the day at home.  But I had my eye on a local sprint distance race in the area which occurs next weekend, and I wanted to give it a try.  So I swapped Week 18 with Week 19.  Hopefully I won’t gun it too hard next weekend.

The second aspect of this week occurred to me on my long bike ride on Saturday, as most of my thinking and the ideas for this weekly wrap up happen.  The family and I decided to head to the Northwoods of Wisconsin to our lake home to enjoy the weekend, as school activities are starting to heat up and it may be a while before we get a chance to get up there again.

As I was riding I began to assess where I was fitness-wise, and started to think about creating a race day strategy for Ironman Louisville.  I was feeling pretty good on the ride and I hoped to translate that into a harder effort for the race itself.  The ride was a 4 hour scheduled out and back, and I had hit 30 miles when I turned around.  I was riding my hybrid bike and riding on a crushed granite trail, but I was still pretty pleased with my effort to that point.

 

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Even the streets were telling me something.  

 

I turned around to head for home and found that my Camelback was getting low on water.  I had seen a building off of a local road and decided to see if I could find some water.  No one was around, but I did find a spigot with a hose attached to it.  Just as I was getting ready to fill it, a truck pulls up and inquires as to what I was doing.  Fortunately the guy was pretty cool, and didn’t mind that I filled up.

Then about 3 hours into the ride I started to bonk a little bit.  I had plenty of nutrition and I was eating it up, but for some reason I was just not quite as energetic as usual.  I made it home in 4 hours and 10 minutes, so the trip back took me a little longer than going out did.  I was almost ready to skip the post-ride brick run, but I decided to down a couple glasses of sugary tea/lemonade drink and at least get my mile in for the day (thanks, stupid running streak).  But as I headed out, my legs came back and I put in a solid 3.5 miles in 30 minutes.  It should have been a 45 minute run, but I knew Kari was worried about me, and I didn’t want to push my luck.  The rest of the afternoon I could tell that I was drained.

One thing I can learn from this ride was that I’m not ready to be thinking about gunning for a personal best at 140.6 miles.  The other thing is I’m glad I knew when I had had enough for the day.

Lastly, the Sunday run went really well, as did the rest of the week of training.  Very glad that I got up north and had an adventure to mix things up.  Next week will be much easier volume-wise, and I will have to balance training with being a volunteer chaperone at band camp.  Looking forward to an easier week and a race on the weekend.

TOTALS:

2 Swims – 4200 yards this week / 56750 yards total

3 Bikes – 95 miles this week / 9393 miles total

7 Runs – 36 miles this week / 535 miles total

Gunners-2-1
Old Road, indeed.

 

Jeff is a GUNNER

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 17 – July 10 > July 16

Jeff is a Gunner.  I already knew that, but Saturday’s ride reminded me that any one of my Gunner teammates can turn on the gunning when they are in their element.

Jeff and Jill had planned a graduation party for their daughter Emma, and since it made sense that we would be coming to their downtown condo for the party, that we should get together for the Saturday long bike ride and short run brick.  And I immediately tried to think of someway to get out of it.

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To be honest, I wasn’t all that excited about riding along the lakeshore in Chicago.  I’ve seen the trail and it’s users, so to me it is like the wild west down there.  All sorts of walkers, skate boarders, roller bladers, hand holders, runners, swimmers carrying their wet suits to Oak Street beach, volley ballers at the beach, and of course Lance wannabes. And in addition to that, I just generally hate driving downtown, not knowing where I am going, thinking that I’ll get mugged, or nowadays shot.  But my wife drives down there everyday for work, Jeff and Jill live right in the heart of everything good in downtown, and since Dave had already committed to it, I decided what the hell.  So I packed up my bike and junk, got up a 5 am and drove into the city.

We met up and Jeff reminded us that since there was a rather large 1/2 marathon on Sunday downtown and a related 5K Saturday morning, that we should get going and try to head north on the path and hopefully miss the runners.  So we started our Garmins, clipped into our pedals and hit the mean streets of Chicago to the lake front trail.

