Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My Ironman Florida FAQs

Along this Ironman journey, I’ve gotten many questions about  my training, fueling, race day, and gear. I am no expert (shocking!) and certainly do not have a ton of experience with all of this. In fact, while my finish time was decent, it wasn’t anything earth shattering.  What I do bring to the table, however, is the challenge of having been an Ironman virgin and coming through the race in one piece. So, I’ll do my best to answer some of the questions you guys asked.


How many months did you train and how many hours per week?

I trained for 18 weeks. I averaged about 14 hours per week.

What was your favorite fueling/hydration during training and on race day?

Throughout my training, Coach Sharpie would not shut up about practicing fueling how I was going to fuel on race day. Every long ride, every brick, she would remind me of this. I trained with Powerbar Perform drink (the drink at the race). I ate GUs, peanut butter and jelly, Stinger waffles and Powerbar bursts. I made sure to eat steadily and to consume 250 calories per hour. I executed this on race day and it worked well. Thanks Coach.

Was it worth it to hire a coach?

Yes. I could not have done it without her. I did not have the time or motivation or courage to create my own plan, especially because I only had 4 months. She took the guess work out of everything and I knew I could trust her to get me to the finish line.


Sharpie and I celebrating after the fact

What was the hardest part about your training?

Let me first say that I loved training much more than I expected. Every day, every workout was a new challenge. The hardest part was all of the lonely, solo workouts. Being out there for 10-12 hours alone each week made me bat-shit at times. I like myself, but not that much.

Did you think taking the X2 Performance supplement every day made a difference?

It is tough to gauge because I’ve never trained for an Ironman without it. What I will say is that I was shocked by how much energy I had throughout training and how after one day of rest I would come back rejuvenated and ready to go. I did not miss one workout in 18 weeks (okay, that’s a lie. When we had the huge flood and were stranded at home I, ironically, missed one swim). Most importantly, after the Ironman I had no fatigue, no soreness. These results are enough to have me hooked on the product. I will continue to use throughout all of my future training.

What books did you read while training? What else motivated you?

Be Iron Fit, You Are An Ironman and A Life Without Limits. I also watched the interviews with Diana Nyad (the one who just swam from Cuba to the Keys) on Oprah’s Soul Series. This was probably my greatest motivator (see a clip HERE).


Did your family, professional and social lives suffer during your training?

I was very worried about this. I am fortunate to work part time. In the summer I would get up early and get my 2-3 hours of training done before the kids got up. During the school year, I’d take them to school, train, work, then pick them up. Weekends were the hardest. I would get up very early and train for anywhere from 5-6 hours per day for up to 10 hours a weekend. This cut into my weekend days more than I would have liked. I  would come home exhausted and still want to rally to take the kids shopping or go to a baseball  game. Once I even fell asleep on a bench outside of Aeropostle.


Typically, Ken would do at least half of my workout with me. I think one reason our marriage held up so well is that he trained so much with me. Also, he “gets” the endurance athlete mind and determination because he loves the sport too. As far as my social and professional lives go, I had to cut back on some social stuff for sure, but my friends knew about my goals. My work really didn’t suffer (but you can ask my boss about that).

Did you gain or lose weight while training?

I stayed totally steady. I think at one point I had gained 3-5 pounds mostly because I was so freaking hungry 24 hours/day. After the race I had lost a few pounds, but that quickly came back.  I never counted calories and only weighed myself two or three times. I went more based on how my clothes fit.

Did you strength train?

No. Bad athlete.

How did you change your regular eating/drinking habits while training?

I didn't really. I just ate a lot more. I know many people stop drinking alcohol and coffee or give up candy and donuts, but I gave up nothing. I figured as long as I did it in moderation, all was good. Truth be told, I drank wine every single night. I also ate plenty of candy from the candy drawer beside my bed. However, I also consumed a ton of whole grains, veggies, proteins. My staple foods were avocadoes, beans, cheese/eggs wrapped in a tortilla , spinach, peanut butter, oatmeal, and blueberries.


An actual picture of “the drawer”

What was the furthest distance you ever swam, biked or ran during training?

Swim: 4,000 yards (done twice), bike: 100 miles (done twice, plus quite a few 80-90 mile rides), run: 15 miles. Longest brick was 80 mile ride followed by 8 mile run and a half ironman distance race.


What kind of bike do you have?

