If all goes as planned, exactly a week from when I’m typing this, I will be starting the run portion of Ironman Louisville 2017. This will be my fourth time toeing the line of my hometown long-course triathlon. The question has come up more this season than in any of the previous three…”why”. Why do a fourth? Why continue to do Ironmans? What's the motivation?
These are all legitimate questions and ones that I’ve even asked myself a few times over the last 9 months. My Ironman-specific training is a 36 week (9 month) plan that started back on February 6th. Some simple reasons as to why I’m doing it again are that I have four children and I want to have done an Ironman when each was alive (my youngest was born last August). I also want to see what I'm physically capable of. I love to test this body that I've been put in charge of and see what it's limits are. I've turned down sweets at parties, beers at the game, drinks with dinner and scrutinized everything I've eaten for the last 3 months so that I know when I finish this race, I can honestly say that this is the best I could have done. Another reason is that I’ve done this race every other year since 2011 (so, I gotta stick with tradition, right?).
Another good reason is that I would love to prove to people once again that my unconventional approach to long-course triathlon training actually works. As in the races I completed in 2013 and 2015, my average training plan was less than 7 hours a week this time around. I followed the training plan, recovery techniques, dietary considerations, supplements and other wellness practices that I describe in detail in my book The Balanced Approach. My hope is that after another injury-free season and coming into the race in great shape and health, I will be able to convince even more people that they can do a full-distance triathlon without sacrificing their family, career or health.
I also like to try new things every time I race an Ironman. I’ve raced by heart rate, pace and power. I’ve also tried new things each time in regards to nutrition. In 2011, I fueled with Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem, Clif Shot Blocks and Gels (this is typical for most athletes). In 2013, I switched to a custom mix from Infinit, but still added in some gels. For 2015, I wanted to try and fuel myself during the race the same way that I eat the rest of the time. Which meant no sugar or artificial sweeteners. That meant no off-the-shelf drink mix and certainly no gels. So after working for 18 months to become fat adapted, I was able to complete the race sugar-free by using UCAN Superstarch, Coconut Water and Justin’s Almond butter packets. The plan for this year is to try something called Phat Fibre for my drink mix and use a new Almond butter blend that contains some flax seeds sea salts as well. Still planning to go no sugar again!
While I’ve been pretty strick about my diet in the weeks/months leading up to the race in the past, this year I decided to eliminate all sugars, grains and vegetable oils for the 100 days preceding the race. It’s been challenging at times, but I feel stronger and more fit because of it. I’m also likely going to be 5-7 pounds lighter on race day than I have ever been, so we’ll see how dragging a lighter body around translates on the course.
As 2017 progressed, I never wavered from my desire to do the race, but this year was much harder than any of the previous three. The workouts were the same, but the external stressors were much more than I’ve ever had to deal with. Unexpected anxiety at work came early and lasted through the beginning of the summer. Then there was the stress of dealing with some serious health issues in the family (both extended and immediate) that put all of our lives in turmoil for most of the Spring and Summer. All this on top of having a baby that had me up 2-3 times every night. I had never had this many stressors weighing on me at once and my body started expressing it through patches of Seborrheic Dermatitis on my upper legs and digestion issues. I was able to get it under control with the help of Chinese Herbs, but it never went away because the stress never completely went away either. I’m aware that my workouts were adding stress (albeit a different kind of stress) to my body, but I also needed the alone time each morning to gather my thoughts and seek wisdom from God on how to handle the situations I found myself in. While I was still able to complete almost all of my scheduled workouts, I had to alter some of them in order to stay closer to home. So my runs consisted of short, 1-2 mile loops through my neighborhood. I did my 200, 400 and 800 meter sprints around the block instead of at the track. I had to do my one long bike ride and run during the week because I couldn’t be away from home for multiple hours on the weekend. Thankfully, my training style didn’t call for these long training events every or every other weekend - otherwise, they just wouldn’t have happened. Yet another reason I’m thankful that I came up with an alternative training style to the normal 15-20 hours a week most people train.
All that being said, I’m just as excited this year as any of the previous three Ironman Louisville (IMLOU) races. One of the keystones to my training plan is that I only have 10 different workouts for each disciple (swim, bike and run). And one of each is an endurance workout that is only completed 1-2 times. So doing the same workouts every few weeks allows me to track my progress and increases in fitness throughout the 36 weeks leading up to the race. Here are a few of my key workouts and how I have improved this season:
Swim Workout #3 – 5 x 500 with 30 second rests
Feb 16 – average 500 meter time = 9:47
May 3 – average 500 meter time = 9:38
July 6 – average 500 meter time = 9:33
Aug 20 – average 500 meter time = 9:30
Swim workout #8 – 10 x 200 descending with 20 second rests
April 27 – 3:52 slowest -> 3:42 fastest 200 meters
July 15 – 3:48 -> 3:33
Sept 14 – 3:43 -> 3:28
Sept 29 – 3:50 -> 3:22
Bike Workout #7 – 3 x 20 minutes hard/steady effort after warm-up
Feb 18 - average 20 minute interval – 226 Watts / 143 bpm Heart Rate
April 22 – average 20 minute interval – 233 Watts / 145 bpm Heart Rate
July 8 – average 20 minute interval – 248 Watts / 139 bpm Heart Rate
Setp 15 – average 20 minter intervals – 261 Watts / 142 bpm Heart Rate
Bike Workout #9 - 10 x 1 min. sprints with 1 min. recoveries
Feb 6 – average 1 minute interval – 330W / max HR = 165 bpm
Mar 23 - average 1 minute interval – 333W / max HR = 156 bpm
April 12 - average 1 minute interval – 348W / max HR = 162 bpm
June 1 - average 1 minute interval – 362W / max HR = 166 bpm
Aug 14 - average 1 minute interval – 365W / max HR = 165 bpm
Run Workout #2 – Progression Run (increase effort with each mile)
April 13 – 6 miles (8:15 -> 7:17)
May 12 – 8 miles (8:23 -> 7:22)
June 18 – 10 miles (8:19 -> 7:14)
Aug 31 – 8 miles (8:29 -> 6:57)
Sept 14 – 10 miles (8:25 -> 6:52)
Run Workout #3 – Long Hill Repeats (6-8 times)
April 18 – 6 repeats, average time 3:07 / 158 bpm Heart Rate
May 31 – 6 repeats, average time 3:04 / 156 bpm Heart Rate
June 30 – 8 repeats, average time 3:07 / 158 bpm Heart Rate
Sept 24 – 8 repeats, average time 3:05 / 156 bpm Heart Rate
So as this race week progresses, my workouts will become even shorter than normal, but the high intensity will remain. I’ll spend some extra time on the foam roller this week as well. The plan is to try and get to sleep 30 to 60 minutes earlier than usual each night too. I’ve already stated to write down checklists for things I need to do this week and what I need to put in each gear bag once I pick them up on Thursday.
I’m getting excited for another (and likely final) Ironman! My goals this year are pretty simple. To push myself and find out just how fast I can do an Ironman on my style of training. The “A” goal is to set a PR, which would be anything under 11 hours and 32 minutes. My “B” goal is to set a PR on the run, which would be anything under 4:03. My “C” goal is to just finish the damn race! I sure as hell don’t want to go out with a DNF (Did Not Finish).
I’ll check in later this week with some videos and pictures, so stay tuned and good luck to everyone that will be out there with me next Sunday!
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Wishing you optimal health and peak performance,