I have a lot of friends that are competing in the Florida Ironman this weekend. This is the granddaddy of endurance competitions right in the heart of the panhandle Florida at Panama City Beach.
I want to wish you all the best of luck and I know you will all be an Ironman at the end. Of course, a couple of them already are, but that doesn’t change the challenge any.
As I did this last year I want to give you the lessons I learned while taking on this challenge. Take them or leave them, but hopefully, you will take something out of it and if not another reader might find a helpful hint to take on their journey to the Ironman Triathlon in their future.
|Left to right: Eve, Kat, Marai, Summer, Mary-Ellen & Iron Rick, Anne, Carola (Not pictured: Rick Jansik and David Nardoski)|
- Double check your gear on Thursday when you arrive. Most likely you will know someone coming up on Friday, so they can bring an item you may have left behind.
- Go to Athlete Check-In early Thursday or when you arrive on Wednesday. Get it over with so you have all of your gear bags and as you unpack you can start to pack them.
- Buy all of the SWAG and stuff you want early. They run out fast and if you follow #2 then you will not have to wait in line. For some reason, Ironman does not hire the fastest cashiers in the world and the line seems to take forever.
- Swim a portion of the course early on Thursday morning as close to race time as possible. Notice the current, the temperature, how long it took you to warm up, and any wildlife in the water. Double check to make sure your wetsuit is fitting correctly and any adjustments you needed to make to feel comfortable.
- Write these ideas and any other adjustments down. Then the excitement of the race does not bode too well for memory cells. It is best to be able to look over a checklist on Saturday Morning.
- If you do not have the experience do not feel invincible enough to rent race wheels or if you do, rent them at home and bring your training wheels with you. The weather may say 5-7 mph wind gusts on Friday, but that can change to 20 mph in a heartbeat and a lot of miles are spent in the crosswind.
- Ride on Thursday as well. Ride a few minutes in each of the major gears and in the low chainring to spin your legs and get some blood moving. This will also check your bike for any adjustments you may need. There is always a bike maintenance tent at the expo. Ride after you swim in case you need to get some maintenance done.
- Keep eating and keep hydrating especially on Thursday. Thursday is actually more important than Friday as far as nutrition and rest are concerned.
- Do not run on Thursday. Save the pounding for Saturday.
- Plan for a long, long sleep on Thursday. The excitement is building but not enough to hinder your sleep on Thursday vs Friday. Friday will be a completely anxious day and that night will be hard to sleep. Get it on Thursday. No alarms, no loud roommates, just sleep as long as you can. Once your up, you’re awake and it will be hard to get back to sleep.
- Walk through your transitions and even legs and make a checklist for your gear bags. This works. (ex. I get out of the water, strip my wetsuit, go to the tent and I put on my shoes, helmet, glasses..etc…then write down “shoes, helmet, glasses, and anything else”) Make sure you walk through your nutrition plan as well, to make sure you have enough nutrition on the bike. If you are putting the powder in bottles, do that at this time as well. It is your choice if you want to add the water today or tomorrow, but put the powder in the bottles. (Personally I put my bottles completely together and put them in the freezer. By the time you get on the bike they will be almost thawed and you will have ice cold hydration)
- Put your gear bags together on Thursday night, when you are calmer. You are more likely not to forget anything. You will still have a few things to put in them but the bulk will be there.
- Plan for a special needs bag for the run, but ride with what you will need for the full 112 miles. The stopping for the special needs bag is not worth the time. Have what you need, and if you do come into a situation there are aid stations every 10 miles, they will help.
- Do put a special needs bag aside for the run. This is just for some warmer clothes just in case the temp drops. You probably will not need it, but at least it will be there. Do not trust the forecast in Panama City.
- Do a 15/15/15 workout on Friday. 15 min swim, bike and then run to clear all the excess and get your legs feeling like they need to for the next morning. It sounds weird for the day before such a hard day, but trust me this will make you feel much more confident.
- After you return and shower after your little workout check your gear bags one last time. Empty each of them out and run through your checklist one last time. You can turn these in, pretty early on Friday, and you will want to so you can just relax the rest of the day.
- Relax as much as possible on Friday. Put your feet up, watch TV, play some cards, but relax.
- Do not forget to eat and drink. Follow your nutrition plan which should include your meals on Friday.
- Lay down and try to sleep no later than 8:30. 3:30 am comes awfully quick.
- Get up at 3:30a and take a shower. This will awaken you and start your day.
- Have a nice breakfast by 4:30. This will make sure you have all the nutrients in your body by the 7 am start time.
