I just successfully completed my first Half Ironman Triathlon (Ironman 70.3) with a time of 6 hours and 28 minutes. My only goal was to complete the event without getting injured, and I succeeded! I can improve my times on subsequent races. My greatest accomplishment was completing the half marathon portion without stopping or walking as running is my weakest link in this sport. For those of you that are unfamiliar, a Half Ironman is 70.3 miles total – a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride, and a 13.1 mile run. Those of you on the metric system are probably scratching your heads at those seemingly random distances (1.2mi, 56mi, and 13.1mi) – don’t worry, they seem ridiculous to me too.
I’m not posting this to show off, in fact, many people whose primary sport is triathlon would consider my finish time a total embarrassment – 6hrs 28min. So what? I enjoy it and I’m getting better at it every year!!! As you know, I am a private person and rarely talk about myself but when it comes to my fitness goals its different. Why? Several reasons. First, because its important for me to show that whether you are a newbie or very advanced in fitness, it important to *always* have fitness goals you are working toward and have a step by step plan to get there. Second, because I want to show that life does exist outside the fluorescent lit gym. A big part of fitness and health is getting outside and *using* those muscles you have worked so hard to build. A lot of people seem to have trouble getting motivated to workout. A big part of their problem in my opinion is because they view bodybuilding as a cosmetic sport, big-ripped-muscles-fast. When they fail at this impossible goal, they quickly lose interest. If you view bodybuilding as an integral part of your life which makes you healthier and lets you have more fun, then the motivation is easy! Regardless of your favorite sport from golf to skydiving, bodybuilding can make your game better and more enjoyable. Another reason I am sharing my races with you is that I feel its important to practice what I preach. In my opinion, nobody should be giving out advice that they can’t or won’t follow themselves. I tell you the importance of cardio and I DO cardio – lots of it! I tell you how important it is to do cross training with sports outside bodybuilding and I DO it. Its often said that you need to choose a trainer who has achieved what you want to achieve – not a perfect method of choosing a trainer but there are far worse ways. Anyway, thats why I feel its important to share when I do my races. So here is a quick rundown of my race:
Although I’m a slow swimming, I have no problems with distance and the 1.2 miles was easy. My sighting was good (I was able to swim straight lines) and I was quite comfortable in the open water as always. As often happens to me, I got calves cramps at about mile 3/4 so the last 1/2 mile I just swam with arms only. Not a big deal really because I use the Total Immersion swimming technique and don’t use legs that much anyway. Even without kicking I had no trouble keeping the backs of my legs at the water surface because of the floatation my short wetsuit provided. A bit of a scare when I was exiting the lake, my quad started to cramp which would have ended the race for me but luckily I was able to quickly stretch it out before it locked up. With my cramping problems during the swim, I guzzled about 2 liters of gatorade hoping that the electrolytes would give me some protection against future cramping. Either the problem went away on its own or the gatorade helped but luckily that was the last of my cramping problems. Don’t know my swim time yet, probably I’m probably at the 40th percentile for my age group.
Cycling is my strongest event in the triathlon although I was at a pretty big disadvantage in this race because of my bike. Most people had triathlon/time trial bikes (TT bikes) and there I was with my touring bike. It is *very* comfortable and is a thing of mechanical beauty but its heavy and not very aerodynamic, I didn’t even bother to take off my heavy rack nor did I remove my 2 pound thorn-proof tubes. I’ll pay 2 pounds to keep from getting a flat, seems like a bargain to me 🙂 I’m used to cycling much longer distances so the 56 miles was quite easy. Because I knew my biggest challenge would be the half marathon, I didn’t push it that hard so that I would have lots of energy to run. My average speed was about 18mph over the 56 miles according to my bike computer which wasn’t too shabby considering it was rolling hills. What was totally awesome was that they had police at every single signal and stop signs so we could just blow thru the intersections without even slowing down – thats a treat that rarely happens! If I had to guess, I’d say that I was about at the 70th percentile for my age group.
I was apprehensive about the half marathon. Although I have done a half marathon before it was fresh – I hadn’t swam 1.2 miles and biked 56 miles beforehand. Because I have such a hard time running, I train 12 months a year. As soon as my mysterious knee issue of the winter resolved itself, I went back to running 2-3 times a week and I would usually do two 10k’s and one 5k. I keep my weekly mileage low to minimize the chance of knee or overuse injuries and the last 2 months. the training worked very well for me! I just choose a nice, slow pace and focused *very* hard on my floating head technique to minimize G forces on my knees. It really wasn’t till mile seven or eight that I started slowing down a bit. By mile eleven, my left knee and left foot were hurting pretty bad – enough that I was gimping a bit but I knew from experience it wasn’t anything that would do permanent damage. The camaraderie the last two miles kept me going, everybody was cheering everyone else on. All in all, not nearly as bad as I feared 🙂 I’m a slow runner so I was probably at about the 60th percentile for my age group.