What Ironman Training Has Taught Me......so far!

[caption id="attachment_6349" align="alignright" width="267"]experience_lessons_ironman_triathlon_endurancesport Source: New Media And Marketing[/caption] Ironman training has taught me a lot, and I am very happy with my decision to do two Ironman races in the same calendar year because of the lessons I have learned.  I am very inquisitive by nature and am always asking questions.  I am also a planner and like to know everything I am doing before I start doing it so that it limits the chance of surprise.  Lastly, I am a person with the ability to forget very quickly. With this combination of traits training for Ironman Texas and Ironman Arizona one right after the other has provided me the opportunity to understand what it takes to train for and race an Ironman, even two within months of each other.  We all see the pros and how they are able to train for 8 hours per day and take 2 hour naps and have their food cooked for them (although I'm not sure that Pro Triathletes have this going for them yet) but for us we have to figure it all out and in a limited amount of time. You see we have families, jobs, friends, and other responsibilities outside of the triathlon world. We will make mistakes during our training and hopefully we are keeping careful tabs on what we are doing so that we can avoid that mistake the next time we tie the laces on our running shoes, or buckle our chin straps on our bike helmet (you are wearing your helmet at ALL TIMES on the bike correct?)  The biggest mistake we make as age group triathletes is to ignore our bodies queues for rest, for food, for proper recovery.  We also ignore our training plans at times.  We have all been there when the plan calls for an 'EASY' 5 mile run and you get going and it feels great so you push it.  Big mistake because while you had a tremendous 5 mile run you have just set yourself up for a potential downfall at the next day's training session. When I started training with Coach C I would look at the schedule and laugh at some of the paces she wanted me to run.  It was practically walking, but today when I see an EZ run and I know it is a 10:00/mi pace I smile wide and love it.  It is those days that allow me to add volume to my training and that is the key to getting stronger and faster.  Volume.  When I was down in Houston last weekend with Jeff during our Triathlon Training camp we talked constantly about the keys to getting faster and we always came back to volume.  It was the ability to change the mindset from doing interval work all the time and running every run at 8:00/mi that has allowed us to get faster.  Jeff proved that by qualifying for Boston in his first attempt at the marathon distance this past February.  For me the proof was in the pudding when I ran a 4:09 marathon at then end of Ironman Texas.  My first stand alone marathon was a 4:29 back in 2009. When I see people posting on Twitter and Facebook about their workouts and it is repeatedly at top speed I wonder how long before they realize that doing that is going to cost them in the long run.  Experience is key in endurance sport, but so is asking questions of those experienced people.  I always email Kevin, Jeff, Jon and Matt about certain training techniques or equipment.  Why is something better than the other?  I have the benefit of being one year behind them (although I am older than all of them so you can teach an old dog new tricks) and I get to learn from them and their successes and failures. This past weekend I was scheduled to ride for 4 hours and 30 minutes.  I was going to start at 12 pm because of Karen's triathlon (race report coming soon) and so I knew that it was going to be extremely hot and that the key would be hydration.  I also got nervous that I would not have enough calories so I ate a lot prior to going out on the ride.  Upon leaving I told Karen that if it took me 4 hour and 15 minutes to do the loop then so be it.  If I rode between 16 mph and 17 mph then so be it.  This was experience taking over and knowing that getting the 72 miles on my legs was more important than doing those miles in 4 hours flat. Unfortunately I did not stick to my normal plan of eating and within 5 minutes of being on the bike I puked.  I knew that it was not from the heat but my concern was how long could this last and how would it affect me.  I kept pedaling and kept throwing up.  It wasn't liquid at all but the food I ate prior to leaving the house.  I could tell that my stomach was bloated and I wasn't dehydrated so I kept on going.  I also kept up with my hydration and nutrition plan of drinking every 15 minutes and a HoneyStinger every two hours.  This was working even though I did keep on puking until about 3 hours and 30 minutes into the ride.  It was at that point I stopped at a gas station (another thing I would not have done prior to this training cycle) and refilled my bottles with 2 liters of water.  I finished the ride about 45 minutes later and did my 30 minutes run and all throughout the run I felt great.  No stomach issues and no  dehydration as I managed to pee on the bike twice and once on the run. The lesson here is that I knew my body.  I knew what it could take and what it couldn't.  I knew that I would have to slow down and just pace myself and not try to set a PR in a training ride, which by the way means nothing even if you do.  The next morning I woke up and went for a 1.5 hour run and throughout the run I felt great but I knew I only wanted to run at an aerobic pace or what would be considered slow for me.  I wound up running a shade over 10 miles in the 1.5 hours and felt great the entire time.  Went to the pool later that morning and swam 3400y and then home for much-needed rest and recovery.  Recovery is not just putting your feet up, but also eating right and timing that eating.  It is also about getting the proper amount of sleep, of which I got plenty of. If you are just getting started in this sport or training for your first Ironman please be sure to ask questions of those that have done one.  Get the lay of the land and what is needed and not needed.  Everybody will have differing opinions on things but the more you ask the more you will be able to make a decision for yourself.  Listen to your body and even if that schedule calls for a swim but you can't just get your head of the pillow.....don't hit snooze reset the alarm and skip the swim at that time.  Maybe later in the day you will feel better and can get it in then. The lesson is to understand your body and listen to it.  I learned the hard way after training for the Las Vegas Marathon that every run cannot be done at projected race pace and still hope to race even better that day. Read this excerpt from this article in Inside Triathlon:  Even though the majority of hard training is below race intensity, it conditions the body, when rested, to sustain super-threshold intensity on race day because the body is more able to clear lactate. When you look at what the best endurance athletes have done historically, and I don’t care if you go back 50 or 100 years, you see a very high fraction of training done at slow and steady efforts, and they have always done more sub-threshold than super-threshold training. Keep this in mind the next time your training calls for an easy run and you want to push the effort.

What Lessons Have You Learned From Your Training For Endurance Sports?

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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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