8 things that have happened since I started training for an Ironman

I’ve taken on some big athletic challenges before – three half-ironmen, two ultras and six marathons, to be exact – but none of these compare to what I’m dealing with right now as I train for IM Louisville.

And here’s the sickening thing – I’m not even in the peak phase of my training.  I’m just starting Week 19 of a 30-week training plan. Week 19.

I’ve watched Brian go through this training cycle twice before, so I knew it required a substantial investment of time and energy, but I didn’t fully grasp just how much time and energy until I was in the thick of it myself.

So now, in the three months that have passed between the Boston Marathon and now, I’ve noticed that my life has changed in some pretty substantial – and, if I’m being honest, also kind of hilarious – ways.

1. My personal grooming routine is currently at the absolute bare mins.

Face of makeup? Nope. Nail polish?  Yeah right. Blow-dried and styled hair?  LULZ. Y’all are lucky I wear deodorant.

I have two bathroom drawers full of luxurious makeup and guess how much of it I wear these days?  None of it, that’s how much.

Have you ever tried to apply eyeshadow to a face still bearing the marks of swim goggles?  Have you ever gone running while wearing eyeliner and mascara, only to come home and find that shit smeared down your face like Chris Hovan’s eye black?

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Yeah, no.

Nail polish is also gone, as apparently it’s no match for chlorine, and I’m not going to reapply it every two days because my manicure got jacked up during masters swimming.

And my hair?  Let’s just say the inventor of dry shampoo is a god(dess) among (wo)men.

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2. I’m always eating, and if I’m not eating, I’m thinking about eating.

Today was a rest day, so I ate reasonably – coffee, breakfast, a couple of snacks, lunch, dinner and wine – but on days with workouts?  If the food is not firmly nailed down, it will be inhaled directly into the gaping vacuum that is my face-hole.

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And pool workouts are the best/worst. Forget getting the munchies after smoking pot – what about the munchies after swimming 3500 yards in a pool?  Sometimes I can’t even wait to get home, and I make Brian stop at McDonald’s so I can get a breakfast sandwich.

I feel you judging me, by the way, and I don’t care. McDonald’s breakfasts are delicious.

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Of course, because it is so flippin’ dang hot outside right now, sometimes I’ll finish a tough workout and feel absolutely trashed by the heat. The only thing I want to do is find some cold water so I can sit very still in it for at least an hour.

What I don’t want to do is eat, and so I have to force myself to eat like a good little athlete so my body can refuel and rebuild itself.

But that’s only happened, like, five times. Mostly I’m just happily hoovering up food so I can replenish the monster caloric deficits created after I do something like ride my bike for four straight hours.

3. We’ve taken Netflix and chill to another level.

No, not that “Netflix and chill.”  I mean we literally watch a ton of Netflix while chilling on the couch. Get your mind out of the gutter.

Seriously, though, I’ve never been a huge TV watcher – I just have a couple of shows I like a lot – and in the past I’ve always sucked at taking recovery seriously.  So, like, a recovery day would end up being a chores-errands-meal prep day, which is important, but it’s not really recovery.

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But Ironman training has left me no choice but to park my butt on the couch and watch back-to-back-to-back episodes of Bloodline.  (Or a documentary about Jaco Pastorius, or Office Space for the 47th time, or…)

Speaking of the wonders of Netflix, I can say with certainty that I would not be nearly as consistent with my indoor bike workouts as I am were it not for Gossip Girl.

I’m currently in the middle of season 4 – and I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve rolled my eyes and flipped off the TV when Serena was onscreen – and man, does it make grinding out intervals in my big chainring a hell of a lot more enjoyable.

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UGH I HATE YOU SO MUCH THAT FLAMES…ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE…

4. My tan line game is…interesting.

There’s my bike gloves, my Garmin strap, my arm coolers, my singlets, my tri tops, my cycling jersey, and my sport bikini tops…

And then there’s two different sock lines, one for running and one for cycling. My sunglasses have give me tan lines, and so has my visor.

I have a tan line from my bikini bottom, which makes for a lovely little white strip around my hips when I wear my one-piece to masters.

Basically I look like I fell asleep in the sun while snuggling with an octopus.

But nothing can hold a candle to my bike shorts tan line, which carves a precise line around the middle of my thigh. Above the line, I’m Wednesday Addams.  Below the line, I’m Paris Hilton.

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I acknowledge I look ridiculous when I wear a swimsuit but ask me how much I care.  Hint: I don’t.

Having weird tan lines is just one of the trade-offs I made when I decided I cared more about being an athlete than about being pretty. It’s a trade-off I’m perfectly comfortable with making.

(FWIW, I always slather myself in SPF.  I once accidentally saw a post-op photo of Brian after he had a skin cancer removed from his upper lip, and that was all it took to get me to take regular full-body dips in Coppertone before heading outside into the sun.)

5. Laundry. Ugh, so much laundry.

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6. And where did all this sports gear come from?

I swear, the stuff multiplies in the night.  I go to bed one night and wake up the next morning with a new pair of goggles, a swimskin and some new running socks scattered around the house.

(OK, that’s not true – I know how we ended up with it.  It’s called “online shopping,” and also “I swear I really do need this” and “I read on Slowtwitch that this will make me faster by like a half-minute.”)

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A cupboard full of stuff we only eat when working out.

