I just finished my biggest week (so far) of Ironman training. I’m four weeks out from Wisconsin—it’s on the 13th—and weeks 22, 23, and 24 are the hardest weeks of the plan in terms of training volume and trying to fit everything in without burning out or having anyone around me kill me.
Here’s what those 16.5-ish hours of training were like.
Monday: The previous couple of days had included a 16.6-mile (26.7 km) long run (that I described as 15.0 good miles and 1.6 very bad ones) and a very good 80-mile (130 km) ride, which included climbing Mount Wachusett. So I was looking forward to a “rest day” that involved just an hour-long swim of 2,900 yards.
Tuesday: THE PLAN called for an hour-long run. On Monday one of my coworkers told me that he had joined Strava and totally kicked my ass on a particular hill near where we work. Well, I couldn’t let that stand, so I was going to include that hill on the route. Unfortunately I had some low blood sugar before I got to the hill, which left me walking for a bit. That good-natured grudge match is going to have to wait for another day.
Wednesday: Lisa and I swam again. For me it was another 3,200 yards, taking just longer than an hour. These are all structured workouts, and the knowledge that they’re making me faster and that I need the distance are the only things keeping me going to the pool in the middle of the summer when the lake is so nice right now. After work, I went for a 30-minute run. THE PLAN said to do the run at an easy, conversational pace (zone 2) which I find difficult. But I headed out, kept an eye on my heart rate, and thought about why I feel the need to maintain a particular outward appearance or speed for people I don’t know; and it became easier to run easy.
Thursday: Bike to work! THE PLAN said to ride for an hour-and-a-half, with about 40-50 minutes of it at “tempo” pace (zones 3-4). In order to have a good workout on the way home, I needed to take it very easy on the way to work. Pacing is a big theme here, you might have guessed; as is respecting the hard workout. I had good blood sugar mojo coming home, and my tempo ride went very well. I had to keep reminding myself that “tempo” doesn’t mean time trial, so I was continually telling myself to slow down. I see this as one of the big things I’ll need to be mindful of when I’m racing next month.
Friday: Friday was a light day for me, just a half-hour swim at the lake with one of my peeps from the pool. She’s easily the fastest person at my pool, and I would occasionally throw a look her direction and see her doing the breaststroke to keep from outdistancing me. I had never seen the lake so clear before. Of course, that meant I had a really good look at all of the weeds that had grown in the summer heat.
Saturday: One thing that’s hard to train for is how my blood sugar is going to respond during triathlon. One of the main reasons for this is that I just don’t do a full triathlon very often, about once a month. THE PLAN listed Saturday’s workout as a triathlon with time breakdowns that don’t match any common distance, so I decided to make my own. This would give me a chance to practice my diabetes, nutrition, and hydration strategies, too. Those strategies involve eating a healthy pasta dinner of a known size the night before, eating a peanut butter sandwich six-plus hours prior to the start of the tri, setting a temporary basal rate, and eating a Clif Bar with a little bit of insulin just beforehand.
So I set my midnight and 5:00 AM alarms, ate my food, adjusted my insulin, drove to the lake with the bike on the car and my transition bag in the backseat, and did my “Do-It-Yourself” triathlon. The hour-long, 2-mile swim from one of the lake to the other and back dropped my blood sugar much more than I was expecting (down 100 mg/dL, 5.6 mmol/L), and the hour-long, 18-mile bike ride immediately afterward raised it quite a lot (up 200, 11.0). This pretty much matches my recent races, so it’s a good baseline for making changes.
Midway through my 1.5-hour run someone rolled up next to me on a bike. “What are you training for?” he asked.
Clearly, I look like a triathlete, I thought. Perhaps it’s the tri kit, complete with visor and hydration belt. “Ironman Wisconsin in four weeks.”
“Aw, man!” he said. “Why did you have to pick the hardest one?”
I shrugged, thinking It really wasn’t my choice and Why do people tell me how hard all of the races I’ve signed up to do are going to be? “I’ve heard that Lake Placid is worse.”
“I’m going to do the one in Maryland. Eagleman? It’s supposed to be super flat. Well, have fun!”
Sunday: The previous night I had cobbled together a 95 mile-long bike route that included several of the smaller rides I do. I set out to spend lots of time in the aero bars and to eat and drink according to my race plan. Five hours and fifteen minutes of riding later I was back home and feeling a bit spent from the week’s exertion.
Twenty-two weeks down, four left to go. This week and next are each going to have more volume than the previous. Wish me luck!