Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ironman: Anything is possible

The Ironman is a 3.8km Swim, a 180km Cycle and a 42.2km Run. There’s one in P.E. in March. Think you can do it?

After catching a cold just a week before my first Ironman (in Korea, on the island of Jeju) in 2003, I was so determined I went ahead and raced anyway. By 100km on the bike, I was finished, and on top of that, my ear was bleeding.
I stayed up many nights after the race, unable to believe all those hours of training had ended when I had quit the race. It turned out to be a valuable lesson.

The next year I was back, fitter than before. Then, this happened: I went cycling on an extremely hot and humid day and after losing my money for food and water out of my cycling jersey (with 75km left to go), I limped home, suffering from multiple effects: dehydration, hyperglycemia (lack of glucose), sunstroke, hyperthermia (overheating) and hyponatraemia (low blood sodium). Over the next few days exhaustion set in. This was intensely frustrating! I had no flu systems. Just a slightly elevated heart rate. If I walked up a few flights of stairs I was finished. I’d already paid for flights and hotel accommodation, so I went to the Ironman anyway. So did a typhoon, which washed out the swim, but the competitors toughed it out in a duathlon consisting of a 180km cycle and a 42.2km run.

Twice in a row I’d been frustrated. Could I make it third time lucky? It is a heck of an investment - of time, money and effort, to attempt an Ironman. More than anything though, is it requires deep reservoirs of will to propel oneself not only through hours and hours of training (over several months), but on the day itself.
To motivate myself, and hold myself accountable to my goal, I set up a training blog in late October 2004 (www.3xluck.blogspot.com). I wrote down every workout, complete with distances, times, average heart rates. It didn’t matter that no one read about my workouts – it was just important that I did them and reported them. And over time more and more people took an interest, and the support started rolling in.

After training and racing in Korea, South Africa proved to be a pleasure.
Here are a few rules of thumb:
- try to do each of the three sports, 3 times a week (9 workouts in total, a week)
- mix up the workouts, so you do 1 strength/hill exercise (for swimming that’s using a pullbuoy or doing gym work), 1 speed workout, and 1 distance workout
- try not to train when tired. Rather train too little than to much
- eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, and take it easy on protein. An Ironman man sound like someone who eats steaks, but actually, to get fit and fast you need to be light and strong, not bulky
- on very long workouts, make sure you replace lost salt (this goes for the race too). Supplements like GU2O can be mixed into water bottles.
- Invest in decent equipment (buy stable marathon shoes for running, a lightweight bicycle or racing wheels, and a wetsuit (From Orca or Ironmanwetsuits) for swimming
- In each of the three disciplines, try to train with a group (even if these athletes are not triathletes). Swim with swimmers, cycle with cyclists, run with runners.
- Make sure you go the distance in each sport before race day, about 4 weeks before
- Go into the race well rested. It’s better to be over rested for a long day like Ironman, than over trained.

In the run up to my third attempt I got a Strep Throat around about this time last year (Febraury 24). The Ironman was on the 20th of March.
I had no idea, in the week leading up to the race, how weakened I had become. But I believed in myself the whole day, the whole way. If anyone had asked me, at any point in the race if I knew I was going to finish I would have said, “I’ve no idea.” But inwardly, I knew, anything is possible. I did a reasonable cycle (6 hours exactly) and had to dig deep on the run. I finished in 12:41. A long day but a powerful experience. It is amazing the power that resides in our bodies and minds.

You can enter by logging on to www.ironmansouthafrica.com


Anonymous said...

Tks for the helpful tips.Take it youre entering ironman again this year

Nick said...

No. Unfortunately I've been sidetracked. 2009 now. Good luck for yours. Please let me know how it goes ;-) Good luck.