11/13/15

The preparation starts now


The triathlon bug hit me hard when I finished graduate school in Dec 2005. Over the next 11 months I became a first-time Boston Marathon finisher, a Half Ironman finisher and an Ironman finisher.

People would tell me "Marni, you are a natural for endurance sports!"

My first year of endurance sports was perfect. No injuries, no sickness,  no setbacks. It was smooth sailing for all of 2006 and I had many great accomplishments to celebrate by 2007.

Nobody likes setbacks when they happen but I often wonder how my life would have been different if I demonstrated weaknesses during my first Ironman journey?

When we are aware of weaknesses, we can strengthen them. But when we have strengths, this brings an element of confidence to our training. Confidence is great but for a type-A athlete, confidence is like adding fuel to a fire that is burning too quickly.

As a beginner, I wasn't aware of my weaknesses. But now, looking back, I had a lot of them. From the outside, I wasn't making any mistakes so I defined my training as "perfect" but in being a newbie endurance triathlete, I never gave myself a chance to get worse before getting better.

Despite qualifying for Kona in my first Ironman, maybe I should have taken more time to improve my skills instead of assuming I was a natural because everything came so easy to me when I started.

Although my first season as a competitive endurance triathlete was perfect in my eyes, it wasn't too long after I qualified for my first Kona, at my first Ironman, that I found myself struggling with injuries. 

The reason why I share this is because I often see triathletes progressing too quickly with their endurance. With so many endurance triathlons to choose from, becoming a participant for an endurance race is so easy.....you are just a registration fee away from a race entry on the computer.

Athletes love to compensate for weaknesses (ex. dislike of swimming and strength training) by making up with a strength (love for long bike rides or the feeling of running fast). And because we like the feeling of being successful at a strength, we often push aside the weak areas that are a struggle (or are less enjoyable).

Although sometimes athletes can get away with this in short distance triathlon training/racing, when it comes to longer distances, you can't expect to stay healthy, injury free and improve by having a weakness and ignoring it. 

And this is so true for anyone who is or is considering training for an Ironman.

The Ironman distance is a big deal and it is a dream for many. Not just Kona qualifying but simply crossing an Ironman finish line. 

I love when athletes tell me that they have a dream of doing an Ironman or qualifying for Kona because I get it.
And I am honored when an athlete chooses Trimarni coaching to get to an Ironman start line. 

Triathletes who strive for a challenge see the Ironman distance as the pinnacle of all things swim, bike, run. Even though any other distance triathlon still counts as a big deal to train for, there is a certain hype, allure and mystery that is the 140.6 mile distance triathlon.

As you watch the NBC broadcast of the 2015 Ironman World Championship on Saturday at 1:30pm EST, I can assure you that you will cry, laugh, smile and find yourself itching to register for an Ironman. Even if you are just getting into the sport of triathlons or running, inspiring stories from age-groupers alongside motivating performances from professional athletes can make the everyday fitness enthusiast say "Could I do that?"
And not too long, you may find yourself saying "I will do that!"
And then not too long after that "I'm going to be an Ironman!"

Karel and I were honored to be part of the NBC premier of the Ironman Kona broadcast last night in NYC as Clif bar athletes and I can promise you that you will not be disappointed when you watch the broadcast this weekend (be sure to record it as you will want to watch it over and over for inspiration).

So as you watch the Ironman World Championship broadcast on TV and toss around the idea of signing up for an Ironman next year, I'd like for you to think back to my story and consider the word

PREPARATION

When I trained for my first Ironman, I had a strong swim background but I lacked a strong overall foundation. A strong foundation is the key to long lasting success in a sport.
Just like most Ironman-in-training athletes, I focused on the miles and volume in an effort to be prepared for the long-haul ahead of me on race day. I thought that the only way to be prepared for the distance is to do a lot of training and a lot of long workouts.
But I was wrong. And I learned the hard way.

If you don't fully commit yourself to preparing for an endurance triathlon by building a solid fondation, you develop bad habits. You get very comfortable training long but with poor skills, form and little emphasis on the important things (like diet, mental strength, sport nutrition)

Following a training plan that emphasizes miles or volume is not the smartest way to initiate preparation for an endurance triathlon.

The reason why I bring this up is because most triathletes do not want to do the work that they need to do, when they need to do it. To a determined athlete, strength training, dialing in the daily diet, mobility work, working on weaknesses and getting in the pool a bit more are things are boring, time-consuming and maybe even a little uncomfortable.
For many athletes, going long is easier than focusing on skills.
Regardless if you are new to the sport or a veteran, it is so important to return to the basics in an effort to build a strong foundation. 
As exciting as it sounds to say you are training for an Ironman or to participate in an Ironman, don't rush your journey. 

In my journey, I improved rapidly.
But by my next season, I needed skills that I never developed in my first season. My lack of skills and sport-specific strength proved to be a major weakness in my development.
When I tried going longer or faster in round #2 of training for an Ironman, I discovered that my insufficient prep in round #1 of Ironman training resulted in a very weak foundation.
A weak foundation equaled a body that could not tolerate training stress which resulted in injury. 

For athletes who seek immediate results, rather than carefully and slowly working on strength, skills, stamina, speed and fundamentals, there is a tendency to do too much out of fear.

If you are questioning if next year is the right time to do an Ironman, ask yourself if you have taken the time to work on the basics and you have adequate foundation and skills to start an Ironman journey?  

If you are considering another Ironman next year (or already registered for one), be willing to fully prepare like you have never prepared before. No shortcuts. Be willing to learn, willing to change, willing to address weaknesses and be willing go back to the basics. 

As you watch the Ironman, remember that every athlete has a weakness.
And as an athlete yourself, be aware of your weakness and be willing to properly prepare. 

Chains break at their weakest link.
In 2007, I broke when I added too much volume and intensity without a solid foundation.
I had the time to train but my body couldn't tolerate the training stress. 

My advice to you, as a future Ironman athlete, a potential Ironman athlete or a past Ironman athlete, is to improve your foundation and improve your skills and improve your confidence.
You can do this year after year after year.

But now is always the BEST time to start your preparation.