by Hua Chin
An Ironman triathlon is not a joke. It is one hundred and forty point six miles. Yes, you read that correctly: 140.6 miles. A 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike ride followed by a full marathon of 26.2 miles on foot. People often think of it as the ultimate goal, the achievement of a lifetime in less than 17 hours. It is possible, but people must be prepared. It is a full-time commitment. One that can take 20 or more hours a week to train for, and up to a year of daily workouts.
I decided to do one in 6 weeks.
Let’s retrace my steps, and my decision to do something so brash.
As I continue to mature into a still competitive athlete, I cannot lie, I have been bitten by the Ironman bug. Something about getting as much strength and passion out of my body and mind really plays well to my psyche. Why would one push themselves for up to 17 hours of work? Why would someone endure endless blisters, long lonely training runs, and daily triple workouts? Because of the finish line. Because crossing that finish line knowing you put 100% of your soul into completing this seemingly impossible task is rewarding to me.
But it is not for everyone.
As an ex professional athlete, and someone who still can (sometimes) compete at the pointy end of the stick, the Ironman dream works for me. But it doesn’t have to be your dream. Unless you are winning races, qualifying for world championship events, or setting masters records – training should be fun. An everyman athlete should use a training plan as an escape from their everyday life. Working out is a lifestyle not a chore. The moment it becomes a chore, you should reevaluate.
This is how my 8 week training plan with a 2 week taper was born. Granted, life got in the way and I was forced to shorten my original 25 week training, but it made my training fun, exciting and honestly refreshing. It became fun again.
As I had been training to be a coach at the TR, I’d been strength training vigorously with Tyler, Maren and a few others. I did not have time to commit multiple workouts a day on top of kettlebell training and lifting. So, the swim, bike and run fell to the way side. Then my father came to visit, and an additional 3 weeks of training went out the door. Evaluate your life! There are more important things in life than swimming, riding and running – and a visiting (sometimes sick) father is one of them.
At 8 weeks out of Ironman Florida, I ran my first 7 mile run in over 8 months. It felt terrible. But not as terrible as I though it would. My workouts came and went as the 8 weeks fell to 6, and then 4. Before I knew it, I was on my final training run – a brisk 27.3 miles at 7:00 to 7:35 pace. And you know what? I had never felt this strong, this late in the game. Sure I was tired from daily triple workouts, but that’s how I feel every season. The difference this year – there was a spring in my step.
Had I been over training? Maybe. But the real big difference in my training this time around (other than the significantly shorter period) was the lifting. I was nervous talking to the other athletes on race day because it just emphasized how much more I could have done.
That being said, Ironman Florida came, and I attacked that race the way I always do. With guts, gumption, and the idea that I am lucky to be competing at an event that I truly love. My time was far from my fastest, and my goal of re-qualifying for the world championships slipped with each swim stroke. But I was having fun. Instead of working hard to stay ahead, instead of trying to cover every gap, I listened to my body. Yes, I wish I could have gone faster. But after acknowledging that this race was not the A race I was meant to have, all of the pressure fell by the wayside and I truly enjoyed myself. It didn’t bother me that I broke my goggles in the swim. Or that I got a flat tire on the bike immediately followed by a time penalty on the bike. It didn’t even bother me that I was chafed so badly that I had to hobble the last 2 miles of the run. I loved every minute in the stress-free zone. Something bad is always going to happen during such a long race. The big thing is how you handle those issues and push forward. Of course, you cannot truly dampen a competitive athlete’s will to push themselves, so I cannot lie, I counted the number of people I passed on the bike and the number of people I out ran on the run – 1203 people in case you were wondering.
Despite my lack of long runs in training, I felt strong all the way to the end and that was what I was most happy about. It was the strength training. It did not make me faster, but boy did it make me more resilient. I crossed the line with a new appreciation for the sport, and a new belief in lifting heavy things. Who cares about everything else! I had fun, I finished a beast of a race, and I walked away healthy.
So here is my tip to anyone looking to challenge themselves. Whether you choose to run a 5k, sign up for the TSC, run a marathon, complete an ultra marathon or even endure an Ironman…Lift heavy things and don’t forget to enjoy your training.