- If you train with a gel, have one in each sleeve of your wetsuit. It is always a little chilly on Saturday morning, so even if it is uncomfortable, your wetsuit provides warmth. If you have a sleeveless put the gels in your pant legs. I also put a couple of Imodium as well, but that works for me. I suggest it if you know it does not cause side effects for you.
- Find your friends and have them near you at the start. This helps. It provides some comfort because the rest of the day…you will be most likely alone.
- Have one of those gels 10 minutes before the start of the race and the second one while you are running back into the water on your second loop.
- Put a smile on your face. If you are terrified then fake it. Most of the time faking it will make it true.
- Trust your training it got you here now it is time to have confidence in it.
- Do not eat or drink anything but water for the first 15-20 minutes of your bike. Your body is making a switch. Allow it to settle before you put anything in your stomach.
- Ride your own race. Do not worry if others are passing you. You have a plan stick to it. Enjoy the scenery and get lost in it.
- If you have a watch with a timer use it. I personally had my alarm go off every 15 minutes so I knew to make sure I was drinking and eating. I knew that I had to take in a quarter of bottle every 15 minutes and a gu every 45. In the Ironman if you get behind on your nutrition it is a hard fight back.
- Salt – Make sure you have enough salt. I took 250 mg every hour and I had no cramping at all.
- Do not deviate from your plan. You spent a lot of time putting this plan together do not deviate even if you feel great. You never know what the course will bring.
- HAVE FUN! This may feel like the longest day of your life while you are competing, but after you cross the finish line it will feel like it went by in a blink of an eye. Enjoy it! You spent a lot of time training for this, have some fun.
- Last but not least. Watch when you are coming into the finish shoot. If there are people around you, either slow a little or speed up and make sure you are alone as possible coming across the finish line. This is going to be your moment. It should be one of the few times in your life you should be selfish. Savor it. You swam, cycled and ran the whole thing alone, cross the finish line alone. Trust me here, you will thank me for it when you see the video later.
I am so proud of all of you. I am so lucky to be able to call you my friends and I know you will all be amazing. I will be there volunteering and I really hope I get to see everyone.
Kick some booty. Ironmen and women.
There is a trend I jumped on early in January, right after I finished the Goofy Challenge. The Paleo Lifestyle. Most people would call it a diet, and if it was temporary than I would say they were right. At first I was a little spooked by it, but my friend and coach Amy Bennett Eck, dared me to try the lifestyle for 30 days and see what results I obtained and how I felt.
The first week was tough. I was lethargic, my workouts suffered, and I felt like I had lost a lot of strength and endurance. (Of course that might have also been from the Half Marathon and Marathon I ran the weekend before I started.) Something happened about the middle of the second week. I woke up on Wednesday and I felt better. Interesting thing was, it was immediate. I went to bed Tuesday night after strictly following Paleo for a week plus two days and I woke up on Wednesday, feeling like myself again. I’ll talk about the hi-level science in a minute, but let me just tell you I thought I could take on the world. The following Saturday I ran ten miles faster than I ever had. It was just amazing the energy I had. I don’t have that energy all the time, but I did for the next couple of weeks at least. Ever since then I have keeping a pretty strict Paleo Lifestyle at about 85-90%. The other 15% I attribute to pizza, beer, the occasional ice cream and a few items in my race nutrition.
So what is Paleo? The word Paleo comes from the Paleolithic Era or the caveman era. It is basically eating as the caveman did, before processing, before grains, before even beans and legumes. It basically, consists of meats, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. There are some items that are what I would call, “on the line”, specifically, milk and butter only if they came from a grass fed cow. There are no grains, no legumes, and no other dairy. I really thought it was going to be tough and the first week was, but after I toughed out the first week, I really didn’t even miss the bread, pasta, corn, cheese, yogurt or rice. Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? Well let me give you my results; I lost 12 pounds and 4% body fat in that first month. Crazy huh? Because of the Goofy Challenge, my workouts were even cut back that month. Since then I have lost another 5 pounds, 3% more body fat, my race times are faster, I can run, swim and bike longer and I have found my love for cooking again.
Let me tell you about the results of my friend Susan Johnson-Velez. Susan is a lawyer and single mom that was a little overweight, and had a severe case of asthma. She started two months prior to me with just removing dairy, and then started Paleo strictly in December and January like me. Now, she is down 35 pounds and the three medications she took for her asthma has been reduced down to a seasonal herb. Isn’t that crazy? I watched this beautiful woman go from baggy dresses and jeans to mini-skirts and dresses and skinny jeans, tight tops and boots. She came with us as our sherpa for the Chicago Marathon last October and when I saw her again at Jet City Coffee in January, my jaw hit the floor. The difference was amazing, and she has only gotten more fit, thinner and hotter since then.
