Triathlon Blues. What to do about Ironman Arizona 2020?

My first Ironman triathlon event was a half-Ironman in Indian Wells: IM70.3 Indian Wells. I had trained on my own, and after a bunch of shorter distances races, I thought I was ready to try a longer distance race. Indian Wells seemed like a perfect fit. After months of training and one incredibly restless night of sleep, I was finally in the water and working hard to shake the nerves as best I could. The swim and bike portions were hard but uneventful; my back hurt, my hamstrings were tight, and my rear end was sore, but I managed. However, I knew that the run would be the troubling part for me. For this particular race, the run portion consisted of two laps around a golf course. A cruel joke that is played out at most multiple lap races is that the finish line is also the beginning of the second lap–you get to watch in envy as the early finishers elatedly cross the finish line while you brace for another painful trip. Soon after I began my second lap, I hit the “wall.” My run slowed to a jog, which turned into a walk. Before too long, I was joined by an equally exhausted athlete. We commiserated with each other as we questioned our sanity, and talked about our training programs. Finally, he turned to me and asked, “so, do you think you’re going to do the full?

If you’ve ever seen the replay of the Indianapolis Colt’s then-coach, Jim Mora, give his famous “Playoffs?” rant, you can imagine what went through my head (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2R2sH2ScBM). Am I going to do a full Ironman?!? Are you kidding me? We’re walking the half! My legs are throbbing, and my feet hurt so badly that I cringe every time my foot hits the ground. I’m doing everything I can just to finish this stupid race. Do the full??? You’re outta your mind.

(Note: I did finish. I started running again and managed to cross the finish line in exactly seven hours. 7:00:12, to be exact. The addiction hook was set, and I signed up for my next 70.3 the next day). IM703. Indian Wells Triathlon

Just like everything else, the harder I worked, the easier things became. My next half-IM was faster and slightly less painful, as was the next one, and so on. It was time for a full distance Ironman. 140.3 miles: 2.5-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run. The decision wasn’t trivial by any means. I knew that while it was possible to brute force my way through a half-Ironman distance, there was no way I’d be able to finish a full-Ironman without proper training and nutrition. Will power alone wasn’t going to cut it. This next adventure would require an intense focus and commitment, certainly at the expense of other things. Deep down, I had to do this. I don’t know why it’s so important to me, but it is.

I am now five months into my training for Ironman Arizona. I work with an excellent coach who helps keep me motivated and injury-free (knock on wood). My fitness has significantly improved, and I’m seeing the results in all my numbers. There are days I still question my ability to get through a full, but I know I’m on the right track, and if I just stay focused, everything will work out. In many ways, my life revolves around my training and my upcoming race.

But, my race will be canceled. I know this. All races are being canceled. As COVID ravages the country, there is no question in my mind that Ironman Arizona will ultimately get pulled. Even if the race isn’t canceled, it’s not like Arizona is doing a stellar job of managing the Pandemic, so I have to consider the risk for myself and my family by participating. The race takes place on November 22nd in Tucson, AZ, fifteen weeks from now. Ironman (WTC) has done a poor job in managing race cancellations and has continually chosen to cancel races as close to the race date as possible to withhold refunds. It’s a poor business practice, but it’s been pretty consistent, so I imagine that Arizona will be canceled sometime in September.

Until then, I will continue to train as if the race is going off as planned. I don’t actually know what else to do. I’m stuck.

Makeup Monday

7/6/20: After my failed attempt at a run on Sunday, my only option was to work it into my Monday schedule. Monday’s are typically reserved for either rest days or very light recovery work. Not this Monday. I did an easy fifty-minute spin on the bike, keeping y heart rate in Zone 1 the entire time.

Following the bike, I headed to the treadmill for an hour-and-twenty minute run. Missing Sunday gave me an inadvertent rest day, and it shows during the run. I was able to hit negative splits, and twenty-second pace improvement, and a Zone 2 heart rate throughout.

My legs were toast by the end, but it ended up being a great run.

A Failed Sunday

7/5/20: Missing training frustrates me. It’s one of the reasons I try to train early in the morning; it gets it out of the way, and I’m happier and more productive for the rest of the day. When I don’t train early in the morning, I end up obsessing about it the remainder of the day—always looking for an opening in the day for me to break away and run and ride. As the hours of the day tick, the potential of missing training only adds to my frustration. After a big training day on Saturday—and 4th of July spent next door at our neighbors eating and drinking way too many delicious things—Sunday got off to a slow start. So slow that I didn’t get any of my planned training done. In this case, it meant missing a fifty-minute recovery ride and a long run.

It was 9:30 pm before I stepped on the treadmill to begin my long run. I had played tennis with the boy earlier in the day, so I was okay missing my recovery ride, but I wanted to get the run done. Ten minutes into the run, with dinner still sloshing around in my stomach, I called it quits. It’s always easy to tell when the quality isn’t going to be there, and what’s the sense of training if it’s not helping you?

Aerobic/Tempo Ride & Transition Run

7-4-20: Saturday’s are big days in my IM training. Today was no exception: four hours and eleven minutes on the bike trainer followed by forty minutes of running in the treadmill. I ended up logging seventy-seven miles on mostly flat terrain (on Zwift), and just over four miles of running. These are essentially my race pace numbers from past races. My legs hurt, but not so badly that I can’t drink beer and eat burgers! Happy July 4th! 🇺🇸🗽🚴‍♀️

Z2 Tempo 200s

7-3-20: In the pool for my Friday swim. At the club we’ve gone to a reservation system for most things, including the pool. At the top of the hour a new group is allowed in, and fifty minutes later we are out. This allows the staff ten minutes to clean before the next group enters.

Although I thought I had made a reservation, it turned out that I didn’t. Luckily for me there was a lane open in the recreational pool, which is considerably warmer. Today’s training was basically blocks of 200 yards of varying intensity. I was worried that I’d overheat (which I almost did), but what was most interesting was that my first six hundred yards was close to the fastest I’ve ever swam. During a rest break the club manager walked by and I asked if there was something about the warm pool that made it faster. She told me that because it was warmer and shallower my body was more relaxed which caused my form to be better. “I can see it in your stroke, your more relaxed and your pull is longer and your kicks are easier.” I may never understand swimming.

18 Weeks To Go

7-2/20: This week marks 18 weeks until Ironman Arizona. Today was a bike and run morning. 1.5 hours on the bike and 1 hour on the treadmill. The bike was a z1 ride, and the run was a z2 Tempo Run–three six-minute blocks at my z2 heart rate. My Heart Rate Monitor gave out halfway through my run. Either that or I kept my heart rate at 72 BMP while running an 8:30/mile.

Despite my issues with my HRM, it was the best run I’ve had in a very long time. Maybe ever. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was my hydration–I finished both of my bottles while I was on the bike, something I rarely do–or maybe it was my AC/DC playlist. Who knows? Whatever the reason, it was just a very enjoyable run.