Ironman Lessons Learned: The Cliche’ Version

Ironman isn’t just a race, it’s a lifestyle.  So much goes into that one day that to think you can just wake up and do it is insane.  Along the journey you are going to find out A LOT about yourself and your friends, family, co-workers and the sport.  It is amazing the things that I learned going down this path.  There were so many lessons that I could write post after post after post about the lessons learned but I won’t.  I know you are all a busy group with all the swimming, biking, running, stretching, strength training, core work, eating, sleeping, work, meeting friends, reading to your kids, etc that you do so I boiled it down to 5 simple clichés.

Your road to Ironman will be bumpy, just accept it.  Not everything will go as planned, just accept it.  One day you will be able to swim 1:30/100y and the next day be struggling just to finish the set, just accept it.  One Monday you will be on top of the world, but by Friday you will feel like death…..just accept it.  This is how it goes, but if the following five lessons I learned can help you then it was worth every moment of putting my body and mind through it.

1- Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

I learned this because I will have raced a total of 12 races this year.  I started with a 15k in January, then a 1/2 mary, 1/2 IM and it kept going.  All the while training has to be fit in along with trying to be a husband, step-dad, partner in my business, etc.  It was more than I should have done.  When the peak training for Ironman Arizona hit I was frustrated, crabby, mad and HUNGRY.  It had all come to a crescendo during those 4 weeks and as much as I love racing I don’t think this schedule is smart.  Our bodies and minds need rest, so take it.  Step back from the game.  For the past two weeks I have done what I want and when I want.  This has been the best recovery ever and I am loving it.  Sleeping in, making breakfast, talking to my wife past 8:30p……it is all awesome and very much welcomed.  Be mindful of what you are going to put your body through and don’t bite off more than you can chew.

2- Treat Others As You Would Want To Be Treated

The paragraph above talks about my frustrations and my crankiness and that spilled over into my home life.  I was not the best husband I could be because I was tired.  Just plain tired.  I wanted to sleep, I wanted to eat, I wanted to train and all on my time.  I tried my best to not put myself at the top of the heap but there were times when I did even when I didn’t have to.  I like to get my workouts over with early in the morning so I can spend time with my family.  The problem with that is there were days where I was just too tired to do anything and yet I pushed forward to do them.  Sometimes it worked out but other times I was just a crabby asshole.  Your family and friends deserve to be treated better and so if you are tired then bow out of the event and let them have fun rather than being the thorn in the side.  If your training calls for a 4 hour bike ride but you want to be with your family then do a 3 hour bike ride and be fresh for them.  Treat them the way you want to be treated.

3- Just Say No

Did you read that last paragraph where I say to just bow out?  It is so important to know and understand your limitations.  There are only 24 hours in the day so you need to respect that.  You are training for 3 hours, you need to work for 10 hours, you need to sleep for 8 hours and that totals out to 21 hours.  You have three hours remaining so make sure you take advantage of them and don’t try to do too much.  If somebody asks you to help them out think about it long and hard before you commit to it.  They may be upset that you say no but it could help save the friendship in the long run because you end up being a no-show since you fell asleep on the couch.  I know that as IMAZ training continued on I started to post less on the blog.  I stopped posting on the weekends unless there was something very compelling I wanted to say.  I have also cut back on the number of blogs that I read as I just didn’t have the time and more importantly I wanted to read it and understand it.  If my eyes are glazed over then I am not really comprehending what I am looking at and this is a disservice to the writer.

4- Listen To Your Body

I cannot tell you how important this is to having a successful training cycle.  I know when I went through the first cycle for Texas that if the schedule said 4 hour bike ride well damn it I am riding for four hours no matter how tired I was.  In the cycle for Arizona if the schedule said 4 hour bike ride and I finished the loop in 3 hours and 39 minutes I got off my bike and did my run.  I got home 20 minutes faster than I expected and that was a good thing.  I didn’t push it because nothing was going to be gained in that 20 minutes of riding.  When I needed a nap I took it.  If I needed to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich I did.  Your body will give you the answer to all your questions so listen to it.

5- Eat All Your Veggies

This is not a ploy to convert everybody to vegetarianism but more of a reminder to treat your body like a temple.  You cannot possibly go out and ride your bike for 4 hours and do a 30 minute run and then stuff your face with Oreo’s right after.  Make sure that you are recovering properly with the proper nutrients.  Get all the macronutrients that you need into your system (carbs, protein, fats) as well as your micro-nutrients.  Be smart about what you eat and when you eat it.  It is important to get that recovery shake or meal into your body within 30 minutes but after that listen for your hunger queues.  Your body will tell you when it is hungry so pay attention and then make sure you are eating something that is going to help you recover and get out the door the next day for training.  That is not to say that you shouldn’t have pizza if you want it.  Go for it and enjoy the hell out of it.  You earned it and it is what your body is craving at the time but remember that you need fuel for that next workout and making wise food choices will help make that workout a bit easier.

