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
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.
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?