About 2 months before the race I bought a 2012 Cannondale Slice tri bike on close out. Before that I was training on my 2011 Trek Lexa road bike with clip on aero bars.


Do you think you have to have a tri bike to do an Ironman?

People say no, but I personally think you do. If you are going to be on the bike for 6+ hours (6.5 hours is the average time), you are going to need to be comfortable and in a position that maximizes efficiency and saves your legs for the marathon. I did a half ironman on my road bike and that was fine, but I wouldn’t want to do a full on that bike no matter how much I love it.

How much did you spend total to do the Ironman?

No, no! Please don’t ask me this. I don’t really want to add it up, but I will. I think it’s important going into it that people know the financial part. I was fortunate to get some free stuff from the X2 sponsorship, so that helped. Also, having done a few tris before, I already had a wetsuit, goggles, running shoes, tri bag, and a lot of the gear. The biggest expenses were buying a new bike and getting the whole family to Florida (there was no way in hell I was going to let them miss my first Ironman).

Race entry:  comped (usually runs $700-$800)
Tri bike:  $2,200
Bike fit: $150
Misc. bike crap (hydration system, computer, etc.): $75
Pre-race bike tune up: $50
Bike transport to race: $150
Spare tubes for flats: $35 (I got at least 4 while training)
Race clothes: comped (tri kit would typically cost $150-$200)
Bikes shoes: gift from Sharpie (normally $150-$200)
Bike helmet: borrowed (normally $200)
Foot warmers: $20
Swimsuit: $30
Fueling/hydration: $200
Pool membership: $100
X2 Supplements (case per month): comped (usually ~$100/mo)
Travel (air, lodging, car for family): $2,600
Massages (4): $280
Physical therapy appointments (8 w/insurance): $160
Entries to races during training: $300

Total: $6,950 (I just fainted and threw up).

I admit, I had no clue I spent this much. I guess that’s why we’ve eaten Ramen noodles since June. Yes, doing in Ironman is expensive. No, you do not need to spend $6,950. Pick a race close by and avoid travel costs.  Buy a used bike. Don’t enter any pre-race races. Have only a couple of massages. Race naked. Buy a really good book like THIS ONE and don’t hire a coach (although I do think the coach is the way to go, it is a luxury).

Did you wear a race helmet?

Yes, only because Sharpie lent me one of hers. Otherwise I probably would not have spent the money. I only wore it for races, but I actually could tell a difference.


Race Day:

Did you set goals for the race? Did you meet them?

I did have goals in mind (see them HERE). It is really tough to set time goals for the first race you do of a particular distance, especially one as long as the Ironman. I based my goals on my training paces and my half ironman time equivalent (Equation is: half ironman time x 2.1 + 40 minutes = full ironman time. This was pretty close for me. It predicted 13 hours and I did 12:50). In the end, I did not meet my dream goal (being close to 12 hours), but I came in at the range I pretty much expected (12:50).

What did you race in? Did you change clothes during the race?

I raced in my X2 Performance tri kit. I did not change during the race except for my socks between the bike and the run.


At Harvest Moon 70.3 in September

How did you carry all of your fuel/hydration on the bike?

This took a ton of planning. I knew I needed at least 1,700 calories (~250 an hour). I stuffed as much as I could in my jersey and bento box along with tic tacs, ibuprofen and salt tabs. I took Perform drink or water at each aid station. Twice I took packages of GU chomps at the aid stations. For the list of what I ate/drank on the bike go HERE.

Did you pee on the bike?

No. I actually did not pee once during the entire bike portion (at least I wasn’t peeing blood at T2). I would love to learn to PIB because I hear you can also use it as a weapon. I did poop on the bike, however (just kidding). I don’t really understand how to PIB, so maybe in my next race I will use this option and forgo aerodynamics:

What was the toughest part of the race for you?

First of all, and I cannot believe I am saying this…the race was not as tough as I expected. That said, just over halfway through the marathon I got really nauseous and had to dig pretty deep to keep running. That part was not super fun.

Did you crap your pants?

Disappointingly, no. I did fart a lot, though.

Would you do another Ironman?

Hell yes. I’m hooked. I guess being an endurance junkie is better than being a junkie junkie.



Any other questions?



  1. This post made me so happy! I jsut signed up for IM Arizona and I have never done a tri before. Maybe I should have done one before but oops. I am so much slower but you gave me hopes when I was doubting myself today! Thanks :)

  2. I'm not sure if this is a question as much as a comment... I love that your candy drawer includes pain killers and... a ty beanie baby?!?!?!!!

