I get this question time and time again from people all over the country. It comes from folks that I work with, clients, advisers, friends, other athletes, family… you name it. For those that haven’t yet signed up for an endurance event such as a marathon, Ironman, or other similar event this seems to be the underlying question… Why are you doing an Ironman? Usually, this is followed up with - “Are you crazy?” or some other similar check of my sanity.
So, since it’s asked so often, I thought I would put together my best explanation below in long-form. Though, I must say that this explanation is rather the “logical process” by which I came to sign up for, and train for a full distance triathlon. For those that don’t want to read all the details, here’s the simplest explanation that I can give you: “Because I’ve always wanted to and I’m raising money for the Ulman Cancer Fund - I hope you’ll support the cause and donate by going here.”
Why am I doing an Ironman?
I’ve always admired the triathletes that compete in Kona each year and can remember watching the race on TV when I was little. I guess this is no different than many triathletes who get the itch to do an Ironman. For me it was a matter of time before I just committed to doing one. Just over 2.5 years ago, a good friend of mine completed the Disney Marathon and I went along to cheer him on as “support crew.” He didn’t train all that much, and was out there to just complete the day. I spent hours upon hours watching the race with fans that cheered the entire time. I stood at the finish line as the sun heated up the day, watching elation of the finishers. Wishing that I was out there with them. As he finally came across the finish line, he ran up to it tired, dehydrated, and yet found the energy to speed up and looked absolutely elated when he crossed the line. For me, that started the spark.
Later that year we took a guys weekend and went over to watch the Florida Ironman. It was amazing. We got there and as we drove into Panama Beach, FL the atmosphere started to change. We checked into our hotel/condo for the weekend and there were Ironman hopefuls and support crews everywhere. Getting up the following day to watch the race, we made it down to the beach for the swim start. Chaos! But, there was an overwhelming atmosphere of positiveness in the air and all around. People had written messages in the sand to their Ironman Hopefuls… it was surreal.
As we made it down the beach to watch the swim, the people around us were incredible. They’d come from all over the world to be there for their athlete. To watch him or her. To be there to support them with whatever may be needed. We stood in the middle of the fans and watched as the athletes made it out on their second loop of the swim course. At this point, I knew that one day soon I would be signing up for one… the intention was to sign up the next day (more on that in a bit).
Next up, we ran over to T1 to see the pro athletes come out and start on the bike course. Those guys are freaking unbelievable! Sub 50 minute swims just to start off the day.
Next, it was out on the bike course to see what this 112 mile bike ride would be all about. We leap-frogged some of the lead pack of riders and got to watch a lot of the amateurs come through as well. Inspiring.
Next up was heading back for to watch the run course, get some food, see the pro athletes finish, eat some more food, and then head back out to watch the final finishers come in from 10pm - midnight.
If you’ve never been at the finishing line of an Ironman in the last hour before the final finisher crosses, you absolutely must experience that for yourself… words can not describe the atmosphere of passion, courage, and pure motivation. That was the flame. I wanted to sign up for one right then!
After getting up the next morning, the realization of wanting to be able to finish strong set in. The realization of just how much time training would take and how long each of these Ironman Florida finishers had been working for this day. It was a really hard mental battle, but I knew that I wasn’t ready to sign up for the full distance just yet.
I started to think about how long it would take to get ready and decided that I would first complete a half-iron distance race, get another year of triathlon in the books and then re-evaluate my fitness/time before committing for a full.
I signed up for the Florida Half Ironman the next day and completed it last year. To me, getting through that was absolutely painful in the heat of Orlando, FL on a hot day in May. But it left me craving more.
Going into 2011 I knew that I was going to try and tackle a full iron distance race at some point in the near future, but the problem with Ironman races was that most all sold out immediately. Enter Revolution 3 Triathlon. I had been talking with them about a few different items and knew they had a race in Cedar Point… a 140.6, full iron-distance triathlon. One thing lead to another, and before I knew it I was committed to doing the race. A few weeks in to training I lost my grandmother to her long battle with cancer and, though extremely difficult on me and my family, I took it as a sign that this was the right decision - Revolution 3 Triathlon partnered with the Ulman Cancer Fund and Team Fight this year.
So, that’s the story, or I guess one could say the process, of how I got into this Ironman thing… and with it, I’m off to finish work before for another bout of training. Rev3 Cedar Point is just over 30 days away, and I think I’m almost ready.
Thank you for reading, and supporting TEAM FIGHT. Please consider a small donation to help support young adults affected by cancer. As little as $5 will help get us to our goal!
Thank you to everyone for the support! Warning, this is a long post. I tried to keep it short, but there was too much that needed to be shared and documented (so that I can go back and keep the lessons learned). Also, I’ve found that it helps me to learn what other triathletes have experienced, so I didn’t want to keep out some key details. Hope you enjoy it!