When we got there I was amazed at how busy it was.  It shouldn’t have been a surprise, but man, there were tons of runners and riders out at 7 am.  Jeff led us north right into the craziness.  There were large groups of runners, presumably running together doing marathon training, that were taking up most of the trail.  You had to wait your turn to go around the traffic and hope that others would share the trail.  It was very chaotic, but in a way it was very organized chaos.  The runners all expected to get passed by cyclists and didn’t freak out about it.  Other cyclists knew to give an oncoming rider a little extra room on his side of the trail.  And after a few miles of being indoctrinated to this chaos, it started to become easier.

We made a pass north and turned around.  An hour back into the return trip, we had expected that the 5K had already passed, but that wasn’t the case.  So we turned around and made another loop north.  Now, I wasn’t so excited about this, but it was certainly better than trying to fight through the race.  The trip back north was actually much less of an adventure.  Most of the large groups had finished up, and it was just your usual and standard crazy trail users.  This is the moment that Jeff decided to attack.

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Three Gunners on a ride on the lakeshore trail in Chicago.  It looks a lot like the Pyrenees in France.  Interesting.

Since I was riding in the middle with Dave riding right behind me acting as my sweeper, I knew that Jeff wouldn’t get too far ahead, but he certainly was in his element.  Dave and I were still riding with our heads on a swivel, and Jeff was like Keanu in the movie Speed. 

But it dawned on me that when I hosted a ride a few weeks ago, I led the entire way even though both of those guys are stronger riders.  And when we rode out by Dave, he led us out on his route.  Dave told me when we rode on my route that he would drop back through the twisty nature preserve that I like to canyon carve the hell out of.  He just wasn’t as familiar with all the fast turns as I was.  And the same thing was going on with Jeff.  He was just good at riding in his element.

We made the turn around and headed back into the downtown area and found the path to be open.  We sped ahead to the south, passing such iconic landmarks like the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and the Field Museum.  As we continued to ride, not only did it become less crowded, it also became very scenic.  The south portion of the trail through Burnham Park and down through the South Shore was quite an enjoyable ride.  We made the turn around and headed back to the city, hammering away and really enjoying the miles and letting the time fly by.  In reality, the 3.5 hours on the bike seemed like two.  And I was somewhat surprised that it was over so quickly.

As we finished, I jokingly praised the gods above for allowing me to survive the ride.  But really the thanks should go to Jeff for guiding us on such a memorable ride.  This thirty weeks of Ironman training isn’t all about doing work to finish the race, it is also for enjoying good friends and making great memories.

I won’t hesitate to accept an offer to ride there again.  Thanks for inviting us, Jeff!

 

The Other Notable Ride of the Week

I had another notable ride on Thursday night.  I was riding the scheduled 75 minute ride when I blew out my rear tire after riding through what I thought was some innocuous gravel debris. I was mulling over my options, as I was about 10 miles from home, and I didn’t have my cellphone with me.  So I decided to jog about a 1/4 mile back to a parking lot where I could have some room and be a little safer repairing my tire than along the trail. Upon examining my tire, I could see that it was blown out on the sidewall, which really surprised me. I had a spare tube, but I knew that a hole in the sidewall of my tire was not going to be good.

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Hole-y cow!

I had some small tube patches and placed one over the hole and installed and inflated the new tube. After using one CO2 cartridge, I could see the tube had pushed the patch out through the slit in the tire by about 1/4 inch. I decided that I would have to take it very gently riding back.

Since I have a running streak and that I hadn’t ran yet, I decided to finish off the mile and off I ran at about a 9 min/mile pace in my cycling shoes.  After the mile was over, I saddled up and rode easily toward home.  I was about two miles into that easy ride when I heard the tube let go.  Fortunately for me, I was near my office.  So I jogged another half mile and I was able to get inside and call my wife to come pick me up. Quite an experience. Glad I had the lesson in repairing a tube, and using a CO2 cartridge, which I had never done before. I should have used something a little more sturdy to cover the hole prior to inflation, like a business card or a dollar bill that I had in my tool kit. It might of made a difference in keeping the tube from inflating through the sidewall.

Quite a memorable week for riding.

TOTALS:

2 Swims – 4300 yards this week / 52550 yards total

3 Bikes – 85 miles this week / 9298 miles total

7 Runs – 35 miles this week / 499 miles total

Gunners-2-1
Onward to Week 18!