I started training for my first full (and half) Ironman two weeks ago.
Yes, I’ve only done one triathlon before, and it was a sprint.
Yes, I realize that an Ironman is a really, really, really long race. 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run. People (and by people, I mean my mother) keep asking me if I understand how far that is. Yup. I’ve got it.
But I’m the type of person who likes adventure. I like goals that other people think are unreasonable, irrational, or just dumb. If it doesn’t seem somewhat unattainable, it almost isn’t even worth my time, and an Ironman? Well to me, the girl who never ran a step before she turned 21, hates swimming, and is a terrible cyclist, that’s pretty close to unattainable, so it’s game on.
I made the executive decision to hire a triathlon coach, because it occurred to me that I hadn’t the slightest idea how to go about training for a triathlon at all. I survived my first sprint triathlon thanks to a random book my friend found and a plan she modified for us, but I knew I needed to do better if I was going to even attempt such a crazy challenge. Enter Jamie, aka the Wizard of Oz, aka the Triathlon Oracle.
He looks harmless enough, right? Don’t be fooled.
After what seemed like an exhaustive search and interview process, I picked Jamie as my coach for a few reasons, namely 1) he wasn’t intimidated by the number of marathons I run and seemed to think it wouldn’t be a problem to work around my schedule and 2) he didn’t charge the same price as Chrissie Wellington’s coach. Seriously, some of the coaches I talked to wanted $800 a month. Um, y’all might want to go ahead and put that information on your website because if I had known that, I would not have called you. I am no Chrissie Wellington (yet).
So anyway, I was really excited to begin training for the Ironman, even though the full one is over a year away. Then I got my schedule, and I was no longer quite so excited. I’m sorry, Jamie, what do you mean I have to do “intervals?” How necessary is this “tempo run?” And when you say run/bike HARD what exactly does that mean? When I looked at my schedule for week 1 (which, mind you, started the day after I ran a marathon), I realized that I am the biggest wimp in the world when it comes to pushing myself. Basically, I don’t push myself at all during training, and my fitness and race times reflect that.
Now I do hill work outs, drills, tempo runs, hard intervals, easy intervals, spin ups, and all sorts of other things. And to be honest, it feels pretty awesome, if not a little exhausting. I have seen huge improvements in my fitness in just the past two weeks, and I’ve pushed myself to do things I never thought I could do. Today, I held down a 7:30 pace for a mile and a half…at the end of my run. It might not seem like a big deal to you, but I wasn’t even breathing hard! Maybe there is something to this whole coaching thing.
Here’s a brief synopsis of some things I have learned on the road to Ironman:
1) Planning is key.
One of the things I am getting used to is the constant packing and unpacking of all my gear – the clothes, the shoes, the towels, the bike, etc. This foolishness requires planning. Workouts take a long time and I’m a busy person, so every minute of my day is scheduled. That means if I can’t complete my workout at the designated time because I forgot some piece of equipment I needed, then I’m screwed – so I check and double check my stuff every night, and I’m getting used to living out of a duffle bag.
2) Being wet all the time sucks.
I feel like I am constantly soaking wet, and it’s really annoying. This can be attributed to the chlorine dripping out of my still-wet hair in the afternoon after a lunchtime swim, the offensive amount of sweat pouring off of me for hours each day, or the fact that if I am not either sweaty or covered in chlorine, I probably just got out of the shower…again. I am not a person who enjoys being wet or sweating. I realize this means I picked basically the most ill-suited hobby ever, but oh well. Anyway, since the road to Ironman began, I’m trying to get used to living life as a giant fish and I just can’t.
3) Anything creepy that can happen, will happen.
As y’all get used to reading my blogs, you’ll realize that I am the type of person who has really bizarre things happen to them a lot for no apparent reason. I give to you two recent examples. Last week, my training partner and I were super proud of ourselves for waking up at 4:45 am (ughhhhhh) to go do our long bike ride for the week. We had literally been riding for about half a mile when this random guy comes up out of absolutely nowhere on a bike…and my tire bursts at the exact same time. He was just a guy on a bike – not wearing bike clothes, not on a “real” bike. He seemed nice enough and helped us change my tire, but I couldn’t help but ask why he was awake so early when he clearly wasn’t training for anything. His response? “Sometimes I can’t sleep so I just ride around, man.” Um, ok. Fortunately he spared our lives and went on his merry way, and Amanda and I made a mental note to never, ever ride or run alone in the dark.
This morning on an easy run around my neighborhood (because my coach FINALLY let me do something easy), my friend and I heard a really strange sound coming from the yard of a house nearby. It kind of sounded like someone was half moaning, half screaming – or a cat was dying, hard to tell. As we run past the house, we see an old man leaning up against his truck, holding a shotgun and staring at the top of a tree in front of him. He never took his eyes off that tree. Just another Saturday morning run in the South Carolina countryside, y’all!
4) Quit whining and buy the good tires.
After my tire blew out (and literally, it was in shreds), I decided I had had enough of this flat tire drama and went to the store where I bought my bike and told them I needed a new tire. There’s all different levels of tires, of course, so I asked them which ones were going to be the least likely to be punctured, shredded, flattened, etc., and I bought those. Pricey, yes, but if that means my tire is going to stay inflated when I have to ride away from a potential ax murderer at top speed, then so be it. And so far, so good – I have ridden five times now with no flats, which is a personal record. I know, it’s ridiculous.
5) Life happens.
For all the planning and energy that really training for something takes, sometimes life happens and you have to move things around. It’s ok to miss the occasional workout or have to change the order of them to accommodate your life, and doing so doesn’t mean that you have failed. This is something I struggle with, but I’m getting better. I was really sick on Thursday night and had to work from home on Friday since I was still sick, and I panicked because I had to do a bike and run workout on Friday. Oh no! What to do? Well, I couldn’t breathe out of my nose, so working out clearly wasn’t an option. I told myself that Friday would be my rest day instead of Saturday, and if I felt better on Saturday, I would do the workout then. And you know what? That’s exactly what I did. And nothing bad happened. At the end of the day, we plan and prepare the best we can and sometimes things just happen – during training, during life, during a race, whatever! If we aren’t flexible, those situations can get the best of us. So plan, plan, plan…and then just do your best.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find a way to fit four spare tires and tubes onto various bags on my bike. You know, just in case.
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