I arrived to the beach at about 6:40 am to get ready for the swim only to find out that the current and waves decided to pick up overnight. Normally, the waves wouldn’t bug me too much, but rather than push it hard in the open water on the first of two scheduled “Big Days” I decided to move to the backup location, a community pool nearby.
Big Day Swim Recap: 3,650 meters; 59:31 total time
As we pulled up to the pool, it was actually looking great. Nobody around, lanes in the pool, and all to myself. I felt ready and got into my wetsuit (I’ll be wearing it on race day so I want to get as comfortable in it as possible). Ironically, I think that was the demise of my bike portion (more on that later).
The swim started out pretty good, and I felt comfortable. I had a little tightness in the shoulders of my wetsuit for the first 20 laps, but then it subsided and I found a steady rhythm. About 20 minutes into the swim I started to notice that I was definitely warming up a little too much. Thoughts started to pass through the mind, and I should have listened to my gut which said to take off my swim cap and possibly even get out of the wetsuit so that I didn’t overheat. Rather than listen to my instinct I forced myself to continue to push on and even started to push a little harder in the swim. After all, my muscles felt good and my breathing wasn’t too bad so why not keep going.
As I was nearing the end of my scheduled 1 hour swim, my better half and awesome support crew, said that I was close to 70 laps. I was absolutely amazed and started to do the math in my head… I was near the full distance swim in around an hour’s time. Unbelievable!! I decided to keep pushing and ended up swimming a total of 73 laps (3,650 meters or 2.27 miles) in 59:31. I really couldn’t believe the distance/pace on this. Got out of the pool pretty happy to say the least.
As I walked over to the shower to rinse off, I noticed that I felt a little dehydrated, so I got some water in pretty quickly. Figured that I just needed about 24 oz or so, and headed to the house for a quick rest before the bike. This would turn out to be a big mistake.
Big Day Bike Recap: 61 miles, 18.3 mph - Very Dehydrated
I started off on the bike and had a nice 50 mile loop planned. As I got into the first few minutes of the ride I noticed that my heart rate was about 15 beats per minute higher than they normally were. Though this seemed much too high at the time I figured that it might have just been the wind or maybe the hard effort I put in on the swim… either way, surely it would come down. It didn’t.
I settled in to my peddling rhythm and began to focus on my nutrition plan. I kept thinking my heart rate seemed high, but also kept finding what I thought to be logical explanations… must be the effort, the pace (was holding about 20mph in a strong cross wind), the earlier swim, the heat… and so the list went on. The only item that wasn’t in the list was the one that would take me off the bike at just over the halfway point of my scheduled ride time. Dehydration.
After noticing that I was going through water much faster than my normal long rides, I was so thankful to be able to take on additional bottles from my better half and wonderful support crew who met me out on the training route. I started to feel a little better, but that only lasted for a brief few minutes. Miles 40-50, my heart rate continued to be elevated, my perceived effort was much greater than it seemed it should be, and my mental state started to crumble a bit. When I pulled in to the planned quick stop at mile 50 I felt light headed, and a little nauseous. Something was wrong.
No matter how hard it feels, I normally keep pushing through, but this time, I just couldn’t do it. I drank some more water, had a couple more endurolytes, and got off the bike. ”I think I cooked my insides,” were some of the first words that I could mutter. At this point, I realized that the decision to keep the wetsuit and swim cap on for the entire hour swim was a big mistake and I was paying for it dearly. Later in the day we estimated that I lost nearly 5% of my body weight due to dehydration, even though I was taking in water at a slightly higher rate than normal on the bike. Simply put, this was/is unacceptable and a huge lesson learned.
After a short period of time, I decided that I needed to at least try and get back on the bike. After about 7 more miles, I realized that I was doing more damage than good and decided to call it short. Humbled, hurt, and mentally distraught I slowly peddled back to base camp for the day.
Big Day Run Recap: 10 miles, 1:47 time
After an extra hour recovery after the bike, about a gallon of water, some Hammer HEED, a turkey sandwich, and some more water, I decided that I had to at least give the run a try. I was concerned that if I wasn’t able to complete the run my mental confidence would be in a state of hurt. So, with that focus I set out, my wonderful support crew along with me on her bike the whole way. It was not the fastest run by far, but it felt good to get it done and finish out the day. The first 45 minutes of the run felt pretty good overall, the next 20 minutes were a little tough, but the last portion was just what I needed. I averaged about 155 heart rate (steady zone 2 for me) at a 9:40 pace and then was able to push the last mile at a sub 8 pace. With that, I decided to call it a wrap for the day rather than continue another mile… I wanted to end on a high note and needed it mentally.
Big Day Recap Totals:
All in all I can look at this big day a couple of different ways. I’m choosing to look at the positive from it and take away the lessons learned. Not only am I choosing this path because I would rather be optimistic, but also because as a first time iron-distance triathlete, I need to keep the negative thoughts out of my mind. There are only 7 weeks left until Rev 3 Cedar Point and I can’t afford to let negativity settle in to the mind.
