Training smart for Ironman #8

Over the past 8 years I have found myself standing at 6 different starting lines (IMFL, IMKY, IMWI, IM Placid, IM Austria and IM Kona). For all 8 of my Ironman races, I have felt the same flood of emotions as I wait anxiously for the start of my 140.6 mile racing day.

Despite feeling the same mix of emotions from a nervous belly to fully body excitement, I have discovered that every IM journey to reach the starting line is unlike the last journey. Sure, every Ironman journey shares similarities such as an investment in time and a greater investment in money alongside commitment, hard work and discipline but there are also many differences, specific to what is happening in life while training for an IM.

Over the past 8 Ironman finishes, I have learned that the pressure to arrive at the starting line healthy and hungry to race is always the ultimate goal because racing with a healthy body and mind is simply the result of my body positively adapting to the right amount of training stress alongside the right amount of recovery to foster performance gains.

A healthy, motivated and injury-free body will always outperform an unhealthy, unmotivated and injured body. Plus, it is a lot more fun to reap the rewards of your hard work effort when the body can train consistently well with proper recovery to reduce risk for fatigue, burnout and injury.

Because life doesn’t stop just because I am registered for an Ironman, I am constantly aware of the many outside stressors that can affect my training journey. Therefore, over the past few years Karel and I have developed a strategy for training for the Ironman to ensure that we minimize setbacks in our Ironman journey. Thus we train smart by training hard and recovering harder. And above all, we love to race smart with our current level of fitness as we find ourselves raising our limits by being challenged by our faster competitors.

Because hard work is only one component to arriving to race day with a healthy body and mind, I do not see training for an Ironman as a journey that involves only long miles and hours of swimming, biking and running. Certainly, I am well aware of the positive impact of hard work as well as a balanced and healthy, wholesome diet. More so, the timing of nutrition with training as well as the critical need for sport nutrition during training is a specialty of mine. Alongside my specialty of understanding how to fuel a body in motion, strength training, recovery tools and sleep have also contributed to my body tolerating the demands of Ironman training.

No matter what Ironman race I choose to participate in or what the conditions are on race day, my desire to improve within every Ironman journey provides me with the ongoing motivation to see what I am capable of as an age group triathlete.

Over the past few years, I have changed the way that I approach Ironman training and thus I have been able to help many triathletes enjoy their Ironman journey without focusing on weekly hours or miles but instead, finding enjoyment in the simple art of training the human body to improve. Through quality training sessions, the body adapts well to training and thus, habits are formed that are productive to race day goals.

In the last three Ironman races that I have done, I have overcame obstacles while training for the Ironman but have found myself with personal best times. Although different courses and race day conditions, I have gone from a 10:58 Ironman finisher, to 10:43, to 10:37 and now, a 10:17 Ironman finisher. Although this time drop has occurred over 4 years, my motivation to train and race in Ironman competitions has continued, with gains in fitness, despite the constraints of my life.

My message for any Ironman athlete (newbie or veteran) is to stop counting weekly hours or obsessing on arbitrary paces that “should” be performed by race day and instead, build a training plan that allows for maximizing your performance over a period of time, without compromising other areas in your life that can bring you performance gains AND happiness and balance in life. 

Because every age group triathlete has the ability to improve if dedication and hard work are grounded in your mindset, stop emulating  what everyone else is doing within their constraints  and freedoms of their lifestyle and do not compare your readiness to succeed by another athlete’s training hours, paces or miles.

On June 29th, 2014, Karel and I each executed a perfect race which resulted in personal best times for every sport alongside a total personal best time that will likely not be broken for quite some time. This isn’t to say that we will not get stronger, fitter and smarter as athletes but on June 29th, we found ourselves embarking on a day of racing 140.6 miles which was the culmination of training smart with the least amount of training stress to foster the largest performance gains to be used on race day. Because it is very hard to consistently improve in a race that lasts over 9 hours for most age groupers, I am incredibly thankful to my body for not only giving me 8 Ironman journey’s to enjoy but for also allowing me to push it to higher and higher limits as I try to discover my ultimate potential as an endurance triathlete.

Race report to come shortly.