    1. Hah! Well, a girl's gotta be well rounded!

    2. Just be sure that when you grab for the Mike and Ikes, Dots or Hot Tamales in the middle of the night, you don't pop an Ibupropfen by mistake! Throw a bottle of Prilosec in that drawer and always take it whenever you take Ibuprofen. NSAIDs can work really well but long-term use comes with the risk of stomach bleeding, spike in blood pressure and compromised kidney function. Be careful. Also be cautious about that Tylenol in the drawer. Too many people take too much Tylenol and many don't even realize it because it is in so many other medications. More than 2000 mg (four "extra strength" tablets) in a single day is not a good idea; more than 4000 mg a day is extremely dangerous for you and your liver. I don't mean for this to sound like a lecture but I know too many people that have been hurt by their ignorance when it comes to taking pain medication.

    3. Thanks for your concern. Yes, I'm quite aware of the risks, especially having been trained as a running coach - another scary thing is that too many people use NSAIDs to mask pain and prolong/exacerbate their injuries.

  3. Congratulations.. and while reading this whole thing I just had one question.... When is it Ken's turn?

    1. I keep asking him that too! He won't commit. I'm thinking I need to talk him into it by the time he is 50 (3 years).

  4. Congrats! Inspiring me even more to go ahead with the full. Curious if your old injuries flared up while training or racing? Turns out I have an MRI laundry list about as long as yours was several years ago - labral tear, hamstring issues, etc. etc. Headed into Boston this year, but think I'll plan on the full in 2015 (got to save my pennies)

    1. Great question...sounds like we do have some of the same issues. I held up pretty well during training. My injuries from a couple of years ago did not resurface. However, last spring while marathon training I injured my other hamstring and this bothered me some. I think keeping my running miles low really helped, although I did see a PT almost weekly to keep it from getting worse. I am happy to say that I did not have any problems with it on race day. Best of luck!!

    2. Sounds like the PT really worked well! One last question - did you ever have the surgery for the labral tear or did you work through it with PT? Thanks again!

    3. Mine was really minor, so I did not have surgery and did not actually do much for it. It just healed on its own.

  5. Thanks for this post: great info! You mentioned a few days ago that you got your vitamin D tested, after the race I think. Did you have any other testing done before or during your training? Did you and Sharpie discuss this? Nutritional, electrolytes, VO2, etc.


    1. No, I did not have any testing done at all. We did discuss nutrition quite a bit, but I didn't have any formal tests done.

  6. You trained for 18 weeks, but what would you say your fitness level was, in each of the disciplines, when you started training?

    1. My swimming was in the toilet as I hadn't swum in about six months. I've always had a good cycling base, but had not done much cycling in the few months before I started training, so my cycling was slow and low volume. I had just come off of doing a marathon, so my running was probably the strongest at that point of all the disciplines.

  7. This is a wonderful post. I will be doing my first full distance next July at Ironman Lake Placid. This post has me super excited and helped me understand what is to come.

  8. I love the picture of your candy drawer. Too funny.

  9. This is so great. Thanks for taking the time to get this all down!! I hope it was cathartic for you. Still so inspired by you. Just amazing.

  10. I would like to ask you about the salt tabs. When and how do you take them?
    Thanks :) Great post, as usual!

    1. I use the Salt Stick brand. I think you can take at most 10 tabs a day. They are not just salt, but other electrolytes as well. I did not take them during training with the exception of my 70.3 when it was really hot and I was out there a long time. For the IM I took 3 before the race, then 3-4 more while on the bike. Unfortunately I forgot them on the run and I wonder if this is why I got sick. Once I had the salty chicken broth I was much better.

  11. LOVE LOVE LOVE! Keep on going, SUAR! :-)

  12. Love this and I LOVE how honest you are! Thank you for sharing.

  13. Love the family photo...will that be your Christmas card this year?

    I agree with you 100% about the coach...I've been working with a crossfit trainer for several months and it has made a HUGE difference in my running. Maybe even turning back the clock. My legs feel much younger!

  14. I've loved following your journey. Thanks for sharing so much great information! I am doing my first Ironman in Chattanooga fall 2014 and am so inspired by reading your blog :)

  15. Hello,
    I found your blog via twitter and love it! I also did the IMFL (albeit significantly slower) and it seemed you didn't wear a wetsuit? It wasn't on your inventory list nor commented (as much as I found). Anyway, thanks for sharing your experiences and in such and honest and hilarious way.

