bunches-swimWhy this? Why an Ironman?

When I decided to start triathlon, it was because I wanted to follow CrossFit’s advice to “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” I was, and still am, very uncomfortable with swimming. When I started, I couldn’t swim across a 25-yard pool without stopping to catch my breath at the other side. Triathlon seemed to be the perfect sport to combine one of my strengths (run) with one of my biggest weaknesses. But why Ironman? The short answer is – to make my dad proud. One childhood memory that always sticks with me is Dad watching Ironman on television and telling me how impressive those athletes were to be able to continue persevering through each event.
When did you get the idea to do it and when did you take the idea seriously?
After doing my first triathlon I fell in love with the sport. They’re a lot of fun, so I decided to continue doing triathlon regularly. Ironman was always kind of a distant possibility. I noticed I tended to perform better over longer distances, so I decided to complete Half Ironman Miami in October of last year. I didn’t make the decision to go for the full Ironman until late December though. After doing a lot of research on the training requirements and discussing with my friends and family, I decided to commit.
How much training have you done? What did a peak training week look like, roughly?
Hahaha this is the best question. No getting around it – I’ve done a lot of training. Formal training began in January and included one sprint triathlon, three olympic triathlons, and one half Ironman. Lots of two-a-days, sometimes three. My peak training week looked like this:
Monday – CrossFit, 2-hours of bike interval training, and Yoga
Tuesday – swim 70 minutes continuously and 45 minutes of speed work on the track
Wednesday – CrossFit and 1 hour, 45 min on the bike
Thursday – CrossFit and 1 hour run
Friday – Yoga
Saturday – 75 mile bike
Sunday – 14 mile run and Yoga.
What are you most nervous about?
I thought for the longest time that I’d be the most nervous about the swim. But given the relatively larger volume of bike and run (112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run vs. 2.4 mile swim), I think I’m wiser to fear the run. I now have a much better appreciation for how fatigue sets in, and the run will really test my ability to actively recover and manage my nutrition well. I think Steve was right – “There’s no swimming in Ironman. Swimming is just what people do before the Ironman begins.”
Photo by Stephen Angelsmith How has CrossFit fit (or not fit) into your training plan?
CrossFit and Second Wind are really important to me, so when I met with my coach initially to see if he would be a good fit for me, I emphasized that CrossFit had to be a regular part of my training. He agreed that we could make it work and I’ve averaged around three classes per week all year. During a race, I find my CrossFit training really helpful – particularly when I hit the wall. In CrossFit, I regularly experience “mini wall-hits.” It’s that moment right around round 7 or 8 out of 10 when I think, “Oh my God…I don’t know if I can get through this.” This moment almost always happens in long endurance events, and when it does I just remind myself how many times I’ve been in that moment, and how I’ve pushed through every single time.
How has this impacted your wife?
Emy is the best! She is not only my supportive and loving wife, but she is head of the “Bunch Support Crew” AND my chief bike mechanic! On a more somber note, it impacted her a great deal. For a while we joked that “we don’t talk anymore” because I was always training. I haven’t been around as much to take care of the house or the dog, and Emy picked up my slack. I’ll always be grateful to her for doing so, and for allowing me to pursue this crazy dream.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to try it?
Step 1: Get permission from your significant other – you’re going to need lots of help from this person.
Step 2: Get smart on Ironman – there are lots of books and media on how to prepare, not to mention lots of resources at Second Wind. Get educated on what this is going to take and the type of training plan that will work for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Speaking of which…
Step 3: Build an Annual Training Plan – it doesn’t have to be super-detailed in the later weeks, but you should at least know what types of workouts you will be doing throughout the year. Nutrition, aerobic capacity, muscular endurance, speed work, rest days…you’ll need all of the above and more. See Step 2.
Step 5: Suffer
Step 6: Improve
Step 7: Repeat Steps 5 and 6.
Anything else you would like to add…?
Consider hiring a coach – this is the route I went and I would HIGHLY recommend it for anyone attempting their first Ironman. I thought I knew what I was doing when I first built my training plan and, well, let’s just say I’m glad I had a professional take the wheel.
Going Long: Dani Grigsby
Going Long: Theo Hadjimichael
Going Long: Grant Barker
Going Long: Andy Howells