But seriously, we have a cupboard that’s all sports water bottles, another one that’s full of sports nutrition, a room crammed with bikes, wheels and spare parts AND that doesn’t even include my bookshelf full of sports-related books.  Because a woman really can never have too many books about women and triathlon. (I currently have four.)

7. I’m tired and sore a lot, but in a way that feels pretty great.

As Brian once put it, “I’m incredibly fit but can’t do shit.” The mantra of athletes in training everywhere.

Some part of my body is always sore – right now it’s my neck and upper back, after spending five-plus hours in aero on Sunday – and I’m usually a bit on the sleepy side.  It sounds like it should be awful, but it’s not.

The soreness isn’t painful, but rather just a reminder that I worked hard earlier that day, and it’s nothing that can’t be helped with some foam rolling and some yoga.

The sleepiness works in my favor, as I’m a chronic overthinker and so being a little worn-out actually helps me be more laid-back and relaxed, and also a hell of a lot less awkward.  (Although for me, “a hell of a lot less awkward” is still way awkward to other people, but whatever.)

That’s basically the story of the athlete in training – finding that fine line where you’re pushing yourself and your limits so you can grow stronger and faster, but not pushing so hard that you break yourself.

So far I’ve managed to hold that balance pretty well, I think. Fingers crossed.

8. I’m pretty sure I’ve said at least 90% of the lines in this video in the last six months.

Everything except the stuff about training with power, but give me another year and I’m sure I’ll be saying that shit too.

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23 responses to “8 things that have happened since I started training for an Ironman

    • OMG YES. The sandwiches and hash browns are like little bundles of salty, greasy joy in my mouf. GIVE ME ALL OF THEM.

  1. Another rocker of bike short tan lines here. I have a bbq/pool party coming up in a couple of weeks and ordered a new swim suit, all gung ho, only to realize that yep, those tan lines will make me look ridiculous anyway. Oh well. At least my suit will be pretty.

    • I’m sure your swimsuit will be totally beautiful, and also remember that your bike tan lines are just evidence that you are a cyclist, which is awesome as hell. 🙂

  2. The best advice I have for surviving Ironman training is find a good recovery drink and have it immediately following any long workout. Especially if the thought of food grosses you out. I completely believe that my shaker full of Endurox chugged as I dragged my ass upstairs to sit in a cold water tub (coldest setting, no ice, covering my hips) for 20 mins after every hard bike, run, or brick was the magic combo that kept me healthy and recovering strong for all those months of training. Good luck! I love following your training posts!

    • Oh this is a great idea. I’ve done this a couple of times – a shaker with juice and some protein powder – but I have admittedly not been consistent about it. I will make sure to do it next time I have a workout like this (which looks like will be this weekend, yay). Thanks for the tip!

  3. Hi Caitlin, I’ve just done mine in Bolton last weekend, it was amazing. I wasn’t able to run as much in training as I wanted due to knee issues caused by doing so much cycling (bike fit magician might have sorted me out) but I’d also never run a marathon so was really worried throughout the bike that I wouldn’t Be able to run. For you, once you finish the bike you know you’ll finish so it’ll be a great relief!
    You’ll love it! Which one are you doing?

    Oh, on washing, what changed for me was that I lowered my standards instead! Fresh clothes for each workout? Umm no, not unless I was super sweaty! Mind you, I don’t live in Florida and did quite a lot of training in the rain!

  4. OMG! Loved the part about falling asleep in the sun entwined with an octopus! Laughing so hard because I’ve been there! When I was in high school in Iowa we did at least 6 triathlons each summer. By the end of the summer your upper arms and outer calf had the weirdest markings from the Sharpie numbers sunburnt into your flesh. But one number usually stayed the same….the age on the calf. Like a tattoo my parents approved of…..to ward off the guys by saying “Hey, she’s underage! “

  5. We live ALL of this every year in our house…why do we keep doing it?! I feel empowered every time I overcome a tough workout and when I cross that finish line. I’m so excited for you to experience that IMLou finish line!!

  6. Coming to this from the Spouse part of Ironman training…you forgot the sudden drop in desire to actually Netflix and Chill because you’re just so constantly tired 🙂

    • Hahahahaha yeah I didn’t want to share that because it’s sort of TMI, but yes, I don’t understand people who are like “my libido is higher than ever!” I’m like, the second I’m near a bed, I’m passed out!

  7. Loved reading this. Brought back so many fond memories of training for IM Louisville 2010! Good luck in this year’s race! Be glad they moved it to October this year. Be VERY glad!

    • Thanks! And I salute you for doing IM Louisville back when they had in the summer! If they hadn’t changed the date, I would have never, ever done this race. You’re a boss for doing it in August.

  8. Awesome! Keep at it and you’ll do just fine. What I discovered was I really stuck to my coach’s training plan and ate really healthy….until the last 2 months. I was always hungry and I gave in and had an Italian sausage smothered in veggies, mustard and cheese. After that…everything went downhill as far as food. HAHA I’m not a soda drinker but dang, Coke is what got me through the run portion. God bless the Coke inventors. I looked forward to it every aid station.

    Good luck and enjoy the ride!

    • Thank you! And I hear you on Coke during those long rides/runs. I didn’t fully understand until I did the Keys 50 a couple of years ago, and full-sugar soda became my lifesaver. Now I love it during races! (Outside of races, it’s still too much for me.)

      Thanks for stopping by!

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