With that, here are some lessons learned and positives from the day:
At the end of a long day like this, I’ve found that I still enjoy the sport of triathlon and I want to do better next time. I look forward to my next Big Day on August, 13th and will be ready.
Thanks for reading.
As I near the second full week of the Build 1 phase of my training there are only a couple of months left until the big day. Even with the big day approaching, there have been a few workouts recently where it’s very hard to find the motivation to go all out. I think that many athletes run into this phase as we get closer to our goal race for the season. It’s not that much farther out, our training has progressed to points that we never though we’d get to, and the training now flat out HURTS!
I’ve had a lot of folks where I find my motivation to continue to train so hard each week and live, I must say, somewhat of a monk-like lifestyle from time to time. So, to answer those questions, and find my own motivation, here is a list of things that I go back to each time I need to dig deep to push through a workout.
Two weeks in to training I decided to raise funds for the Ulman Cancer Fund. When training gets tough, thinking about everyone else who has been affected by cancer helps make my pain feel that much less. Please consider donating to the cause - click here.
Each of us have someone in our family that inspires us. For me, and specifically for this training period, I know that she continues to support me and watch over me. I’m thankful for the time we spent together and the lessons she taught me. Her life stories inspire me and when I think I can’t go that much further, there’s always a story I can think of where it makes my training session seem that much less significant.
Mind Over Matter
It’s been said many times that the mind is much more powerful than we know. Seems that this works both ways. When my mind decides that I’m tired, it’s really hard to have my body feel like it’s not tired. Though, generally after I go through the motions and get out for a swim, bike, or run - the body generally let’s the mind know that it is ready to train hard. Keeping positive thoughts throughout the process helps continue to dig that much deeper.
That’s right… FEAR! It’s a wonderful motivator. I don’t want to be that person that doesn’t make it to the finish line of an Iron-distance triathlon because I didn’t train hard enough. Logically, I know that if I put in the work then I’ll achieve my goal. When you harness fear, it can be a wonderful thing and unbelievably motivating.
Visuals and Aspirations
I believe in visualizations. If you can picture it, whatever “it” is becomes easier to achieve. When I’m down and out, I’ll watch what other triathletes are doing, peruse some of the pro’s training videos and read some articles about what they are doing. Usually, it helps to motivate me to get out the door and push harder. It’s aspirational in nature, and it works.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
When all else fails, I remember that there is a plan in front of me to follow and if I just follow the plan, the road will lead me to where I want to be. Funny how much we spend time on planning, but forget to just take the steps in the plan to achieve our goals.
What are some ways that you find motivation?
So, it’s been way too long since I last posted. Though, the training hasn’t let up at all. I just completed Base 3 today with a very tough 93 mile bike ride after yesterday’s wonderful sprint triathlon. Generally speaking, I’m feeling good, but definitely a little nervous about the upcoming build periods leading up to the big race. I can’t believe that it’s only 77 days until the big race (Rev3 Cedar Point Full Distance). If I’m honest, I’m a bit nervous about the distance, but have made some great progress in Base 3 during the past 4 weeks. During Base 3 I clocked a total of nearly 45 hours in training and about 540 miles. I also had my longest ride ever at 100 miles on one of the hottest, smokiest days (proud of that effort) that we’ve seen in a long time. Notes for Base 3 & Things that I’ve Learned: With those updates, I’m going to get some food. Need to keep the body fueled and recovering quickly. Build One starts tomorrow and the intensity and distance increases yet again. Within the next 3 weeks I’ll have my first “Big Day” training as my program shifts to focus on training sessions closer to the actual race. Wow… 77 days. Here we go!
So, it’s been way too long since I last posted. Though, the training hasn’t let up at all. I just completed Base 3 today with a very tough 93 mile bike ride after yesterday’s wonderful sprint triathlon. Generally speaking, I’m feeling good, but definitely a little nervous about the upcoming build periods leading up to the big race. I can’t believe that it’s only 77 days until the big race (Rev3 Cedar Point Full Distance).
If I’m honest, I’m a bit nervous about the distance, but have made some great progress in Base 3 during the past 4 weeks. During Base 3 I clocked a total of nearly 45 hours in training and about 540 miles. I also had my longest ride ever at 100 miles on one of the hottest, smokiest days (proud of that effort) that we’ve seen in a long time.
Notes for Base 3 & Things that I’ve Learned:
With those updates, I’m going to get some food. Need to keep the body fueled and recovering quickly. Build One starts tomorrow and the intensity and distance increases yet again. Within the next 3 weeks I’ll have my first “Big Day” training as my program shifts to focus on training sessions closer to the actual race.
Wow… 77 days. Here we go!