My First Ironman (training)

Last post was a little teaser of my experience from my first Ironman. Today I will write about the lessons learned, experiences and how I started training. Going through the training and completing the race is what really got me really hooked in the sport of triathlon. I know it is not easy to get started, so I'd like to share how it all happened, hopefully some of you will find it helpful. Here we go:

Once I had signed up for the Louisville Ironman (IMLOU) 2012, I knew that I had to start training, this is much easier said than done though. As per my last post, my first 70.3 had been a disaster and now I had signed up to do twice as much. I had no idea how I was going to manage training as much as I was told I needed to, not to mention participating and finishing the race. Everyone has to start some place though, Tim and Ryan were instrumental in getting me started. I was not a complete newbie though, I had some experience in the sport when I was a kid. My dad was a great triathlete, he is the one that introduced me to the sport and seeing him compete and be successful inspired me a lot. The triathlons I did when I was 12-15 year old were very short, they were designed for kids, so I would complete them in an hour or less. This time, I was looking at racing for at least 12 times longer than that, planning for such an event is complicated, especially if you don't know where to start. My number one goal for the Ironman was always to finish, but I also didn't want to finish looking like the guy in the picture, me ->
Exhausted, had leg cramps starting on the bike, walked the whole half marathon and was told by an older lady at mile 4 of the run "Not to by like that.

On the bright side I had 3 things going for me:
1. I could visit Louisville several times during the training, my parents, both Tim and Ryan lived there, so I could get to know the course. Chicago (where we lived at the time) is only about 4:30 hours from Louisville and riding on the course several times made a huge difference for me during the race. My advice to you would be, if you are thinking of doing your first full or half Ironman, pick a place where you know you'll be able to ride the course, this helps tremendously.
2. My friends, Tim and Ryan, had done an awesome job on their first Ironman 2 years earlier, so they could "share" all the secrets. Of course the fact that we had a bet going helped a lot too.
3. I have the best wife anyone could possibly ask for. Since I began training she has been my biggest supporter and has understood that some days (weekends mostly) I was going to be gone for 8 hours, training. She was and still is very supportive. I have talked to several women about her and they have flat out told me: "I couldn't do that".

Training

In order to properly start training, you need the very basics:

1. Swim: Suit, goggles and a swim cap (not necessary but I always wear one).
2. Bike: I actually did Louisville on a road bike with aero bars. You don't really need a TT (Time Trial) Bike. Once you know that you like the sport and want to continue racing, you can use that as an excuse to buy yourself a new bike, which eventually becomes an addiction, so be careful with that. See the chart for a deeper explanation of what I mean.
3. Run: Good running shoes. Make sure you get fitted for your shoes, having a shoe that's compatible with your body and running form, will decrease the likelihood of injury.

How abut programs that will help you finish a full Ironman?
There are several places where you can go get free training plans. I started at:
http://www.trifuel.com/triathlon/ironman-workouts/

You can also buy plans.
http://www.beginnertriathlete.com/discussion/training/trainingplans-list.asp

I wanted to get started right away and these programs are planned for a set number of weeks (20 in my case), I started with the program from the first link to get in shape. Then, once I was 20 weeks out I used one of the plans from the second link. These plans are relatively inexpensive and will absolutely help, they have been proven to work, if you follow them of course. One thing I noticed, that I was unfamiliar with, is that most plans are based on time, not distance. In swimming we always aimed to complete a certain millage for a particular practice. For triathlon times makes a lot more sense. Since these are not custom plans they want you to be training the same amount of time, no matter whether you are a 10 hour Ironman finisher or a 16 hour finisher.

Do I still follow these plans? I travel a lot for work, so these plans don't work for me anymore, I need to be able to maximize my time training, so I hired a coach. He has helped me tailor my training to my travel schedule and I have really been able to see results. I talked about him on my first post, Eric Kenney, from EK Endurance coaching. Wherever you are, if you want to get more information about a coach, the best place to start would be at your local triathlon club. In Boulder, I am lucky enough to belong to a great club, Boulder Tri Club. A Google search should be able help you find one in your area.

