Ironman Louisville: Three weeks into training

cycling

First 30 miles: “This must be what it feels like to be Evelyn Stevens!” Last 30 miles: “I am riding through quicksand on flat tires into a blast furnace.” I swear I mostly had fun.

Right now we’re just a little over four months out from Ironman Louisville, and it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that training for this thing is slowly taking over my life. I’m tired and hungry a lot, everything in my house is hidden under piles of swimsuits, bike equipment and training plans, and we’ve focused our date nights (or days, actually) around monster training sessions.

Fortunately for me, the start of my training coincided with a leisurely break I took between leaving my old job and starting my new one, which meant I basically had two weeks where I got to pretend to be a professional triathlete (aka lots of training, eating, and Netflix and literal chilling).

And doubly fortunate for me, my new job – which I am loving, by the way – has me scheduled to start work around 10:30-11 a.m., which means I get all my workouts done before I even go to work.  It’s pretty much perfect. I couldn’t have devised a better schedule if you’d asked me.

When I first started my pre-Ironman preps, I was still in the midst of training for Boston.  I was using the Run Less, Run Faster program so I was already swimming a couple of times a week and riding my bike on the indoor trainer.  After Boston, I took a week off from everything.  I got antsy after about a week, so I started swimming and cycling again. (I waited to run for another two weeks, just to be safe.)

I decided I wanted to follow the Be Iron Fit program by Don and Melanie Fink, so I structured my swim and cycle workouts according to the ones they lay out in their Base phase for intermediate triathletes.  (I went with intermediate despite being a n00b because the other two options were “just finish” and “competitive” and neither one of those fits my goal for IMLOU.)  The phase I’m currently in – the Build phase – started the day after IM 70.3 Chattanooga, and so that’s where I’m at now.

So, real talk – when I first started plotting out my training for this thing, I got really, really scared.  The amount of training is considerable, ranging anywhere from 10 to 14 hours of training a week, and that’s over a 30-week period.  That is a long fucking time to train for one event.

I looked at the training calendar I’d laid out for myself and how it stretched out over the course of several months, and I asked myself just what in the fresh hell I’d gotten myself into.

Then three things happened that made me remember why I was doing this:

  • I took part the Hurricane Man Rough Water Swim, which was 2.4 miles in the ocean, and I loved it. I felt stronger the further I went, and probably could have easily completed a full 5K. It reminded me that I’m actually pretty solid when it comes to endurance.  I’m not super fast but I’m tough and strong with a high threshold for boredom, which is the perfect recipe for an ultra-endurance athlete.
  • My Facebook feed was filled with updates from the Keys 100, which happened last month, and it reminded me of just how much I loved that whole experience. Yes, it was incredibly hard, but my god, I loved it so much. Since then I’ve wanted the opportunity to do another all-day endurance event, and that’s what an Ironman is!
  • I started my training, and almost right away I was like, “oh, that’s right, I actually like doing this stuff.” I had overwhelmed myself by thinking of the big picture when what I needed to do was just take it all a day at a time.  That’s how I’ve accomplished almost all of my goals – by breaking them down into mini-goals and focusing on them one at a time until I finally get to where I’m going.

So now all my psychological chips are in the Ironman pot, which is good because I’m not sure there’s really much room for ambivalence here. I could half-ass my way through most shorter distances at this point, but for the Ironman, I’m going to have to use my full ass.

For the next four months, I’ll be primarily focusing on two things: my cycling fitness and my nutrition.  I’ve already spent several years working on becoming a stronger runner and I put a lot of effort into becoming a competent swimmer, and it shows in my triathlon splits.  The problem is that the bike has rapidly become my weak spot, and as you spend more time on the bike than anywhere else in triathlon, this is no bueno.  Plus, being strong on the bike is key to being strong on the run.

I’ve been associating more with a lot of top-notch triathletes, and one thing I’ve noticed is that they are all strong cyclists. It’s clear that if I want to be decent at this sport, I have to keep putting my butt in the saddle.  I’m already well on my way to having a razor-sharp bike shorts tan line, so I just have to keep working at it.  Brian says that if I focus on cycling the way I have on running and swimming, I’ll be a strong cyclist in no time.

The other side of this is nutrition – not just during the race but in general. Being an athlete has given me an almost mechanistic view of nutrition, where I can clearly feel how eating certain kinds of food at specific times affects the way my body and mind function.  Like, if I don’t eat soon enough after a workout, I get headache-y and tired and my next workout will suck.  Or if I do something like eat a burrito the night before a race, I’m going to feel it out on the race course.

I’m also pretty aware of how my changing body composition has played a big role in my athletic performance.  My power-to-weight ratio has changed dramatically, which has helped me to be a lot faster and to be capable of climbing hills on my bike.  So I’m trying to stay pretty lean, but without sacrificing my strength or my overall health.

There’s a lot more to be said on both of those subjects, and fortunately I have like seventeen weeks over which to say it. Awww yeah, blog content for dayzzzzz.

Okay, the indoor trainer is calling – no outdoor riding today thanks to Tropical Storm Colin – so I’m off for now.  Hope you all have a wonderful day!

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10 responses to “Ironman Louisville: Three weeks into training

  1. I’m so excited for you!! Training for IMLouisville and a new job…how perfect!! If you don’t start work until 10:30 or 11 am, what time do you get off work in the evenings? I’m excited to follow your journey 🙂

    • Thanks, Kecia! I’ve been leaving work around 6:30-7 most nights, which is actually close to where I’d leave work most nights at my old job (except that was usually because I was stuck there due to breaking news, etc.) . It does mean I haven’t been able to go to my favorite hot yoga class, but that’s a small sacrifice to make for the opportunity to have a job I enjoy.

  2. One day at at time: that’s how I look at training, too. It’s the only way if you want to stay sane and healthy, and I think it keeps things fun.Which is the whole damn point.
    I feel lighter and stronger when I’m not worrying about my future workouts (because I am a big worrier). Anxiety makes me weaker. But when I lean into what I’m doing now, I don’t go to that panic mode when I have a big 2×3-mile workout the next day. I enjoy my easy run and then can attack my workout with enthusiasm.
    This wasn’t easy for me to learn, but it’s been worth it.
    Go get it, girl! I wish I could bike with you. I don’t know that I’m a particularly strong cyclist, but damn, I love it more and more each year.

    • Your whole comment makes a lot of sense to me, and I like the way you frame it. I am definitely one of those people who has a tendency to fixate on what’s coming ahead – like I can find some elusive sense of security in figuring out all the contingencies – but it doesn’t really do me a lot of good, not the way that slowing myself down and reminding myself to take each minute/hour/day/workout as it happens does.

      And I wish it were possible for us to bike together as well! Maybe one of these days….at the very least we could run together though.

      • Oh, I have a MAJOR tendency to fix on what’s coming or what might happen, especially if it includes disaster scenarios. I am a giant worrier. But I’m working on it…one day at a time. One run at a time.

  3. Can’t wait to hear more! I love everything about your training posts, and I’d love to hear how you are managing everything from your schedule to nutrition. I am still dipping my toe into big races and I am trying to figure everything out.

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