My journey to Ironman Texas 2013 begins one week from today and I am excited.  This week is my last unstructured week and I am taking advantage of it.  I am swimming a little, riding the trainer a bit and running for however long (not how far) I want to.  I added in Bikram Yoga as well as using the rowing machine (that machine is now affectionately known as the Machine Of Death.)  I have gone to a wheat-free (not gluten-free) diet and it all feels right.  My body is telling me that it feels good and I like to hear that.  When the clock strikes on the 10th I will be rested and ready to get into the workouts again, but I also know that if something doesn’t feel right I am going to back down. I have 6 months until this next Ironman and I want to get there in one piece and that starts by following the lessons I have learned in 2012.

What Lessons Have You Learned From 2012?


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  1. Natasha says:

    I could relate to all of your lessons learned! I’ve been through it all I just think I never fully learn them… I still have a hard time saying No to certain things, like friends inviting me to run races with them that I know doesn’t really fit into my schedule! :-) Good luck on your new journey!
    Natasha recently posted..December to Remember: FITspirationMy Profile

    • CTER says:

      I hear you. I will say that the one that Karen wanted to do (Arbuckles to Ardmore) was probably my favorite 1/2 marathon and now I want to make sure that it is incorporated into my training for IMTX (if possible) but not going to shoe-horn it in.

  2. Big year for you. When the clock turns over to 2013 you’ll definitely be reflecting how much change happened in 2012.
    Patrick Mahoney recently posted..November In ReviewMy Profile

    • CTER says:

      I calculated that the racing alone was 515.4 miles. I lost my spreadsheet on the number of miles logged for the entire year but it certainly was a lot. I hopefully am smart enough to listen to my own advice for 2013. Right now I have nothing on the schedule after IMTX and it is kind of nice to not have anything there.

  3. Marlene says:

    Always learning from you! Great advice here and I will remind myself often.

    • CTER says:

      You have a big year coming up so please take this advice. Marathon prior to IMLP is going to test you for sure so be prepared and hopefully this little list will help you. And always feel free to reach out with questions you have regarding any of this stuff. You know I’ll always help you out.

  4. katie says:

    yup. you’re a smarty.
    katie recently posted..november at a mile highMy Profile

  5. Adena says:

    Love this Jason. Thes a lot of wisdom here. One of my favoUrites!
    Adena recently is it Sunday already?My Profile

    • CTER says:

      Thanks Schmoodge. It has been a long year of training and learning and I’m grateful for the lessons I learned along the way. Use them wisely as you move down your path with Carole.

  6. Jeannie says:

    Thank you Jason! I will take this all into consideration as I train for my first IM :)

    • CTER says:

      You are quite welcome Jeannie. You know you can ask me questions any time you like. I have a lot more lessons I have learned along the way but these 5 were the biggest. I am beyond excited to watch you and your journey.

  7. Maria Simone says:

    This is an excellent post that captures the tensions of training, family and lifestyle really well. Of course, sometimes we do have to re-learn these lessons, as Natasha commented. But, being aware of these lessons makes it easier to recognize when we fall into potentially problematic behaviors.

    For e.g., the crabbiness. That seems to come with being tired, but I know that’s what it is, so I can nip it in the bud a bit more quickly, rather than giving in to it.

    I’m excited for your 2013 journey!

    LMAO about the rowing machine. Now you are starting to appreciate what I meant when I said I’ve puked a few times thanks to that thing ;)
    Maria Simone recently posted..“That” PersonMy Profile

    • CTER says:

      Regarding the Machine Of Death… is so tricky because you look at it and think it can’t be that hard. You start and it is all going swimmingly and so you pick up the pace a bit and you are still ok. Then you pick it up a bit more and now you are about 3-4 minutes into it and thinking HOLY SH*T THIS F’N HURTS!!!!!!

      I am going at it again tomorrow and thankfully I am only doing it for 5 minutes right now as that is more than enough.

      Yes, being aware of these issues is a huge help. I know that when I am crabby now I just go in the other room and watch TV and ZONE OUT. I mean OUT. No social media, nothing and just sit there. The TV is on but nothing is being comprehended and then within moments it is bed time.

      I also know that in 2013 I am going to use my dog as a model. When she is tired she sleeps. When she is hungry she eats. When she wants to play she does and when she wants to stop she does. I mean it should be that easy shouldn’t it?

      2013 is going to be a ton of fun and on 12/10 I will have a new post up discussing the changes that I am looking forward to in 2013. Why 12/10? Well because that is two days before my b-day and it is the perfect time to discuss change.

  8. Nicole says:

    Great lessons! I totally agree with listening to your body – I pushed through some stupid workouts that I probably shouldn’t have at times and ended up exhausted quite often! It definitely interferes with your key workouts when you do that.

    One more lesson I’d add is to make sure to get some core workout and a bit of light strength training or yoga in if you can!
    Nicole recently posted..Girls on Track Fall Season Finale!My Profile

    • CTER says:

      Doing core was my achilles heal. If it was on the schedule I did it but if it wasn’t I didn’t even though I should have been doing it. I told my coach that for this upcoming training cycle the words CORE WORK had to be on there otherwise I would skip it again.

      Yoga is in the training plan for me as well. I am doing bikram right now and am enjoying it tremendously.
      CTER recently posted..Recipe: Fajita Risotto CakesMy Profile

  9. Jeff Irvin says:

    #6 – If you are sick just ignore it by going to Canada and race an Ironman and pretend you are fine!

    Oh wait, that is my list (-:

    Great year man! Looking forward to ripping it up in’13 with ya!

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