Swimming

Some of you might know that I swam in college, for the University of Louisville, Go CARDS! In my head I thought this was going to be the easiest sport out of the 3. That was until I got in the water and tried to swim 200 meters. I got to the end and I was really concerned because I had a long way to go. When I started swimming again, I remember being passed by a girl, which is not a big deal, but when she got out of the water I noticed that she was missing 1 leg. Another indication that I had a very long way to go. What really helped me was joining a masters swim club. Not only does a club give you structure during the workouts, but there is always someone there that can push you during practice. I was lucky enough to have the Chicago Masters 10 minutes from my house. I went as often as I could.

Biking

We lived downtown Chicago, so unless you drive outside of the city, there is only 1 safe place to ride. That is the lakeshore path, I rode up and down that path so many times during my training, I think I know every crack and hole on the path. You make due with what you have, when we lived in Chicago I really liked the path, I still do but now only for running now. I think moving to Boulder has really spoiled me and I wouldn't want to ride on the path anymore. At the time, I liked it so much that I convinced Ryan to bring his bike up with him one time hi visited, so i could show him how "awesome" it was were I trained. I remember that we were riding and it was pretty crowded, even though we went early in the morning. We ended up weaving around people, other bikes, tourist, it felt like all of Chicago was out excising and walking around that day. He was very nice and at the end he said he had liked it. Not sure how true that comment was but luckily I was able to snag a picture of him, so I have proof that it did happen.

As everyone knows Chicago is a very cold place in the winter, but my dislike for the trainer forced me to learn to ride outside in freezing conditions, which has really helped in Boulder for my training . The one thing I learned about the cold was that rode bike + Ice don't mix. I slipped and fell a couple of times on ice, thinking that my tires had spikes apparently, since then every time I see ice, I stop and get off my bike.
I had some great rides with Ryan and Tim in Louisville also. One of the first rides we did together, we rode part of the IM course. This was my first time riding it and I felt really excited. I remember telling them that we should ride 100 miles, they politely said that I was crazy and that we would probably ride half that. They were very right! During the beginning of the ride I was feeling great, everything was going well, and I kept thinking that I was going to find a way to convince them to go longer, until we got to a couple of big hills, the only big hills from the course. First it goes down for about 2 miles, then up for a little longer. You come to an T intersection, turn around and do it again. This is off HWY 1694. During the descend I was feeling happy with myself, still thinking of how I was going to convince them to go longer. They were in much better shape than me and they were able to climb pretty easily once we got to the hill. Me, on the other hand, I thought that my heart was going to pop out of my chest, and the hill seemed to never end. At the top of the hill, you turn around you are supposed to enjoy the descend. When I got to the turn around they had already been waiting for me, it seemed, for 10 minutes. I was so mad and frustrated, that when they offered me to rest for a couple of minutes, I flipped out and said something like; "I don't want to rest, I need to go because you are just going to catch me again anyway!". They could see that I was upset so they didn't say anything at the time, but they still give me a hard time every time they remember about that moment. I actually like it also, because it really shows me how far I have come since those first couple of rides. We had other great training rides in Louisville. Including a couple with sunrises like the one in the picture above.

Running

From the time that I started training for the IM, running has been my nemesis. It always hurt and I struggled the whole time. This is the sport in which weight really matters, I was carrying a lot of extra pounds and I think my body was just making me hurt, to let me know it wasn't built to carry that much weight and try to run 26 miles. Unfortunately I don't remember much about my runs to write about it, I guess my mind must have blocked out all the painful memories. Almost like when a woman delivers a baby, they forget how painful it was. It happened with Christelle, once Emma was 4 months old she had completely forgotten how painful it had been to deliver her and was ready for the second one. At least that's what I tell myself happened.

I will talk about the race in a future post. Thank you for reading.

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