28 Weeks of Ironman Training: Mental Hurdles & New Milestones

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28 weeks from when I first began my attempt to train for an Ironman in 1 year, I’ve discovered, or rather confirmed, that just because you take on a big challenge full of commitment & obstacles, doesn’t mean the world slows down around you.

I mentioned in my previous post that life had been quite busy. Between buying a renovation project, having my wife & my first year anniversary, amongst obligations to work & friends, we had a lot going on. That certainly, has not changed.

Since then, we’ve gone full “fixer-upper” on our house. Tearing down walls, building a two story addition, it’s basically not a home, it’s a war-zone (at least for now). We also learned that our 3 year old pup managed to tear not 1… but BOTH of his ACLs, requiring surgery (which involves a 16 week recovery).

With that, this Ironman has become more than a challenge. It’s become a beacon of hope that if we can just get through September 29th, life will settle down (hopefully). We’ll have a finished house, a healed dog, and I won’t have the part time job of being a certified cardio-nut any longer.

But until then… things keep moving along!

Consistency (not perfection) is key

In my last post, I was just beginning to scratch the surface of what my official 30 week Ironman training program would have in store for me. I hadn’t biked over 2 hours, run more than 8 miles, or done anything crazy in the pool either. It really was a “warm up” for what was to come.

The last 8 weeks (closing out the 10 week base phase and being 2 weeks into the build phase), have been quite a different challenge.

Along with increased volume of training (running more than 1:30, biking 3+ hours, etc), I struggled to maintain a perfect record with my sessions. That said, I still got an “A”. I completed 94 of 104 training sessions in the first 10 weeks. 4 I missed with no real excuse, 3 from weather, 2 from being sick, and 1 simply out of my hands.

Each missed session came with it’s own sense of guilt (particularly those with no real excuse as to why they were missed), but there were also times when my body thanked me, and performed/felt better when I hopped back on schedule later in the week.

Yes, you need to complete a huge volume of activity, but no, you don’t need to be perfect, and listening to your body is one of the smartest things you can do (as long as it’s within reason :p).

Let’s be real though, training for an Ironman is hard

I began this journey seeking a challenge. One well above and beyond what I had done in the past.

I can definitively say, I got that challenge.

In week 10 of the official Ironman training program, I was tasked with running 12 miles. The furthest I had run to that point.

I was hoping for just under 1:30:00, and the weather on that day was barely cooperating. Hot, raining… you know… just beautiful outside.

To this point in my training, whatever was on the docket for that day, I completed. Challenging yes, but each time I made it through the longer run, longer swim, longer bike, what have you.

But not this time.

Some dehydration, stomach issues, poor sleep, etc. cut my day short after mile 4. Needless to say, this was a sharp shot to the ego.

“What if I can’t run more than 10 miles?”, “What if my body just isn’t meant to go that far?”, “If I can’t even run 12, how will I get through 26.2 at the end of a long day?”…etc, etc.

Lots of negativity flooded my thoughts for the following week. Could I do this? Should I do this? Could I just stop after the half in July? I even went as far as to verbalize those thoughts to close friends & family.

Luckily for me, I have friends and family that believe in me, even when I don’t. I finally snapped out of it when my wife looked at me and said “Stop it with all that. You signed up for this, you can do it. It’s hard, yes, but you can do it. Take a day, reset your mind, and get back to it”.

(This, ladies & gents, is why I married her)

With that, I took a day off, refocused my energy, and got back after it.

My first true milestones in Ironman training

I had had personal PRs (personal records) all throughout training. Sure. Every time I had to run another 2 miles, PR. Every time I biked an additional 15 minutes, PR. Every time I added a 50m to a swimming interval, PR.

Those were fun, but they were also all expected progress. I’m training, so yeah, I should be able to do more now than before. Not a surprise.

There are 3 PRs though, that I am much more proud of because they represent true milestones (to me) as they correspond with race distances.

With these behind me, I really feel like I’m getting somewhere. I’m still 9 weeks out from my half Ironman and 6 weeks from my Olympic, but I’ve completed just about all the distances for both races, giving me confidence that I’ll actually be able to finish them respectably.

Bring on the races

I’ll say it. I’m officially tired of just “training”. I want to get these races on with!

With a month and a half standing between me and my first race, then only 3 weeks after that until the half, I’m ready to put all this training to work. Let’s see how this all comes together on July 7th.

For now, back to it.