Well, I have to say, I was a bit nervous going into my sixth Ironman competition in beautiful Coeur d'Alene, Idaho because of many unforeseen circumstances leading up to the race but it turned out to be one of the best races ever for many reasons other than my finishing time.
You see, to qualify your worth as an athlete, it is not advantageous to use total time as your gauge. In my case, I crossed the line in 11 hours and 37 minutes (swim 1:20, bike 6:05, run 4:01), 34 minutes shy of a personal record and 15 minutes shy of my slowest Ironman to date. The total time was not my success marker. The circumstances during the race were.
First, it's important to understand a few things:
1. My philosophy does not support high volume training. I prefer to enter a race undertrained than overtrained.
2. I broke my foot in mid-March and was not able to run for 8 weeks. I trained for this Ironman marathon on 5 weeks of running. Do I recommend it? No way. But it was a very strong lesson that proved for some athletes, monster volume is simply not necessary. Smart training is!
3. I broke my toe (opposite foot) 5 weeks before the race. It did not hamper my run training but it was an annoyance to say the least!
4. Due to a mountain bike crash, I was not able to swim for 10 days just a few weeks leading up to the race. No big deal in my book!
Okay, so here are my trials and tribulations leading up to race day:
1. I had 11 outside bike rides, the longest being 65 miles.
2. My longest run was 15 miles at one time.
3. I did swim the entire distance once in training in open water. It felt great! One of my biggest successes for this Ironman swim preparation was the ability to train in a 50 meter pool. It made the world of difference in my swim strength.
4. My average weekly training time over 6.5 months of preparation was 9.6 hours with 18% of this from swimming, 48% from biking and 32% from running.
5. For the first time in six Ironman tries, my nutrition was spot on with absolutely no GI issues to speak of during the entire race. Here's a breakdown of what this sport dietitian did (it worked for me!):
a. Pre-race: I drank 20 ounces of Clif Shot Electrolyte drink, a First Endurance EFS energy bar, and one Pop-Tart (frosted Strawberry!).
b. Bike: Per hour I averaged 408 calories, 1123 milligrams of sodium, 24 ounces of sports drink and 4 milligrams of caffeine. Felt awesome!
c. Run: Per hour I averaged 123 calories, 800 milligrams of sodium, 15 ounces of sports drink/water/cola NUUN and 25 milligrams of caffeine. Was a bit tired around mile 23 but I knew the finish line was too close to risk any GI distress so I stuck with the plan!
d. Grand totals for the day included 3080 calories, 10075 milligrams of sodium, 210 ounces of
fluid and 150 milligrams of caffeine.
e. I can't eat much post-race but about 2 hours after I finished, I did manage to consume 5 slices of veggie pizza along with 1/2 a bagel and about 20 ounces of sports drink. I went to bed feeling tired but nutritionally satisfied!
I learned a few lessons during my journey to my sixth Ironman finish:
1. Quality of life is far more important than anything else. I enjoy training but not to the point where I sacrifice the things that are far more important to me like spending time with my family. My wife and kids come first and I stick with my priorities, even during Ironman training. If I miss a training day, it's no big deal. I'm only human and life goes on!
2. Sure, I didn't qualify for Kona but as I mentioned before, my total time was not the success of my day. The fact that I remained in life balance during my training, was able to clearly prioritize my training with family and work and most importantly, be a positive role model for my kids and athletes whom I work with is the way I measure my success as a person, athlete and coach.
3. I had 4 first-time Ironman athletes who I was coaching at this race and it was a joy to be able to be there for them to make their experience a positive one. I was fortunate to be present and race along with them to make it a truly unbelievable experience for me as a coach.
4. You don't need fancy equipment to complete an Ironman. I rode a road bike with Shimano 105 components, clip-on aero bars and no race wheels. I'm not pro so I just couldn't justify those things (remember, life balance and priorities!).
As for the course...athletes can certainly argue that the new bike course was tougher than the old one and that the wind that Mother Nature threw at us was fierce and I will not argue with those points but what I will say is that an Ironman is tough no matter the environmental conditions or geographic terrain. You do Ironman for the challenge. Never step down from the challenge. Be there mentally and you will succeed!
Thanks for reading!
Posted by Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS at 7:59 PM