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!

Advertisements

Week 11 Fun: Training and Racing

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 11 – May 29 > June 4

Week 11 was the first week of the Build Phase of the Be Iron Fit training plan that I am following, and I expected it to be a little harder.  There was a third swim added, along with some additional yardage to the swim.  I was a little surprised that the long Saturday bike was a half hour shorter than Week 10’s 3 hour ride, but I see that the plan now adds a short run after it.  The 1/2 hour spin on Sunday was also added, which seemed to feel pretty good to me thanks to some tired legs from Saturday.  All in all, not a bad way to start the Build Phase of training.

Speaking of tired legs, I also ran my first road race of the year, a 5K near my home.  I wasn’t sure that it was a good idea, as my feet and legs just always seem tired.  But I decided to give it a go.  I was glad I did, as I finished 10th overall and 1st in my age group.

You can read about the race here:  2017 Summertime Stride 5K Race Report

Speaking of racing, I will be doing my first triathlon of the year, the ET Batavia sprint triathlon in Batavia, Illinois.  I’ve done this race three times and I really enjoy it.  The swim is super short, about 400 yards, the bike is fast, and the run is a heart pounding 4.1 miles.  I’m hoping that the water will be warm enough to forego the wetsuit.  I struggled getting the dumb thing off last year and it cost me some valuable time.  I do have a speed suit that I might try out this time.  Never used it before though.  I might have to play with it this week during one of the three swim workouts.

The last bit of news is that my wife Kari bought a new road bike, a Specialized Roubaix from Spokes in Wheaton, Illinois.  We were there picking up my race packet and she had been talking about getting a bike.  I think she was impressed with the bike shop, and definitely the custom fit that the owner put her through.  We were there for almost 4 hours looking at bikes and getting the Roubaix dialed in.  They really did a good job and I think Kari is going to have many happy miles of riding.  I’m looking forward to having a new riding buddy.

TOTALS:

3 Swims – 5200 yards this week / 26200 yards total

4 Bikes – 89 miles this week / 770 miles total

7 Runs – 35 miles this week / 313 miles total

Gunners-2-1
Racing to Week 12

Happy Mother’s Day

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 8 – May 8 > May 14

I type this on a beautiful Mother’s Day.  I’m glad that it was such a gorgeous day.  A very nice finish to a week.  It looks like spring is turning to summer finally.

I attempted to open my pool this week and things are looking good.  I have one issue with a part that senses when the pump is on to signal the auto-chlorinator to turn on that isn’t working.  Seems like I replace this part every year.  A minor inconvenience in order to have the luxury of swimming at home.  I only got one swim in this week at the high school due to testing that was going on.  All the more the reason to swim at home.  The plan called for 1700 yard straight swim but I ended up doing 2100 yards, about the distance of a half Ironman swim.  I felt great and kept clicking off the laps.

Biking and running went well.  I got in a 2 hour Saturday ride with my riding buddy Todd.  Glad we got it done in the morning because the afternoon was pretty windy.  The Sunday run I did after choosing to spend some time with my wife and daughter, then doing some yard work.  By the time I got around to running it was noon and pretty warm.  It was just an hour long run, but I pushed pretty hard and overdid it.  This was supposed to be a recovery week, but as usual I blew it.  I hope to ease into next week.  I’m pretty wiped out.

TOTALS:

1 Swim – 2100 yards this week / 15300 yards total

3 Bikes – 64 miles this week / 417 miles total

7 Runs – 31 miles this week / 216 miles total

Gunners-2-1
Happy Mother’s Day

Great Finish to Week 7

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 7 – May 1 > May 7

IMG_6296
Senior Recognition Day at Loras College with Kari, Ben and I.

Training for Week 7 went pretty much as expected.  I noticed that some extra time was added to both the bike and run at the end of the week, but 15 minutes isn’t so bad, I guess. The hard stuff is coming, so I should be happy that I’m still in the Base Phase of the training.  I missed one swim due to me deciding I didn’t want to do it.  (lol)  That happens sometimes, but I know my ability pretty well.  I am experiencing a little swimmer’s elbow tendinitis, possibly from trying to pull too hard in a bent elbow angle. When I keep my arm straight, I hardly experience any discomfort.

The best part of the week was the weekend.  On Friday, my wife, in-laws and I went to Loras College in Dubuque to watch my son Ben run his final home meet.  He usually runs the Steeplechase in track, but conference is coming up, and coach had him running the 1500 and a 4×400 relay.  He did well and made us proud.  He has steadily improved throughout his four years of running cross country and track, and I am sure he has some great running experiences ahead of him.

fullsizeoutput_e7aa
My son winning his heat in the 1500M run.

 

After watching him run two events, my father-in-law Gary and I made the trip up to Minocqua, WI to bring up some of the stuff we have been buying for our new lake home. Gary grew up in the area and was anxious to see our new place.  This meant I got the chance to do my weekend training in the Northwoods.  I really love it up there.

