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!

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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.

 

Yay! Vacation!

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 16 – July 3 > July 9

With the crazy schedules we tend to have, we finally got to have a vacation!  Not a full week worth, mind you.  No, that would be what regular people do.  But it was almost a full week!  July 4th fell on a Tuesday, and since Rebecca is in the marching band, we are required to be in town for the parade.  But as soon as it was over, we jumped in the car and headed north to our new favorite spot, our lake home in Minocqua, Wisconsin.

I took a photo of my training plan from the book I follow and made sure I knew what I had to do for the week.  Fortunately, the workouts were pretty easy this week, and I made sure to get them out of the way early so I could enjoy the family and the water while on vacation.

I was able to do an open water swim with my wetsuit in Lake Minocqua and it went well.  Kari paddled along side me in a kayak, and I found myself swimming at a nice and easy pace.  I made it down along the shoreline about 0.8 mile before turning around.  The swim ended up being about 1.67 miles according to my Garmin 910XT watch, which is about 2950 yards.  It took me an hour to do the swim.  I felt like I was struggling strength-wise, fighting the wetsuit somewhat.  After finishing, I was pretty sore.  I complained about it later, because I tend to complain.  Kari wisely pointed out that I had been water skiing the day before.  That was an aha! moment.

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It may look like I know what I am doing, but sadly I do not.

The three hour long bike ride followed by a 30 minute run also went very well.  I took to the Bearskin Trail and rode it farther south than I ever have.  I really like the trail.  Lots of greenery and beautiful things to see.  I didn’t see any bears though.  Or any bear skins for that matter.

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Rails to Trails paths may be the greatest repurposing ever.

I ended the weekend with a solid 1.5 hour run on the trail as well.  Nice cool weather for training.  Next week it will be back to the grind in good old Mokena.

TOTALS:

2 Swims – 4350 yards this week / 48250 yards total

3 Bikes – 70 miles this week / 9213 miles total

7 Runs – 35 miles this week / 464 miles total

Gunners-2-1
Refreshed and ready for more

A Week of Jumbled Training

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 14 – June 19 > June 25

I had a pretty good week of training this week.  I switched things up this week due to having to travel to Minocqua to put the boat in the water so that our new boat lift could be delivered and be able to lift the boat out of the water.  Yes, you read that right.  I put the boat in the water so that it could be lifted out of the water.

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Me and the lad trying not to freeze to death driving the boat from the launch to the house.

Training for the week was jumbled quite a bit.  I did Thursday’s swim on Monday, and followed that up with Tuesday’s regularly scheduled swim.  Wednesday’s 30 minute run was shortened to just under 21 minutes, thanks to a local 5K I like to do in Frankfort.  You can read the report here:  Short Run on a Long Day 2017 Race Recap

On Thursday I decided to do Saturday’s long bike ride.  I got in 55 miles and followed it up with a brick run.  Note to self:  There are more cars on my out-of-town route during the week than there are on the weekends.

On Friday I came home from work and did my 7.5 mile run.  After that Kari and I hit the road for Minocqua.  I was pretty sore from the 5K and the long bike ride, so the 5.5 hour car ride was not something I was looking forward to.

When we got to Minocqua I realized the locals were having their annual Lake Minocqua open swim event.  I knew that they had this in the past, but I had forgot about it.  But to my dismay, the race started at 8 am, which was the same time our boat lift was being delivered.  So, I would have to do my own OWS on Sunday like I had planned.

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Believe or not, there’s a boat under there.

On Saturday after getting the boat lift delivered and successfully lifting the boat out of the water, I did the Thursday hour long bike ride that I had switched with Saturday.  I had planned to ride to the Bearskin Trail, but as I was going there I realized I didn’t have any money for the dumb trail pass that you have to buy.  So I did a U-turn and rode east toward St. Germain and found a paved trail by Clear Lake, about a 10 minutes from home.  I had never been on the trail before, so I decided to try it out.  WOW!  A very nice paved trail that was super scenic and had lots of rollers and super cool things to explore.

We also had a great visit with an old friend Sara and her husband Chris, who have a cabin in St. Germain.  It was really great seeing Sara again and meeting Chris for the first time.

Sunday was our final day in Minocqua, so I decided to get an open water swim in.  Thankfully I had remembered to bring the wetsuit and goggles, but I neglected to bring a swim cap.  A trip to Walmart remedied that, and it helped keep my head warm in the slightly chilly water.  Kari and Ben jumped in the kayaks to accompany me so I wouldn’t get run over by a boat, and I just kind of swam along the edge of the shoreline until I couldn’t take the weeds any more.  When I got back to our dock, I looked at my watch and it said exactly 1.0 mile in 30:57.  I was pretty happy with that.  Typically in the pool without a wetsuit I am over 2 min/100 yards.  This average was 1:43 min/100y.  I’ll take it.

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The water was very clear.

After the swim, I changed into some running gear and threw Kari’s bike into the car and we headed back to the new trail I had discovered.  It was awesome having a partner riding along enjoying the scenery.  Kari would ride ahead and then double back and each time had a big smile on her face.  We were both having a great time there.  A great way to end the training week.

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A mid-run selfie.  Beautiful day in the North Woods.

TOTALS:

3 Swims – 6000 yards this week / 41700 yards total

3 Bikes – 83 miles this week / 9033 miles total

7 Runs – 29 miles this week / 395 miles total

Gunners-2-1
Week 14 was awesome!  Almost half way to IMLou!

Great Finish to Week 7

IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2017 TRAINING

WEEK 7 – May 1 > May 7

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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.

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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.

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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!