In January 2019, the goal of completing an Olympic distance triathlon was a stretch, but I was confident that I could do it. It wasn’t a big enough goal. So, in April of the same year, I decided to shoot for something that I thought was out of my reach.
Complete an Ironman Triathlon.
I thought what crazy muthafucker would swim 2.4 miles, ride a bike for 112 miles and then finish the race by running a marathon? It was unfathomable, made no sense, and called to me like a siren’s song.
During the three subsequent years, I focused like a laser to develop the physical and mental fitness required to complete seven Ironman-branded events. Four half-distance, and three full-distance races.
The gravity of non-stop training, and adrenaline-fueled racing took its toll. After Ironman Eagleman 70.3 I decided to defer Ironman Cozumel because I was exhausted. The physical toll was manageable. It was the mental exhaustion that required me to take a longer break from race preparation.
Although I continue to train. Instead of the long hours of aerobic base conditioning, Johnny and I agreed to work on building speed and strength during the winter. An important lesson of training is that you can’t focus on everything at the same time. Developing speed and strength are done at a different time than weight loss or building base fitness. Each capability impacts our physiology differently so training is done in phases. Typically, our race season spans from April through November. Most endurance triathletes focus on strength and speed work in the off-season. During this phase, the long (3-6 hrs) sessions are removed from the training calendar and shorter high-intensity sessions are introduced once we are 8-12 weeks out from our first race of the season the training transitions back to building the long aerobic sessions underpinned with our newly adapted speed and strength.
The shorter aerobic sessions and introduction to speed sessions on the track have been a welcome change. I’ve become much more comfortable running fast and pushing myself to uncomfortable paces. These sessions not only train my neuromuscular system to move faster, my confidence in what I’m capable of sustaining also grows. Not only have I stopped fantasizing about running a sub-8 minute mile, but I am now able to do it by feel. At least on the track, I can feel when I am running faster than 8 minutes per mile and have gotten more accustomed to the strain associated with the pace. The confidence that I’ve developed by doing the speed work led to my first 2nd place race podium at the Cypress 5k.
During the off-season, I began feeling anxious and complacent. The goal of racing Ironman Texas had been met. I was beginning to feel like I was in autopilot without a focus. What’s the next goal?
After some reflection, my desire to run the marathon well at Ironman Cozumel 2023 is insufficient. The goal is vague and more importantly not scary. I know that running the marathon is hard, yet, I did it at Ironman Texas last year. Creating a goal that is outside of what I think is possible is really what I need. Similar to what I did three years ago when completing an Ironman felt impossible. I didn’t know how I’d do it, I just decided that I would and then proceeded to find a way.
Now, I need a new beyond-the-edge-of-believability goal. Something that I aspire to achieve, but have no data, history, or rationale to think “yeah, I can see myself doing that”.
I will finish Ironman Cozumel in less than 11 hours.
Swim – 1hr 06min (1min 35 sec / 100 yds)
10 minute Transition 1
Bike – 5hr 30 minues (20.36 mph average)
10 minute transition 2
Run – 4 hr 02 min ( 9min 15 sec average pace)
My previous best finish was at Ironman Florida in 2020 in 14 hrs 03 minutes. Curiously, this was my first Ironman. I was physically fit, lacked any experience, and was completely unprepared for the pain and suffering required to complete the race. As a result, I started off very well, the bike leg went to plan and then I fell apart during the marathon. It was a glorious lesson. The next one, Ironman Florida 2021 was too soon after my radical prostatectomy. Although I was mentally ready, my body was not. The bike and the run were full of enormous struggles. I barely finished before the cutoff of 17 hrs. Part of racing an Ironman triathlon is mental and physical conditioning. However, I’m finding that the next level of racing acumen is piecing all of the disciplines together on the same day. Having a great swim or bike leg is exciting, but insufficient to execute a great overall race. One has to pull off a trifecta in the face of variable conditions. The multilayered challenge is absolutely addictive and I now know why crazy muthafuckers do these races!
I am one of the crazies and I love all this shit.