Friday, May 9, 2008

Lessons learned

I have only one more significant workout before I officially start tapering. This Saturday before graduation I have to get in a four hour bike ride followed by a short three mile run. It is rather unfortunate I do not get to celebrate my graduation in typical Arizona State University fashion, but I do not think a hangover will do me any good at this point. But I do think a fresh pint from Four Peaks Brewery does have my name on it. Naturally, consuming a hefty hand-crafted brew is an excellent source of carbohydrates :)

As for my workouts this week:

Monday: 2500 meter swim followed by a 30 minute run
Tuesday: 2 hour bike
Wednesday: 3500 swim followed by a 30 minute run
Thursday: 7 mile run (about an hour)
Friday: 4000 meter swim
Saturday: 4 hour bike (60 miles) and 30 minute run
Sunday: 2000 meter swim (mostly drills, and some speed work)

Totals: Roughly 12-13 hours, 13,000 meters of swimming, 16 miles running, almost 100 miles cycling

During my training I have noticed a few things about myself, my body, and some holes in my training regimen.

1) My body is highly finicky* about foods that I consume and their effects on my weight. Last weekend I did not eat very well and my body stored a lot of the calories right around my abdomen. But after three days of proper diet I was back to normal. It was very weird, I had a little gut for a few days while my body got rid of all the crap I ate. This also leads to my second finding.

2) Eating crappy and having a couple beers makes for a rough couple days afterwards. The first part of this week I had some terrible workouts simply because I felt 'heavy'. My legs felt like they were filled with sand and my heart rate was nearly 10 beats a minute over my normal rate during moderate activity. Stupid me, I know how important nutrition is.... especially three weeks away from Ironman.

3) Bricks are incredibly important. Bricks meaning;I will get done swimming and immediate go for a short run, or I will get done cycling and immediately go for a run. This is huge weakness of mine because I do not transition very well. After a long bike ride it usually takes me at least 2-3 miles for my legs to get to a 'normal' state again.

4) Recovery is the 4th sport associated with triathlon. I never understood its utter importance until about two months ago. Eating right after training is crucial, and getting good sleep is an absolute must! Stretching and massages are really important as well. Actually most professional triathletes have a professional massage therapist on staff and get massages at least twice a week. Ice baths have seemed to work for me too. I will start to do them a more and more frequently before Ironman because I want my legs to be as fresh as possible. I think it was Mark Allen who said, "Train harder, but recover harder". It is an excellent point, and I wish would have learned that earlier.

5) Training is addicting. It simply becomes a part of you. You get used to working out everyday, and on your off days you feel like a lazy bum. Once you implement a proper regimen you put your workouts in front of a lot of other important things. I would schedule my visits with my girlfriend around my long bike ride days, organize my doctor visits to be during my college classes but not my workouts, and I would skip class to go train because it was just such a beautiful day.

6) No matter how clearly you tell your peers about your efforts and reasons for doing triathlons they simply just do not get it, which is fine, and I do not expect them to do understand. People ask 'how long is an ironman?', and before you get through telling them about the open water swim they are already saying out loud 'holy cow I couldn't do that, you must be crazy'. People undoubtedly think finishing an Ironman is cool, but they do not understand that in order to do one, and do one well it takes YEARS of preparation. I am doing my first Ironman only a year after I starting to train seriously and I am in for a rude awakening! Your first Ironman is nothing other than a learning experience. This is why the best Ironman triathletes are in their early 30's. It just takes a long time to build up that endurance.

7) Swimming is much much harder than it looks! Hiring a coach was the best thing I have ever done. You can swim 20,000 meters a week, but if you do not have great form it is useless. I still have a long ways to go with my swimming, but it is still night and day from when I first started.

8) It is worth it. A lot of people ask, "what pleasure does this bring you exactly?" It is something like hitting a game winning home run, or hitting the game winning shot in playoffs.... rolled into one. Never have I ever had to work so hard at something and to still be a mediocre athlete. But that sense of accomplishment when you cross a finish line after 10+ hours of exertion cannot be topped by any achievement. And the sport of triathlon is one of the few sports in which you can still make the pros. In baseball or basketball your chance of making it to the pros after a high school or college career is very very minuscule. So if you do not make it in that window of opportunity between high school and finishing college you are done; the window is closed permanently. But with triathlon, if you are good enough you can earn a spot at the triathlon 'world series' at any age. And that is what keeps most of us triathletes going day in and day out. It is like our little day to suit up with the 'big club'; our one day to live out our childhood dream of making the major leagues and hitting that walk-off home run.


Some men see things as they are and say, "Why?" I dream of things that never were and say, "Why not?"
-George Bernard Shaw

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