My instruction book for this lifestyle started with The Paleo Diet for Athletes first printing, but since then Joe Friel and Loren Cordain, Phd have updated it. For the edition I was using, Joel Friel, the father of triathlon training, was instructing the Paleo diet for everything except for pre and post workout meals, and race nutrition. I have not completed my read of the second addition, but from what I can tell, Joel is not adding suggestions for those meals to be Paleo as well.
Why Paleo? The theory is, that grains have two major disadvantages; One, they breakdown into sugar, which if you do not use the carbohydrates right away they end up creating imbalances which increases your insulin levels causing the metabolism to slow down and store fat. Second, a lot of grains contain gluten which is basically poison. If the grain, for example oatmeal, does not naturally contain gluten, then there is more than a possibility that it was packaged a facility that also packages grains that do have gluten causing transference. Interesting enough there is another risk of transference of gluten; through meat. If a cow is grain fed, then the meat may have a high level of gluten along with the milk produced. I have actually started buying meat from a farm in Texas that has only grass fed meat. Slanker’s Farms also has chickens, buffalo, and some fish as well. All of it natural without antibiotics, pesticides or hormones.
The benefits of Paleo start by eliminating all the excess sugar your body doesn’t need or use, and then instead of using sugar for energy it uses fat. Since fat is a lot more dense than sugar, the energy production lasts a lot longer, which means you last a lot longer. Can you imagine working out and being able to go a couple of extra miles, just because you want to? Can you imagine a new outlook on life, not to mention cooking? I found a lot deeper interest in cooking since I started Paleo. Also, depending on your body and where you are at the moment, for every pound of excess you rid your body of, it could translate into a 10-12 second per mile decrease in your running time.
There are a lot of resources out there on Paleo. I personally am only fond of books and articles written by Loren Cordain, Phd and Rob Wolf. There are plenty of great resources for recopies on the internet. Do you think you have to give up brownies? Here is my favorite recipe for Paleo Brownies;
- 1 16oz container Nutbutter (recommend MeeNutButter)
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cup agave
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 12 ounces dark chocolate, cut into chip sizes
- Coconut Oil, melted for brushing
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
- In a large bowl add container of NutButter, cocoa powder, sea salt, baking soda, eggs, agave and vanilla.
- Using a hand mixture blend until all ingredients are combined well.
- Using a spatula combine dark chocolate chips into the mixture.
- Take a 9×13 baking dish and brush with the melted coconut oil. Add mixture to the baking dish and bake for 40 minutes.
- Let cool, cut into square and enjoy
They are awesome, trust me.
Check out the books and articles online and see what you think. I suggest just thirty days, knowing that the first week to two weeks you will probably not feel great, but the energy will hit like electricity once your body converts from burning sugar to burning fat.
I hope you are able to extract some good information and that it may at least increase your interest in this healthy lifestyle.
It’s January 9th and I have been trying to provide a base now since November 6th. I think I am doing pretty well. I couldn’t swim 600 yards without changing up strokes from freestyle to sidestroke, to breaststroke. Now I can go about 800 yards with strictly freestyle..at least in a pool. Yesterday, January 8th 2011, I ran the Disney Half-Marathon without stopping in 1:59:32. It is not great, but not that this is an excuse, but it was extremely crowded and I was in the very back of the pack. Last week I cycled 40 miles, with a 5K run at the end. I think as far as my endurance factor goes I am a little a head of the game.
Just to give the story as to why. People think I am nuts…why train for an event where you swim 2.4 miles, Bike 112 miles and then run a marathon? It started two years ago. I had been working my ass off 12 -15 hour days including weekends. I was feeling drained and I was due for a physical with a complete blood workup. Dr. Gold basically said I was in horrible shape. My cholesterol was high, my triglycerides were high, my good cholesterol was low, my sugar was high…I am sure the picture was obvious. This was only 3 years after separating for the second time from the military. I couldn’t believe I let myself get so out of shape.
Kim and I were walking around Hyde Park Village about three weeks later and we walked past Lifestyles Family Fitness. There was a poster in the window for a Boot Camp Class. We went in and contracted to use the gym, I enrolled in Boot Camp and Kim hired a personal trainer to get her started again. Well, from the first class I was hooked. They had these teasers prior to the beginning of the real class and it was an intense 35 minutes of cardio, strength training, agility, stability and core exercises. I loved it, coming from a military background where this is what we did everyday. The difference was the emphasis on form and injury reduction. Well, the instructors, Nicole Sturtze, and Zach Thompson were a hell of lot nicer than my drill sergeants. Two days a week for an hour I put 100% effort and sweat-ed profuciously and loved it. One Monday morning, my eyes popped open at 5:30am and I was wide awake. I thought, eh why not go for a run. I ran for four miles and felt like a million dollars. The next day after boot camp I saw a flyer for another class called Punch & Crunch, and thought, eh why not give it a try. Melissa Trinidad was teaching, and I knew she was one of the top trainers at the gym, not to mention she was really cute. Again, I was hooked after the first class. Boxing paired with cardio and core was awesome. Within a month of starting to work out twice a week, I had now more than doubled my workouts to 5 days a week. Monday, I ran or worked out on my own, Tuesday & Thursday was Boot Camp, Wednesday and Saturday was Punch & Crunch, Friday and Sunday I took off. Next, a friend in Boot Camp told me about this Hot Yoga down the street from the gym. I never sweated so much in my life and felt so rejuvenated afterward. Now I was at 6 days a week.
