Last week I finally made it out to a racing series sponsored by a local grocery store called "No Frills". The cost was right at $3 for a 5 mile, mostly flat, out-and-back course about 15 miles south of Omaha. My triathlete neighbor had been pestering me for the better part of a month to run one of these - but I was still getting back into the flow after taking off January from running. Because I didn't quite feel like truly racing yet I decided to wear a heart monitor in order to keep things well under control. The course went by some lakes next to the Platte River - as I was running by I realized that some of my Ingram relatives owned a place on one of those lakes and I had learned to water ski there as a child. After the race (I got second) - 10 of us went out for breakfast.
To me the midwest can best be described in those two words - No Frills. There aren't fancy mountains, or "come hither" beautiful weather, or bright Times Square lights. There is an understanding that not only is all of that "look at me" stuff too egocentric - but that it distracts from the truly good things in life. Warren Buffett isn't a billionaire in spite of being from Omaha - he's a billionaire because he's from Omaha. He doesn't get distracted by flash - he just finds businesses that will be successful based on the numbers and his understanding of the markets. Film director and Omaha native Alexander Payne finds success in the CGI/3D world of the movies by simply letting talented actors tell a compelling story. Yea I know - yawn.
I've long thought of endurance training in the same way. It's not anything you do on one particular day - it's the accumulation of what you do everyday. My favorite metaphor for training is Andy's "pressure and time" from Shawshank Redemption. I think that's even more true for a full IM than it was for even the marathon.
Having only one season of triathlon training under my belt and having never participated in a full IM it might be presumptuous for me to think I know what it's about - however, I do have some key things that I'm focusing on that I think will make me successful this September. From my conversations with Ryan and Alyssa - along with my own observations - there seem to be three things that are most important to a successful Ironman. 1) be efficient in each discipline 2) be able to process a large number of calories during the race 3) be mentally prepared to keep running strong even when you have pain with every step.
The first part is what 95% of training is about. Volume increases efficiency from the cellular level all the way to the stride/stroke. I've started to swim much more in the last month (39.5 km for February) - and I can feel the difference. An important part of being successful in running and swimming is making little microscopic changes to your stride/stroke while trying to maintain a certain pace at the end of a workout. Eventually if you do that enough your body starts to understand what body movement is most efficient.
The second part has been somewhat difficult for me to understand. When I ran track in high school many coaches still didn't like their athletes drinking water until after the end of practice. They thought it toughened us up. The problem is that water and nutritionals increase performance - and so you should practice in the way you're going to race - so that your body is used to taking in fluids and calories during exercise. A long training day can also lead to feeling completely exhausted for the next day - with IM training there aren't many days that you can just completely blow off - so it's important to make sure you are replenishing everything your body needs as quickly as possible after the end of a workout.
The last one is most difficult to prepare for since I can't put my body into exactly the same amount of stress during training that I'll experience during the IM. I picked up an interesting training idea from Alyssa - running a 5 miler on Sunday evening after a long ride on Saturday and a long run Sunday morning. She said the thought of her Sunday evening training runs helped push her to the end of her Kona qualifying performance.
Over the next month I'm going to pretty much keep my training stable - 10-12 hours per month is enough to prepare me for the 16-20 hour weeks coming up in April without breaking my body down too early.
Here's what I've been up to the last few weeks:
Monday: 1 hour bike
Tuesday: 1 hour swim morning & 45 min run
Wednesday: 1 hour bike
Thursday: 45 min run
Friday: 1 hour swim
Saturday: 1 hour run
Sunday: 1 hour 20 min swim & 1 hour bike
Total: 8 hours 50 min - 3 hours bike 3 hours 20 min swim 2.5 hours run
Monday: Day off
Tuesday: 1 hour swim morning & 30 min run
Wednesday: 45 min run
Thursday: 1 hour swim morning & 1 hour bike evening
Friday: 45 min run
Saturday: 1 hour swim & 45 min run morning (5 mi @ 6:10 pace)
Sunday: 1 hour swim morning & 2
hour bike afternoon
Total: 9 hours 45 min - 3 hours bike 4 hours swim 2 hours 45 min run
Monday: Day off
Tuesday: 1 hour swim morning - 30 min run
Wednesday: 1 hour swim morning - 1 hour bike evening
Thursday: 45 min run
Friday: 1 hour swim morning & 1 hour bike evening
Saturday: 1 hour run morning (10k at 6:10 pace) & 1.5 hour swim afternoon
Sunday: 1 hour bike & 1 hour 15 min run
Total: 11 hours - 3 hours bike 4.5 hours swim 3.5 hours run
Planned this week
Monday: 1 hour swim & 30 min run
Tuesday: 2 hour bike
Wednesday: 1.5 hour swim & 30 min run
Thursday: 1 hour swim
Friday: 1.5 hour swim & 45 min run
Saturday: 45 min run
Sunday: 1 hour swim morning & 1 hour bike evening
Total: 11.5 hours - 3 hours bike 6 hours swim 2.5 hours run