Training for Ironman #5 has begun! But not without some concern. Usually, my concerns are about some nagging injury that is giving me doubt about completing my workouts, or some forgotten conflict that may pop up and cause me to miss something important, or some other dumb thing on my mind. But I never thought that a global pandemic might derail not only my training but the race itself.
When my buddies and I committed to doing Louisville again back in January, I had no idea that I would be sitting around inside my house with the government telling me to stay home and not go anywhere other than essential travel, i.e. to work, to get groceries, etc. But here we are. When the race dominoes started falling, races like the Boston Marathon and others, I knew that this might be a little more of a worry than what we were telling ourselves. Pools are now closed. Gyms are now closed. Running trails are open, but the toilets are locked! (Maybe that’s only a problem for me.) Getting the workouts in maybe a little difficult for some, but Ironman triathletes are a hardy bunch. Heck, if we can get through an actual Ironman race, we can get around these training obstacles.
My plan for this Ironman is to once again follow Don Fink’s “Be Iron Fit” competitive training plan for the next 30 weeks. It has served me well in my past four races and I have tweaked it over time to fit my abilities and needs. I don’t follow the swim plans like I did the first two times I used it. The past two races went well with just two 45-minute swims per week with a handful of longer open water swims thrown in. I won’t be able to swim for a while, as it hasn’t warmed up enough for me to open my own pool. I suspect I will start swimming in late May.
It is on the cusp of being nice enough to bike outside, but if the weather prevents that I have both a trainer at home or a spin bike at work that I can use if necessary.
I’m in pretty good shape for running this time around. I had been training for an ultramarathon that was to take place on April 3rd but it fell victim to the pandemic and got postponed. My goal for this year’s race is to try to go sub-4 hours on the run. In 2017 my run split was 4:05 at Louisville, so I think that it is reachable. I just got to learn to stay out of the porta-potties on the run course, which always rob me of time. If they are locked on race day it might not be an issue!
My ultramarathon got postponed until 12 days after Ironman Louisville, so I hope to use the 30-weeks of training to prepare me for that event as well.
So here’s to a safe 30-weeks of training, and I hope my buddies and I and everyone else training for Ironman Louisville stays healthy.
A couple of months ago, Dave’s awesome wife and our usual Ironman travel coordinator Carla texted us Ironman friends and informed us that she had secured hotels for our next Ironman. Say that again? You did what?! When did we decide we are doing an Ironman?! Usually, when I get that nauseated feeling of signing up for an Ironman it is self-inflicted. This time Carla was causing it! After some not-so-deep introspection as to whether I wanted to add this to my racing calendar (I already had a spring and fall marathon and some shorter tri’s on it) most of our group decided to rev up our Gunner mobiles and give it another go. Honestly, training was not going well for my spring marathon Boston qualifying attempt, and this was a good enough reason to get out of that. As for that Chicago Marathon that is two weeks after this Ironman race, I will see how I feel. I may defer the race until the following year if I remember to do it in time, or I might just take it easy for two weeks post-Ironman and run Chicago as a victory lap. I was planning on it being my last one for a while anyway. So with that reasoning, I decided that I was in.
Training has now started for my fourth Ironman and again I am joined by my Gunner teammates, or some of them anyway. It appears that Alex and I are the only ones officially signed up, and my life long buddy Dave (Alex’s dad) was the one who initiated the idea about doing the race so I am sure he’s probably signed up. Jeff says he’s only in if John is in, but Jeff has started training for it too. John skipped Louisville and has his hands full with a very young family, so I’m guessing he may miss this one as well, but I never count him out. I’m trying to pitch the easy training plan to him, which requires less training time. There’s also talk of Jeff’s sister Jan joining us, and Dave is heavily recruiting his brother-in-law Scott to join in the fun. That’s awesome, the more the merrier. Also, there is a group of first-timers from the local running club that are also training for the race as well. I’m looking forward to seeing Susan and John B. training and completing their first Ironman, and I hope we can find some time to do some training rides together. So there are quite a few joining in the fun this time around.
Our adventure is taking us to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, to Ironman Chattanooga, also known by triathletes as “Choo” as in The Chattanooga Choo-choo, and sometimes “Chatty,” and has a reputation for having a fast downstream swim, a mostly gentle rolling hill bike ride through northern Georgia and back to Chattanooga, and a run with a few killer hills. The most notable item about Choo is that the bike ride is 116 miles, four more miles than all of the other Ironman races, making this Ironman 144.6 total miles. The veterans will say that you don’t really notice the extra four miles of cycling and that the fast swim evens out the time. All Ironman races have unique things about them, but none of the others have an extra four miles. I’m looking forward to adding this race to my finisher resume.
Here’s a look at the bike and run elevation comparisons from the three races I have done (in order of completion) and Choo:
The data was taken from the Ironman website, but there are lots of triathletes that say that Ironman’s reported elevations are not very accurate. I seriously doubt that Moo has less elevation than Lou. Regardless, the chart is pretty consistent with how I remember them. Choo looks like an easy run compared to Moo and Lake Placid.
TRAINING PLAN FOR CHATTANOOGA
I’m changing up my training plan this time around. I will once again be using Don Fink’s Be Iron Fit for training, but after following the Competitive plan in the book for my previous three races I am giving serious consideration to following the Just Finish plan with some alterations. The main reason is that I am pretty sore all the time, and I just want to ease into the training this time around without killing myself. The Intermediate plan seems to me does not differ much from the Competitive plan to make it worth dropping down to. Getting the Saturday and Sunday long bikes and long runs in are what really matter, and the Just Finish plan starts off with much less time training but gradually catches up to the Competitive plan. The big difference is that the Just Finish maxes out at two 5-hour rides, whereas the Competitive plan has two 5-hour rides, a 5:30 ride, a 5:45 ride and finishes with a 6-hour ride. Not sure if I can handle that stuff this time around. We’ll see how the training goes and I may increase my weekend rides and runs to follow the Competitive plan. If the group decides to do a group ride and they are following the harder plan, then I will definitely go along with that.
As I eased into Week 1 training, I found that the Just Finish plan was less work than I had been averaging in my off-season training, so I decided to start with the Competitive plan and keep my daily efforts to about an hour of daily exercise until I’m happy using the Competitive plan, or when the Just Finish plan catches up to me.
As for swimming, I gained a lot of confidence from the training I did in 2017 for Ironman Louisville. Lou has a similar river swim as Chattanooga and I set a swim personal best there with a 1:09 swim. Lou has a short upstream swim portion which Choo lacks. At Choo, it’s all downstream, and I hear that even though the water temps may prevent wetsuit usage, many still set swim personal bests. For Lou, I basically waited until May when I opened my own swimming pool and just did two 45 minute swims a week, with the occasional hour-long swim or open water swim thrown in to keep me honest and make sure that I had the confidence I needed to swim 2.4 miles. Swimming for 45 minutes is really no big deal, and to swim an additional 45 minutes I always thought would be no big deal as well.
So here we go again! And I’m very excited about training for Ironman Chattanooga! GO GUNNERS!
Week 1 Training Totals:
Swims: None > Rides: 4 total / 57 miles > Runs: 4 total / 12.25 miles