WHAT I’VE LEARNED TRAINING FOR AN IRONMAN

People say that the period of six to twelve weeks before an Ironman is when the going gets tough and the tough get going. Mileage is continuing to ramp up, and the race is far enough away that I am not running on motivation, but it’s close enough that I can taste my own fear and skepticism. I feel like it’s the time to reevaluate, critique, and really hone in on all of the things that I’ve been focusing on so far. Especially because my race has been cancelled, and I’ve decided to go it solo as a self-supported and planned “race.” As I’ve been doing some introspection, I’ve also been considering the lessons I’ve learned so far while training.

  1. Routine is important. I haven’t always been one that loves too much routine. But I’ve had to be very structured in how I train. It’s been exceptionally different because of the inherent “non-structure” that has come with quarantine this year, so I’ve had to create my own. I’ve learned that I hate working out in the afternoon (but sometimes it’s necessary). The most important factor is coming into every day with a plan. For me, that plan works a whole heck of a lot better if it includes a morning training session. When motivation is lacking, as it currently is because of my non-race, I really do have to focus to get my training in first thing.
  2. Coffee is no bueno for me. Some things aren’t good for us as individuals, and we need to be able to say no. Or at least, not right now. It can be as small a thing as coffee, or as big a thing as a relationship. For me, it’s coffee, and I have to have enough willpower to say “Not today, Satan.”
  3. Hunger is a monster that I have to constantly consider, else fall prey to its hanger-claws. Respect that hanger or it will rule you! Meal planning goes a long way here, or simply considering how long you’ll be “just running a quick errand” and taking a damn snack with you. Smoothies are life-giving little jars of joy in my world and save me (and those around me) from hanger on many an occasion. I’ve also learned that my bike days leave me even more hungry than the other disciplines, so planning accordingly really does make a huge difference in how the recovery goes.
  4. Listen to your body. My cravings have changed so much. I used to crave candy and ice cream on the daily. Now I want dark chocolate and any liquid not out of a bottle. And with summertime in full swing, cold foods win. I have also been focusing on giving my body all the carbs it needs, so veggies have become (even more) of my jam. If it is green or orange or red or yellow, I want it NOW.
  5. Triathlon doesn’t have to be expensive. Time-wise, it truly does cost a lot, however, and you better be ready for that – especially the long-distance triathlons. I really do think I was ready for the time commitment, but I didn’t necessarily realize how big of a mental takeover it would be. I am a person who has so many interests and hobbies and projects, but holy macaroni, most of what my brain wants to focus on and talk about (especially as I get closer to race day) is TRIATHLON. Thankfully, I have an amazing, and beyond supportive partner (good luck to those of you who don’t), but even still, sometimes I just want to tell myself to “give it a rest girl!”

    Related: Triathlons Are(n’t) So Expensive!
  6. Triathlon isn’t always a super inclusive sport, but there are amazing people that are hoping to change that. Diversity is important, y’all. It makes everyone better, but it is also simply necessary to make sure that we all have opportunity in this world. Here are a few groups and people (here, here, here, and hereknow of some others? Please drop me a link in the comments!) doing pretty amazing things on this front. I’d always like to be someone who inspires any person, no matter their story, to follow their dreams.
  7. Sleep is important, and no one should ever feel guilty for taking as much rest as they need. Maybe the biggest thing I wasn’t ready for was how tired I would be. The positive in this is that my sleep habits are the best that they may have ever been in my life. The negative is that I feel so drained so much of the time in the later months of training. I beat myself up over this initially (and still do on occasion). I thought this meant that I wasn’t in good enough shape, or that my nutrition was off, or that I couldn’t do this after all. When I finally took a step back, and gave myself some grace, I realized that none of those lies were true (although nutrition can definitely play a part) but instead I just need rest. This is not something to feel guilty about, this is something to recognize and understand. I don’t know when or why I started viewing sleep as lazy or unproductive, but that mindset has to stop.
  8. Drivers are going to make you mad at some point while cycling. Let that go. Always be aware of those around you, and do everything in your power to be safe, but also understand that some people suck, and don’t let a dumb (or rude, or angry, or ignorant) driver ruin your day or your ride.
  9. Always take more food (and more different types of food) than you think you need, especially while starting out. It has taken me over 11 months at this point to really find what I like and what works while training. Pay attention. Make adjustments. Don’t count anything out.
  10. I am always stronger than I think. Whatever you need to do to cut out the negativity from your mind, do it. Find a mantra. Break up your workouts in your mind. Reframe the words as they come into your head to become positive and productive and life-giving. Give yourself rewards. Dig deep and find your inspiration. But by all means, do not let that “I can’t” thought cross your mind. You can. You are. You will.

I may do another series like this because I feel like I continue to learn things about myself from training. Maybe that’s one of the coolest parts. Right now, as I still am struggling hard with disappointment over the fact that Ironman Wisconsin has been cancelled for 2020, I am doing my best to choose to focus on the good, and paying attention to the fact that the journey is filled with so much growth. This is what it’s all about, anyway.

Get fired up! Have you had to switch your goals due to Covid? How are you handling it? What big questions or decisions are weighing on you? Drop me a line below and know that you are not alone.

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