    -A fan

    1. Yes, I did wear a wetsuit - I didn't put it on the list because I didn't buy it for this race, I already had it. It's a full Xterra. Hope you had a great race!!

    2. ...and will you, or have you, be getting the Mdot tat? seems this is a good subject for many a blog. ha!

      Congratulations, IM!

    3. Hmm..not sure on that one. If I ever get a tattoo it would probably be the Mdot - guess you'll have to wait and see!

  16. You andSharpie look like sisters I that pic!

  17. Beth, I have trolled your site for over two years or so now. Every now and then, during my workouts/runs, I'll be in a certain mood, then I will read your blog. You're really an inspiration!! I have aspirations/goals for 2014/2015 that, at which currently I'm only discussing with my wife, and training partner. But, I'm using your blog as part of my motivation!! Congratulations on your accomplishment!! Keep up the hard work, and the fart references!!

  18. Hi - I loved reading about your journey and find it so inspiring. I've only done a few tri's (sprints and olys) and am thinking about a half IM next year. Just curious - how do you eat on the bike? I'm so uncoordinated. The idea of taking out a sandwich, unwrapping & eating without driving off the road seems impossible to me.

  19. I just had to tell you - we have a friend who did IM Lake Tahoe. Last weekend she volunteered at IM Arizona, then signed up to compete it in in 2014. She's hooked, too! Of course with that kind of financial investment, it's probably a good idea to do more than one!

  20. Thanks for writing this! I like living vicariously through folks like you. ;) Seriously, I am working up to maybe, someday, possibly doing a marathon but I won't tri. Swimming and I will never be more than "just friends". I can't see and I don't know how anyone as near-sighted as I am could possibly do this? That's my biggest fear - swimming nearly blind.

  21. Great post! Very illuminating. No desire to do tris (though I swim/run/bike), but am starting to train for my first ultramarathon, and your posts are both inspiring and matter-of-fact about this whole endurance athlete world. Plus you're funny...

  22. Thanks for sharing this. Very helpful as i will be doing my first full next year.

    p.s. I really liked the book Ironfit, I have that on my kindle and have read it a few times. Great training book in general, let alone IM training.

  23. Thanks for the informative post. It is scary to calculate the cost of an Ironman. My husband and I decided that while we have spent a chunk of money on his triathlons and my marathons that past few years, that it is worth the investment in our overall health, so we try to cut back in other areas financially. That said, we both just signed up for Ironman Arizona next year. Time to start saving and training!

    1. That is kind of our outlook on it too. We cut back in other areas so that we can continue to train and race because it makes us happy and keeps us healthy.

  24. Beth,
    I know why I love you & your blog. Not for your stellar athleticism, your no bullshit attitude, your FUNNY as hell personality, BUT, I thought I was the only human who loves, Mike & Ikes, Jujyfruits, Hot Tamales, Dots!
    Your friend back East,

    1. Clearly, you need to move to Colorado so we can hang out!

  25. Intriguing and very enlightening. Thanks for the great post.

  26. Absolutely inspirational :) This is the first time I've read your blog and its brilliant! Following from now on :)

  27. I was surprised that having a coach only set you back 600. Honestly, I expected a coach that you had lots of contact with and clearly developed a relationship with would have cost more than the bike (good thing this is not the Price Is Right :)) Did you know she was right for you right away? Would you use a coach for the next Ironman or for marathon/ultra training? I have so many questions....

  28. I think I'm scared to do an Ironman. Nevermind the fear of swimming and getting kicked in the teeth, I'm scared I would have to eat ramen for 6 months. :)

  29. I think it's awesome that you're an Ironman, and glad you had no bathroom issues during the race. While one commenter above was concerned with the meds amongst the candy in your bedside drawer, I was just concerned about the candy. I'm a dentist, so concern for your teeth is above the health of your liver, apparently :) Anyway, glad you're not a junkie junkie.

  30. I did not see the cost of coaching, I am curious about that. Also how did you go about picking a coach and what advice would you give someone looking for a coach?

    Thank you for always posting something informative with humor!

  31. I did not see the cost of coaching, I am curious about that. Also how did you go about picking a coach and what advice would you give someone looking for a coach?

    Thank you for always posting something informative with humor!

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