Next came the game changer – Scott Bragan, another Boot Camp friend, started mentioning the Chicago Marathon and how he was doing it for charity. The PKD foundation. Perocystic Kidney Disease. His mother-in-law had a transplant, his wife was diagnosed with it, and his daughter had a 50/50 chance of coming down with it because she carried the gene. My need to help kicked in, so I decided to talk to him about it, and before I knew it we had 10 members of Team Tampa PKD and were starting a plan to fund raise to a goal of $25,000!! With that we also trained together. Two six week sessions of boot camp, combined with Punch & Crunch, and Yoga allowed my first training run, to be 9 miles. I couldn’t believe I was starting to train for a marathon and I could already comfortably run 9 miles. I was jazzed.
Well, Scott also mentioned another activity he did…Triathlons. I had partaken in a couple of triathlons in high school and I enjoyed them, so I thought, what a great way to break up the training for the marathon by swimming and biking and participating in a couple of sprint triathlons as well. I ended up participating in two that summer, the Mease Plant Point and the Top Gun and loved them…well…except for the swim. I just wanted to get that over with.
We did end up raising the 25000 bucks and then some and everyone finished the marathon with decent times, except for me. I ended up injuring myself two weeks before with a herniated disc at L5/S1 and was in recovery during the marathon. I did go to Chicago that weekend and I did take some great pics, and cheer on my team, but I was really bummed. That was October 2009.
Since then I have been in a few more small races, 5Ks and 10Ks, a couple of half-marathons, three more triathlons and have continued to train. I have not missed a boot camp session since then and I feel I am pretty good shape. Last November a friend from a running group I have been running with, the Blue Sharks, told me she did a couple of Full Ironman Triathlons. I was really impressed. She then mentioned she was going to volunteer at the Florida Ironman and asked if I wanted to go. I thought it would be really cool to see all these elite athletes do this incredible event. I went and had an awesome time and got hooked. I was in the transition tent from the Bike to the Run and the Pro-athletes came in and they were systematic and quick. Then the age-groupers came in and some of them were the same as the pros and some of them just took there time, had a break and then continued on to the run. I was enthralled at the amount of people, and all the types of people that were going through this event. Of course the next part is what really hooked me. About 9pm we all decided to hang out at the finish line. Let me preface this by saying the race started at 7 am, so this was 14 hours after the start of the race…Four…teen…..hours! Teresa (the culprit who hooked me into this) said this was the best part of the race because this is the “regular” people finished. The people who had regular jobs, kids, responsibilities that had to fit all this training in apart from that. Coming over the finish line were women and men in excess of 280 pounds, a blind man, a disabled man, men and women in excess of 60 years old, and my favorite a 16 time age grouper that was 76. Yes, that’s right SEVENTY-SIX years old and he came over the finish line before the cut-off of 17 hours. There are those people like myself who do not look there age. There are seventy-six year olds out there whom look fifty or even 60. No…this guy looked the all of seventy-six he was. This is what got me hooked…if they could do it…I definitely could do it.
I have to mention that I really do not want to be racing for 17 hours. If I finish it in 16 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds…I will be happy that I completed it, but I really do not want to be racing for that long. I found a guy Ben Greenfield who is an awesome athlete and a very knowledgeable athlete whom has developed a plan to get average joes like me through the Ironman with an acceptable amount of training hours that might not completely infringe on my responsibilities. I also have met with a swim coach, my doctor, my chiropractor and a license massage therapist whom is also a bio-mechanics expert and a USAT Level 1 certified trainer. With all this support, I hope to conquer this quest.
At the moment I am doing my own base training right now, with an emphasis on getting comfortable in the saddle of my bike, and becoming relaxed and efficient in the water. Ben’s plan is a 36 week plan, so it does not actually start until the last week in February. I have increased my weekday workouts from an hour to two in order to get my body used to working hard longer, and continue to do boot camp.
Here is to hoping my plan works out, and no injuries or re-injuries will stop me.
Live Strong, Finish Stronger!!!