Andy wanted to share his thoughts on Ironman with the masses, so I reluctantly agreed to give up my blog for the night… enjoy! ===Candice
When I tell people I am doing Ironman the conversation often goes something like this:
“So, do you have any races coming up?”
“I’m doing Ironman.”
“What is that?”
“It’s a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run.”
“Wow, that’s crazy! What made you decide to do that?”
There is not a good short answer to that question so I thought I would try to elaborate on it here.
My endurance sports story starts with a 5k in Baldwinsville in June of 2004 (thanks for dragging my butt along Kristin!) I was a year out of college and I had never done a road race before. Running regularly for its own sake was relatively new for me. I was overweight and running helped me get back in shape. By October of 2005 I took on the marathon for the first time in Corning. During the 16 months in between I fell in love with running. I loved going out for a run almost daily; the longer the better. Running long on the weekend was my favorite thing to do. Getting my daily dose of endorphins has become part of my life. Also, having time to myself is something I cherish. Don’t get me wrong; I love being around people but it is nice to have some regular alone time.
Sport has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I played youth soccer as a kid. In high school being involved in varsity soccer gave me my first taste of the extraordinary experience available through sport.
While soccer and endurance sports are a world apart I have been able to find the extraordinary in both. My first taste of it as a runner came in Corning for my first marathon. I had trained well and I was ready to go. I was a bit nervous going into race day despite having run 26.2 miles three or four times in training (which is totally unnecessary by the way). I knew I could go the distance but I knew racing would pose a tougher challenge. My goals for the day were to run the whole thing without stopping, qualify for Boston (which meant under 3:11) and to break three hours (which I thought was a bit of a stretch). I ran a 2:55 (6:42 mile pace), didn’t have to walk and things never got “ugly”. Things got a bit tough from mile 22 on but nothing horrendous. I was thrilled with the result and fell in love with the experience. Not just running the marathon but training as well. I was hooked.
The other extraordinary experience I had came six months later at the Boston Marathon. I felt there was something special about the Boston Marathon. Some of the greatest distance runners to ever draw breath had put forth some of their best efforts on that stretch of road between Hopkinton and Boylston Street. Also, in order to run I had to qualify; which I did with the 2:55 in Corning. Plus there were over 20,000 marathoners (compared to 537 in Corning). I was fortunate enough to start in the first corral behind the elite runners and Meb Keflezighi was just a few feet in front of me. He won silver for the US in the marathon in the Athens Olympics in 2004. The race was everything I had hoped it would be. There were so many spectators, especially at the start. I felt like a pro athlete standing in a sold-out stadium. I felt strong throughout and finished in 2:49 (6:28 mile pace). When I turned onto Boylston Street and I realized I would break 2:50 I could hardly believe it. My Boston experience was truly amazing. The possibility of experiencing something like this in Lake Placid is a big part of why I want to do Ironman.
So how did I make the transition from a one trick pony (running) to a three trick pony (swim, bike, run)? I came down with Achilles tendonitis at the end of 2008. I had it once in 2007 I stopped running for a month and it got better. This time it just never seemed to get better. I missed about 15 months. In the beginning of 2009 I started swimming and biking as an alternate way of getting exercise although I gave it up after a couple months because while it did not aggravate my Achilles as much it still bothered it. So I gave up on exercise completely for about 9 of those 15 months and eventually the Achilles was mostly better. During this time I was able to reflect on what I wanted to do in endurance sports. Having done a marathon each year from 2005 to 2008 I wanted a different challenge. Putting together another quality marathon is something I will do again. However, I wanted to try something different. The idea of Ironman was creeping into my head. When someone first told me what Ironman was a few years ago I never thought I would do it. I knew how hard it was to run a marathon after a three week taper. I could not imagine starting one already exhausted. Plus I did not swim or bike at the time so I never thought much of it. However, given my injury issues and my desire to still do something special in endurance sport I was warming up to the idea.
