ed. note: this is how pitiful things have become on the blogging front – I started this post last weekend during Hurricane Hermine, and I’m only just now getting around to finishing it, oh, a week later. Good lord, I feel pathetic.
Howdy from soggy, windy Florida! I was stranded at home today and given an involuntarily rest day, so I figured why not catch up on blogging?
I’ve found the key paradox of blogging is that the more I have going on in my life (aka potential blog fodder), the less time and energy I have for actually writing about it. But things are happening that I would still like to write about, and so in lieu of doing a series of proper blog posts, I decided to just do another list post where I’d hit on the highlights of Ironman training, and if possible punctuate them with excellent gifs.
1. I finally completed my first century ride!
I literally set this goal last summer and never even managed to come close – until two weeks ago. Brian and I just looked at each other that morning and said “fuck it, it’s time.”
I loaded up my awesome new Coeur aero tri top with what felt like a billion calories, and we set off.
Less than six hours later, I’d was DONE.
The unreal thing is that I felt great for pretty much the whole ride (with the exception of miles 80 through 90, which I don’t really remember that much because my brain sort of shut down at that point), which tells me that YES I NEED TO EAT MORE ON THE BIKE.
Ed. note: Since writing this post, I’ve completed another century ride – actually 106 miles, to be exact. It was hot, it was windy, it was hilly, my soft palate decided it no longer desired the feel of solid food after mile 80 – yet I got that shit done. Go me.
2. I’ve been doing short brick runs after my long rides.
I was feeling spectacular after the aforementioned century, until it was time to put on my Hokas and go for a 15-minute run. I took my first stride and literally howled.
It took everything I had to stay upright. I’ve had moments during long runs or races where I wanted to curl up in a ball and take a nap on the course, but never before have I felt like my legs just didn’t want to work at all. I was so stunned by the sensation that I actually started laughing as I ran.
Fortunately after about five minutes, they remembered that “oh yeah, we’re legs, this is sort of our thing!” and I was able to run again.
3. Oh, hai muscles!
I don’t know if they’re new or if my lower levels of body fat are are just revealing what’s always been there, but I’m looking pretty dang buff these days.
A coworker took a photo of me basically treating a bucket of cheese balls like a feedbag, and when I saw the photo I was like, “WHOA MY ARMS.” I guess that’s what swimming 7-10,000 yards a week will do for you.
And then my quads are also sloooowly starting to look like…well, like the quads of someone who rides a bike a lot. Which I am totally here for! Thigh gap, schmigh gap – I need these bad bitches to be able to pedal hard and fast for hours.
(Real talk: I like flexing my quads and checking them out in the mirror. Hey, don’t judge!)
4. I’ve started wearing gear that makes me feel a tiny bit like a poser.
It started during an Olympic-distance triathlon I did down in Siesta Key, when I noticed over the course of the 1.5k swim that my tri top was catching tons of water and slowing me down, the way a parachute drags when you’re running sprints. That’s awesome for training but it sucks for racing, so I decided to get myself a swimskin from ROKA.
The first time I suited up in my ROKA swimskin before a race, I felt a little bit like a superhero.
Which was cool at first! But then I was like, “oh shit, I look like I know what I’m doing. I better back this up.” That’s a lot of pressure!
But you know what? I’m still glad I got it, because it really does make me faster and eliminate drag, and it’s worth the extra 15 seconds it takes to strip it off in T1. Both times I’ve worn it, I’ve had really solid swim times. Coincidence? Probably, but whatever.
And then Coeur Sports branched out into sleeved aero tops. The sleeved aero top is a relatively new development in triathlon – I still remember watching Luke McKenzie race in a John Deere green one during Kona a couple of years back and thinking that ish looked hot as balls.
But more and more people started wearing them, and I became intrigued. So I bought the red-and-black one from Coeur and wore it during my first century. Holy smokes, it was amazing. I rode my century at a pace that was faster than any previous long rides, and I avoided sunburn AND stayed cool.