I brought up my hybrid bike, a Trek 7700FX, to ride on the crushed rock Bearskin Trail.  It has a little wider tire, and was a good choice for riding that trail.  I left it up there for future rides on the trail, but I will probably also try to ride my tri bike on the roads up there as well in training for IM Lou.

Not long after starting my ride I noticed my butt was hurting.  I took an assessment and realized my seat had slipped down about 1.5 inches.  I stopped and adjusted it and found immediate relief for my butt pain.  But the dumb thing wouldn’t stay up.  I must have stopped a dozen times trying to get it to stay.  I pulled it out and noticed that it had a little grease on it.  Not sure that was something I did, but I tried wiping it off with an old cut up hat that had been run over by a mower that I found trailside.  That didn’t work.  I rubbed sandy dirt on it, stuck a sticker on the seat post, tightened the quick release lever several times, all to no avail.  I finally rubbed the post on some concrete, scratching it up somewhat in order to provide some grip.  That seemed to work the best, although it wasn’t permanent.  It’s amazing how a little adjustment can make a huge difference in comfort and preventing injuries.

IMG_6298
Hard to enjoy the beautiful scenery when you are dealing with a bike mechanical.

 

I was met on the trail by a guy running his dog who stopped to see if I was doing okay. Turns out his name is Blaine and he is a local race director who organizes the local marathon called the “No Frills Marathon.”  It’s an out and back on the same trail I was riding.  I will have to run it someday.  He was also wearing a Boston Marathon shirt and I picked his brain about the race for 10 minutes or so.  It was nice to meet him.  I forgot to bring any sort of nutrition with me, and only had water to drink.  Sometimes in training you make mistakes, and that was mine for the day.  By the time I got home and added a quick post-ride brick run, I was approaching “bonk” status.  Gary and I headed out to lunch after I showered and I quickly bounced back.

I also got in a 8.5 mile run on Sunday before packing up and heading home.  It was chilly, but it was a beautiful sunny day.

All in all, a great way to finish a training week.

TOTALS:

1 Swim – 1600 yards this week / 13200 yards total

3 Bikes – 65miles this week / 353 miles total

7 Runs – 32 miles this week / 185 miles total

 

Gunners-2-1
Did Week 7 in Northwoods Heaven!

Focusing on the “A” Race

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 6 – April 24 > April 30

I had never heard of the term “A” race until I started doing triathlons in 2012. As a runner I made every race I entered a priority and went for it each time. But when my buddies and I started our journey into Ironman races, I quickly picked up on the idea that the focus of your racing year should be devoted to the race that means the most to you, and in our case the Ironman. Pick your main goal race of the year, make it your focus, your “A” race as they say, and fit in all the other stuff around that goal. Sounds easy, but I’m terrible at it.

My biggest issue is the dumb running streak I started in 2015.  I have yet to miss a day of running at least a mile. So when my training plan for my “A” race says no running on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday, well I just cannot not run. So I do the bare minimum, usually just a mile and try not to derail myself.  So far it hasn’t hurt me.

But a few other things have tried to dangle a carrot in front of me, trying to lure me away from the “A” race training plan. I found out my church is looking for members to play on a coed softball team. I would seriously consider it if it wasn’t for the fact that the last time I played I broke a finger playing 16″ softball, and gave myself a pebble infused skin abrasion sliding into third wearing shorts, a pain that lingered for weeks. It was easy to turn that down.

The hardest thing to for me to turn down is road running races. A local 5K runs right through my neighborhood, and the first running of it a couple of years ago I competed and finished 5th overall. Very tempting to run it this year, but it was only Week 3 of training. I skipped it. Later I found out that the winner won with a time I could have competed against. It’s not often that I get an opportunity to win a race. Oh well.

Saturday there was a local half marathon, a race that I finished 12th overall last year and 4th in my age group (That’s another story in itself! You can read it here:  https://anamazingrun.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/2016-frankfort-half-marathon-race-report/).  Another very tempting race for me to do.  I remembered really enjoying myself running it last year, but I do remember how sore I was for a couple weeks after running it. I did not want a repeat of that, seeing that I have been dealing with a sore high hamstring in my left leg. So I decided to skip this race as well. I don’t need to pay $70 to do a training run, one that would be 5 miles longer than my plan calls for.  And the rainy cold weather made the decision much more palatable. I checked the race results for that race as well – I probably would have finished 7th based on last year’s time. Oh well, again.

Knowing that there will be other tempting races to do, I learned that I can skip the ones that might not be in the best interest of my “A” race goal, and keep my eyes on the prize – another Ironman finish.  Just wish it wasn’t so hard to do.