I volunteered at the 2009 race in Lake Placid with Candice and it was truly moving. Seeing these incredibly fit people give it their all was simply amazing. Candice wrote a nice piece which goes into this in greater detail. You should check out Candice’s post “On Being an ‘Ironwidow.’”
At Ironman I talked with some folks who had done Ironman before to get a feel for how much training I would need to do and it did not seem as bad as I had anticipated. Plus I was able to see that these were “real” people. There was no magic to it. You just had to want it and put in the training. Also I came to the conclusion that I did not have to do two-a-day workouts. I did not want to have to get up and put in a workout before work some days and not others because that would screw up my sleep schedule. I do bricks (a run immediately following a bike), but that does not really count as a two-a-day workout in my eyes. It took several months to make up my mind but I decided that I wanted to do this and I am so glad I took the plunge. Candice and I volunteered again in 2010 and I signed up the day after the race. When I signed up for Ironman I was in the midst of training for the Half Ironman in Syracuse (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run) but had not actually participated in a triathlon. Having said this I feel I took an appropriate amount of time to build up to the iron-distance. I trained for seven months from March to September 2010 to do the Syracuse Half Ironman which went really well. I turned in a 39 minute swim and 2 hour and 59 minute bike and 90 minute run for a total time of 5 hours 22 minutes. I started working on building my base after Thanksgiving 2010 and “official” Ironman training started the week after Christmas for the July 24th race. So I will have sixteen months of multi-sport training under my belt when I make it to the starting line in Lake Placid which is in line with what most folks recommended.
I will briefly touch on training since that has been a big part of the journey. I would like to start by saying that I really enjoy swimming, biking and running. I never would have decided to do Ironman if that was not the case.
Coming to enjoy cycling has been one of the best things to come out of my road to Ironman. Without the Iron-carrot being dangled in front of me I do not think I would have given cycling a shot. Running was my thing and I was a little biased towards it. It is still my favorite of the three disciplines. I had never ridden a bike regularly since I was a kid. I just went to my local bike shop, bought a bike and started riding. There was no magic; I just gave it a shot and it turns out I ended up enjoying it. Knowing that I can bike somewhere 50 or 100 miles away is kind of cool. I have biked to my parents’ house in Marcellus from New Hartford which seemed kind of crazy when I first thought of it. I do most of my long rides heading south on route 12 then turning around and heading back. I have been to exotic destinations such as Sherburne (60 miles total out and back), Norwich (90 miles), and the little town of Oxford (112 miles). I have five rides of 100 miles or more under my belt and I feel very comfortable being in the saddle for six or seven hours (or as comfortable as one can be on a bike seat for seven hours). I usually do a long bike on Saturday and a long run on Sunday with shorter workouts during the week. It was really tough to get used to running long the day after biking long. However, like anything I was able to get used to it after doing it enough times.
Swimming has been a nice addition to my workout routine as well. I never swam laps as an adult until I decided to give triathlon a shot. I got into it in much the same fashion I got into cycling. I just went to the pool and started swimming. The first time I went to the pool just swimming across one time would really get me winded. But with time I was able to pick it up. No one who knows anything about swimming is going to look at me and say, “Damn! That guy can swim!” But my swimming is adequate for what I am looking to accomplish. To put things in perspective a professional Ironman swimmer can do 2.4 miles in about 50 minutes. Someone who swam at the collegiate level could bang it out in about 60 minutes. A good recreational competitor can do it in about 70 minutes. I expect to be in the neighborhood of 75 – 80 minutes. In the course of a 12 hour race 10 minutes is not that big of a deal.
Going into Ironman I cannot know for certain that it will live up to my expectations. However, I feel there is the potential for this to be a truly special experience. I have a similar reverence for Ironman that I had for Boston. Actually the reverence I hold for Ironman is greater than that I have for the Boston Marathon since Ironman will be more of a challenge for me. I have read the stories of so many athletes who have done Ironman. They are so full of passion and emotion. Some folks go so far as to say it is one of the greatest experiences of their lives.
As I finish this up Ironman is five days away. It is hard to believe it is almost here.
I will write about my race experience shortly after the big day so stay tuned!