(I’d noticed a weird mole on my back a few weeks earlier – had it checked out, it’s nothing – and now I’m finding myself way less inclined to spend hours with my back exposed to the sun, nothing but a coating of sunblock between my skin and the Florida sun’s blistering rays. Take this as your reminder to get your skin checked, especially if you’re outside a lot like I am!)
5. I’m starting to really dislike summer.
I had an epiphany the other day: what if I actually really like cycling, but I don’t know it because the only time I ever do really long rides is when it’s so hot it feels like I’m riding directly into a blast furnace?
I see people I know on social media who just loooove to ride their bikes forever, but they’re in, like, northern California and Vancouver and Michigan and the Carolinas. It makes me wonder if they’d still love riding as much if they did it during the summer in Florida.
And whenever I finish an outdoors training session, I have to actually wring out my clothing afterwards. I’m not even a heavy sweater! It’s just that disgustingly hot and humid right now.
The sweat situation is so bad that I can’t re-wear my sports bras the way I used to. In fact, I don’t think half of them are going to survive this season. Why? Because they always smell like ass.
I’ve never been one of those people who’s all “fuck summer, bring on fall” (I mean, obviously, I live in a place where fall doesn’t exist) but this is really starting to make me reconsider some of my life choices.
Fortunately, though, it will be over soon and we’ll have 60-degree days in December and I will remember why I suffer through August and September.
6. I’m battling the most ridiculous heat rash.
My upper thighs look like they’ve come down with a very peculiar localized case of chicken pox. Massive thanks to my Coeur teammates for reassuring me that this is in fact something that happens and that it will pass, even though it hurts and I’m a little embarrassed by the way I look in a swimsuit right now.
So I’ve been spending a lot of time sitting around with no pants on, swabbing my thighs in tea tree oil and trying not to gawk at how unfortunate my skin looks right now.
I’ve never wanted to be able to wear pants so badly in my whole life. And I don’t even like wearing pants.
I’ve been training through the discomfort but my god, just go away already, you nasty little rash bumps! You are not welcome here, now shoo!
7. I watch a lot of Ironman videos.
About once a week, I fire up YouTube, make myself a little nest on the couch and watch videos about Ironman races for a couple of hours. Sometimes it’s old episodes of Kona, sometimes it’s the promotional videos produced in-house by the World Triathlon Corporation. Sometimes, I’ll be on my bike and I’ll watch the motivational ones that are mash-ups of clips set to, like, Eminem or electronic music or something.
And reader, I have no shame. I will admit that I often cry while watching them.
Is it because I am so depleted from my training? Is it because I’m so inspired and motivated? Is it because I’ve found that I am one of those women who gets teary-eyed at Publix’s holiday commercials?
I have no idea. All I know is that I am at the point in my training where watching sweaty, exhausted people stumble across a finish line is enough to cause me to sob like a child.
8. I vacillate between being excited and totally fucking terrified.
This is undoubtedly the most daunting athletic endeavor I’ve undertaken. Brian and I have discussed whether an Ironman is harder than a 50-mile road race, and I come down firmly on the side of “Ironman.” (Why? Simple – I didn’t spend 6+ hours with a saddle jammed against my perineum during the Keys 50.) I’m trying hard not to think about the full distance because then I just get overwhelmed and I shut down.
Instead, here is what I am thinking about: the party-like atmosphere at Ironman races, the feeling of anticipation as I wait in line to jump into the Ohio River, sharing the experience with other athletes and volunteers, coming down the finisher’s chute, crossing the finish line, hearing “Caitlin Constantine, you are an Ironman!”
9. I finally feel like I’ve got a handle on this thing.
Last weekend, my training schedule went like this:
- Saturday: 2-mile swim, 20-mile bike ride, 6-mile run
- Sunday: 106-mile bike ride
- Monday: 16-mile run
No doubt, I was sore at the end of that run, and I spent about 20 minutes with my legs up a wall before hobbling off to a nice epsom salt bath.
But sore, I can manage. Tired, I can manage. Cranky, I can manage.
The key words: I can manage.
I’ve still got two big weekends of training ahead before I taper, and yeah, I’m ready to just race this fucking thing already. But at least now I finally feel like I’ve got a good chance of finishing the race, and most importantly, enjoying myself (most of the time…I hope).