Ironman thoughts

27 07 2011

Perception

There are some funny things about doing an Ironman. There is a big difference on people’s perception. For example:

Most non-triathletes friends were more impressed with my first ironman time (14:23 hrs) than with my 12:18 hrs personal best. The general comment is “Wow, 14 hours of exercise, non-stop”?!

Triathletes friends secretly think “ok, but in 14 hours is not that hard”  🙂

Reality is always your own perception. For me both at 12:18 and 14:23 were equally “easy”. In fact there is some stupid phenomenon after an Ironman, which makes you forget all the pain that you had during the marathon and makes you sign-up for the next one as soon as possible! Seriously, be honest, at the  21km run the last thing on your mind is “Yea, this is great, I want to do it again”. It is more like “there is another 21 km to go? Why?” All the months of training, negotiations with the spouse, all the weekend parties we don’t go… and why? Just to feel this pain?

My last race was even worse! When I was around 5k, I could see about 7 km ahead, where the line of people disappeared from the canal… That is a freaking long way to go and to come back too! At that point I was really hurting and I even doubted I could maintain my already slow pace (walk/run) for the rest of the race. At this point in an Ironman race I’m usually thinking “OK, just finish it and you won’t have to do this anymore”, but this time another thought came to my mind “Shit, I already signed up for IMMT!”

A wise athlete once  said: “The only thing certain about an Ironman is that it is going to hurt!”

Magic wand

The finish line, the magic wand that makes all pain go away! There is a stupid sense of accomplishment, a sudden adrenaline rush and all pain is gone. At that moment, you may not be Superman, but you ARE  Ironman!! That feeling keeps tricking your mind to forget the pain and sign up for more!

A couple hours later… somehow you think you could have done better, no matter how good or bad you did. That thought is what keeps us pushing  harder and harder… Not only do you want to do it again, but you want to do it FASTER!

An interesting point in long distance triathlons is that as you get older you get faster! OK, I’m not saying at 60 or 70’s, but I’ll tell you when I get there! That probably explains the  Ironman demographics: most people on Ironman races are 40-44 years old!

After the Race

The next day you are either pretty sore or you’re thinking “damn I could have gone harder!” BTW, that never happened to me… I was always sore!

You wake-up thinking “if I had…” while you get a foot out of the bed… Arggg… it hurts! “Yea, maybe next time”

Believe it or not, training or even racing an Ironman is not the hardest part, at least not for me. The following weeks when you are no longer training are the hardest! You are still pumped with the race, you want to be faster, you want to race again! But, this next step is giving your body a break. You need to heal and recover, you have stop exercising and you have a lot of time in your hands.

Guess what? I don’t know what to do with all that time! I became the laziest bastard on earth. I’m too tired for everything, I become what I hate the most… a couch-potato! I guess it is natural to be tired, but when you’ve been living at the best shape of your life and suddenly that is gone… You feel a big empty vacuum around you. It is borderline depressive… I look in shape, but I feel out of shape and I have no clue what I’m going to do in the next little while!

At about a month (some people more, some people less) after the race, you start to get back to normal, but by no means in race shape. But what is normal? December last year I was 92kg with ~16% fat, six months later 84kg with ~5% fat.

Off-Season

And then comes the off-season.  The goal during the season is not to loose too much weight, while in the off-season it is to not gaining too much weight! Getting faster, but at the same time, not peaking… back to the blackboard.

What will I do different to improve next time? Should I follow the same program? Should I try something new? How many weeks do I have till my next race? This is where I find myself now…

So what is next? I’m planning to remain in my couch-potato form for another week or so, then I’ll resume swimming, and I start my bike/run out-of-season plan. The plan should finish with a half marathon in October (Scotia Bank Marathon), assuming my feet are healed by then. Then I take another couple weeks off… Until I start my 40 weeks official training for IMMT (20 weeks off-season + 20 weeks race specific training).

The sad part? IMMT is going to be one of my hardest races. It is hilly and probably slow… so getting another personal best will be pretty hard there. But again, if it was easy, everyone would do it! 😉

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5 responses

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28 07 2011
Bruno

Yeah, it’s kind of crazy to think that you will go through all the same pain again after you’re done. But I think people need to be rational and know what’s right for them. For some people, an IM makes sense – for others, it doesn’t. Many components play a role – time for training, work, aptitude, etc.

I went through this process after doing a marathon – I love running, but I know if I keep doing that, I’ll pay a price with knee problems 20 years down the road – I’m too heavy for that. So, I’ve stuck to 1/2 marathons!

28 07 2011
Hans Winter

I agree. Ironman is not for everyone, but mostly because of time and wiliness than anything else. If there is a will, there is a way! But again, not everyone wants to dedicate so much time to a sport. For one, you are taking time away from your family.
That aside, I truly believe that training for an IM is easier on your body than training for a Marathon, since running is the hardest sport on your body. Keep in mind, you’re running more if you’re training just for a Marathon! That is the beauty of triathlons, you are distributing the load.
As far as aptitude, you need it to win an IM, to qualify for Kona, but not to finish it.
Now weight… you will lose it! We know a couple examples, don’t we?! 🙂
I guess one of the points I wanted to make is how you miss it… once you’ve gone over the training, you’ve dedicate so much time, when the race is over and you have a few weeks to rest, you miss it! I’m sure you know that, because you aren’t racing this year and you crave for training!

27 07 2011
Doru Sandor

Well said Hans! I did my first (and only so far) full Ironman last year and I’ve been through all the symptoms you described in this post. It’s funny how you go from agony to ecstasy during an Ironman and how your perception completely changes once you cross that finish line.

27 07 2011
Hans Winter

Doru, Triathlon is a drug, an addiction… but a good one. Although not everyone would agree!
Next year we will hopefully be crossing that IMMT finish line!!!
Hans

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