Week 6 Wrap-up

Two weeks in a row that I got all of the training in! A new habit and streak is forming! The weather was not perfect this week, and next week looks pretty uninspiring. I shared a swim lane with another Ironman that I know from the area. She did IM Wisconsin in 2010 and is doing it in the fall. Even with just doing one last year seems like starting over for me, so she must really feel like its all new again.

I got outside for the bikes and runs for most of the week except for the weekend. Did the two hour ride on a stationary bike while watching episodes of Breaking Bad. I hope my life never goes off the rails like it is doing for Walt. But I can certainly empathize with the guy sometimes.

TOTALS:

2 Swims – 3200 yards this week / 11600 yards total

4 Bikes – 60 miles this week / 288 miles total

7 Runs – 28 miles this week / 153 miles total

Gunners-2-1
Week 6 – 1/5 of the way there!

Balancing Life While Training

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 5 – April 17 > April 23

As I wrap up Week 5 I feel a sense of accomplishment, mainly because it was the first time in a few weeks that I got all of the scheduled work outs in.  But in addition to doing all the training, life really hit hard this week with it’s own agenda and responsibilities.

We are now fully into spring and my yard has made it clear that it needs mowing.  My in-laws were in Florida, and I made sure to give their yard a trim as well before they return home this weekend.  My youngest is wrapping up a very busy freshman year of high school, and is so involved that she’s got me running her everywhere.  In addition to that, she also has her learner’s permit, which means I need to find time to help her learn that life skill as well.  Soon I will open my own pool, which will require it’s own set of special weekly needs.  I had to go get my boat out of storage Saturday.  Lastly, I made sure that I didn’t drop the ball when it comes to getting some thoughtful gifts for my wife’s birthday on Saturday.  What a week!

But fortunately for me, I am very lucky to have a supporting family and wife that allows me the time I need to train.  On her birthday, she had no problem with me cycling for an hour and forty-five minutes.  And I am very lucky to work a part-time job that gives me the freedom in the afternoon to do my thing.  I do not take any of that for granted.

Training for Ironman is a commitment in and of itself, but when you realize you have other responsibilities as well, then you really become dedicated and focused.  Learning to balance all of those things can be difficult, but seeing this is my third time training for Ironman, I have grown to adapt and really feel that I have got things in control and can tackle anything, especially 140.6 miles.

As far as training went, I got two solid swims in this week.  The bikes went really well.  I’m a little concerned about the high hamstring tendonitis and butt pain from running, but I will dial back the effort on running days a little, as I have a tendency to overdo it.  And definitely spend a little more attention to stretching that area.  Here’s to a wrapping up a great week of training.

TOTALS:

2 Swims – 3200 yards this week / 8400 yards total

4 Bikes – 76 miles this week / 228 miles total

7 Runs – 26 miles this week / 125 miles total

Gunners-2-1
WEEK 5 – 1/6th of the training is done!

I Will Need Two of Everything

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 4 – April 10 > April 16

I spent Thursday through Easter Sunday in our new lake home in Minocqua, Wisconsin with my family for the first time.  It was awesome to get to spend the Easter holiday in our new home on the lake.  I had a great six mile run with my son Ben on Friday, and enjoyed our somewhat new running routes.  We had vacationed in the area for many years, so the Bearskin Trail is nothing new to us.  But it is refreshing to be running on such a beautiful trail again.

Friday we all took a trip to the local Ace Hardware store to get some stuff for the house.  We bought a ladder, a rake, and a bunch of other junk that we already own in our main home.  But now that I have another home to care for, I need two of everything.  And apparently that includes triathlon gear.

I came up for the weekend without my bike so I wasn’t able to get any riding in, and with buying two of everything else for the house, I started to consider buying another bike to have on hand up north.  It didn’t help that I had Triathlete and Bicycling magazines on hand with several pages of guides to new stuff to look at.  But just with all the other stuff with the house that I know we need, I have learned that we will have to pace ourselves with what we get next.  The lake home bike will be a very low priority, but it sure would have been nice to have had one up there.

As for the rest of the training week, I only got one swim done, but it was a decent one.  The planned called for a 1600 yard swim with a workout, but I decided to do a straight swim and ended up stopping at 2000 yards.  Felt pretty good.

Only two bike rides this week, both half hour spins with a brick run after each.  I missed the hour and a half Saturday ride, so I will make that up on Monday of Week 5.

Runs will always total seven unless I break my leg or something.  I had a nice uptempo 6 mile run with Ben, who told me that he has some pretty cool running ambitions after he wraps up his collegiate running career upon graduation in May.  He’s come a long way as a runner, and I see a bright future for him as a marathoner if he pursues those goals.

fullsizeoutput_e616
Easter Sunday in Minocqua

 

TOTALS:

1 Swims – 2000 yards this week / 5200 yards total

2 Bikes – 16.5 miles this week / 152 miles total

7 Runs – 25 miles this week / 98.25 miles total

Gunners-2-1
Week 4 is no more!