The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat.
An Ironman distance triathlon is not exactly combat but that quote reinforces the point that proper training is the best way to complete any goal. That was the secret to me getting across the Vineman finish line — I sweated a lot in training. Another thing that go me through the race was remembering the Endurance Athletes Creed. Endurance athletes are probably the best people on the planet and their encouragement and support is what fueled me to succeed.
I started training seriously for Vineman in January of 2012 (30 weeks before the race). Thankfully, I had a pretty good base to start with so it made getting into the training grove easier. Some of the key aspects of my training plan included:
Biked lots of hills: Hills are great for building your leg muscles and endurance. If you don’t have hills in your area, try and build your own by putting your bike or treadmill on an incline.
Did lots of bricks: Bricks are doing the tri events back to back. Swim then bike. Bike then run. Swim then run. This is an important part of training because it gets your body used to transitioning between the different events.
Practiced eating: I know, this sounds stupid but eating the the 4th tri discipline. You need fuel to keep you going over the 12+ hours you will be racing. I know this sounds even weirder but you will not want to eat or drink during a race. That’s why practice is essential.
Made sure to rest: Rest days are essential. They give your body the time to absorb all the training and recover. Usually, one is the norm but if you feel really tired, then two is okay. I rested one day a week (on Mondays).
Gradually build up and tapered down: My training plan had a gradual build up and taper down. This gave my body the needed time to adjust to the intensity of training. I’m glad I did not jump right in and hammer it like I wanted too.
Didn’t overtrain: Overtraining can be a real problem since it will wear you out before the race. The desire to train harder and harder is tempting but I stuck to my plan and that’s the reason I finished.
I always get nervous the first 15 minutes before a race. I’m not exactly sure why but it gets pretty bad. So bad that I want to blaze a trail to bleed off the nervous energy. Thankfully, I realized this a while back and started to apply the techniques below to ease my nerves and finish strong:
Start slow: I decided to warmup into each discipline so that I did not feel the panic of “getting going.”
Eat at regular intervals: I tried to eat and drink every 30 minutes on the bike and every rest stop on the run (it was getting kinda hot by then). This proved to be the best thing I did. Fuel and hydration are essential to finishing an Ironman.
Take breaks: There is no harm in taking a break to collect yourself. I took several breaks along the course (especially on the bike and the run) to settle myself and prevent bonking.
Encourage others: I found that the day went by so much faster when I chatted and encouraged other racers. It just felt so good to help someone succeed.
Find Allies: One important aspect of racing is allies that can help you achieve your goals. I found one in Michael whom I met on the run. The importance of allies is that they help you get past the tough spots and you push each other to succeed. Without someone like Michael, the run would have been pure torture.
Stop and walk if you have too: My run strategy was walk/run. I would run to the aid stations (about a mile) and then walk through them (and sometimes a little more :)). This allowed me to conserve energy and properly hydrate and fuel.
Take supplements: I dehydrate and cramp easy so I have to take supplements to replace essential vitamins and minerals. I use three Hammer supplements: Race Caps Supreme, Anti-fatigue caps and Endurolytes
My recovery started the moment I finished the race. I made sure to stretch, drink plenty of fluids and popped a couple of Ibuprofen for good measure (that stuff is magic!).
The one thing I regret not doing was getting a massage. That’s something I would do next time. What I actually did is listed below:
Eat right after the race: This will be a struggle but eat when you finish. I really did not want to suck down a chicken burger but I’m so glad I did. Real food tasted great and gives you the calories you need to rebuild your muscles.
Drink plenty of fluids: You can never drink too much after a race. Take as much in as you can and monitor your urine. When it’s clear, you drank enough.
Take a couple of days off: I took 3 days off to recover. It was hard to sit idle after such an amazing race but it proved to be what my body needed.
Ease back into it: My first workout was an easy swim. It was actually hard to get through but it felt great to stretch out.
Plan your next race: The high of finishing an Ironman lasts a while but then you start to crash. Before the crash, take some time to plan your next race. It does not have to be an Ironman but it should be something challenging yet fun. I plan on doing an ultra-marathon or a Goruck.
I had a blast racing at Vineman. It was a rush to be a part of so many peoples lives even for a day.
There are several things I learned and would do different. They include:
Kick more during the swim: One of the reasons I cramped during the swim was because my legs were cold. The reason they were cold was because I just don’t kick enough (my swim coach yells at me constantly about this). Once I started to kick, my cramp went away.
Bring Bandaids: I cut myself setting up T1 and it just never stopped bleeding. I wish I brought a couple of Bandaids to stop the bleeding.
Don’t carry so much: I’m a pack mule. I tend to carry all sorts of stuff I don’t need. Extra food, wallet, keys, warmers, etc. I guess I’m just used to biking without support.
Lift Weights: I could feel the fatigue and soreness in my joints due to over use. If I would have strengthen my muscles around my joints, I would have felt a lot better.
I’m looking for my next challenge. Maybe an Ultra-marathon or a Goruck. The most important thing for me is to set another goal. Without such goals, my training is undirected and my motivation wanes. I can even feel myself starting to slip — someone pass me a Gu packet!
Do you have any fitness goals? Feel free to share them in the comments.