This is part of series I wrote in 2011, which describes my progression from non-runner to Ironman athlete — a long journey that I am very proud of! I hope this story will inspire you and help prove that you can achieve the impossible, no matter where you start. Links to the rest of the story are at the bottom of this installment.
Ironman Training. That just sounds scary to me! Assuming that you work up through the distances slowly (sprint, olympic, half ironman), it really isn’t too bad. At least not the way I do it!
The first phase of training (Base) started in December, really just getting back into the groove of training for 3 sports consistently. I was back in the pool, lacking in endurance, but about the same speed as I had left the pool. In the winter, I “live” on the trainer for bike training – catching up with TV shows, movies, whatever sounds interesting. I love winter running, so that is all outside (unless there is ice). In February, I moved into the second phase of training (Build) and things started to get a little longer. The great thing about a 6/7 month training plan is that all of this is a slow progression – it never seems that bad. I also started swimming with a Masters group (Masters just means a group of adult swimmers, although we have a few amazing junior athletes in our group), which helped tremendously. I actually started to enjoy swimming for the first time ever – not an easy feat!
April/May was where the workouts really started to get longer. Not many friends were training for such a long early season race, so Kirk was kind enough to ride with me many weekends (he really had no reason to ride 50 miles). I would start at dawn, meet up with him about 20 miles into the ride, ride together for about 50 miles, then finish solo (depending on the distance for the weekend). I hadn’t ridden this long in a few years, but it was mostly fun! The last 3 weeks before taper were the hardest. By that point, you really are pretty tired and worn-out, but the workouts are the longest of the training. This is when you have to work on your mental game and tough it out.
Race week finally came and we flew over to Austria on Wednesday night (arriving Thursday morning). As we took the train to Klagenfurt, I tried to ignore the towering mountains around us – I’m sure those aren’t as tall as they look, right?! The race itself was an absolutely incredible, amazing, unbelievable, surreal, FABULOUS experience! The energy surrounding you the entire time is intoxicating. I can honestly say I enjoyed Swimming 2.4 miles, Biking 112 miles, and Running 26.2 miles. Crazy, I know!
My favorite moments?
- During the swim, sighting off a castle – not many people can say they have done that!
- Swimming up the channel for the last 800 meters, with spectators on either side. Seeing Kirk while swimming and waving mid-stroke! 🙂
- The scenery on the bike! Blue lakes and snow-capped mountains – gorgeous.
- Climbing Rupertiberg with spectators announcing that there was an Iron-Lady climbing (only 4% of the participants were women!).
- The group “camped” out at a bus stop with a grill and full stereo system, playing Polka music and cheering us on!
- Running through Ironman City with people 3 deep cheering you on in so many different languages!
- Running down the finisher’s chute with cheerleaders, spectators at least 8-deep cheering, and knowing that I was about to be an IRONMAN!
- Finishing right after/before the only wheelchair athlete (who was AWESOME!) and running in place while he attempted to “climb” the ramp to the finish line (I didn’t want to pass him!).
- Crashing on the bike at the aid station with 30K left to go. My poor leg/knee was not happy the rest of the ride, but was kind enough to not hurt until the last 4 miles of the run.