Preparing for Ironman 70.3 Florida

Prepping for Florida was quite the challenge.  Living outside of Guatemala City gyms and pools were at a premium, and biking or running the roads would mean the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes for each 15 minutes of exercise.  The smog was absolutely unbearable – the worst was when the old yellow school busses brought down from the US would spew the blackest smoke I’ve ever seen in giant clouds right onto the shoulder where I was running.  Man, did I gain a greater respect for the restaurant anti-smoking laws in the US!

So I spent about 80% of my training on the bike trainer instead of braving the smog, which at least let me get my time in.  I think my trainer was a bit slack, though, since resistance didn’t seem to build as much as it should’ve when I got to higher speeds.  The best and worst part about the trainer was the ability to watch movies while riding.  I sweat far too much to read (it was like swimming in a pool the one time I tried it), so movies were the next best option.  The only problem with this fantastic diversion was that I got addicted to it.  If I was watching a comedy, going beyond 1:30 on the trainer was torture – I got about 2:15 out of really interesting dramas, and if the movie had no intrigue, I would seriously have rather pulled my own teeth out one by one for an hour than stay in the saddle.  Eventually, though, I got a buddy to start sending me movies from the States, and I had just enough to get me through to Florida.

For running, I would run on rural roads as much as I could to get away from the smog, but since I was in the mountains of Guatemala while training for a race on the flats of Florida, I supplemented painful hilly runs with treadmill runs at a gym 45 minutes away that I eventually broke down and joined.

I trained the swim in a 25 meter pool that was at my gym, and did several longer swims in open water when I was able to get to the coast – very helpful, I might add.

I should add that my goal in training was to FINISH – I wasn’t shooting for a time since (1) I hadn’t done this distance and (2) because I’d only ever completed 2 sprint multi-sport events!  So my goal was to cross the finish line and not have a heart-attack either during or after, which turned my training into just volume-building.  In my heaviest weeks, I was training about 6 hrs on the bike, 2 on the run, and 3 in the pool – which got me to the finish line, but if I want to really improve (which I do!), I’ll really have to up my game and increase these numbers.

I hate running.  No, seriously, I really HATE running.  So training for the running segment was my biggest challenge.  I’ve spent my life running for sports, but it’s so hard to convince myself that an out-and-back without a ball is somehow supposed to be fun.  So I ended up slacking on the run, which was VERY evident in my final race time (about a 2.5 hour half marathon).  I also hated most of that run on the day of the race because my lack of training in the event left me pretty unprepared.

Not having done this whole 1/2 ironman thing, and only barely having dipped my toes into multi-sport, I pretty much made up my training “program”.  I tried a program on, a great website for tracking training, but it just became too much to track it all, and I resigned myself to a make-it-up-as-I-go strategy.  This worked fine to finish, but in the future if I want to improve, I am sure this will have to change significantly.

One of the more difficult challenges of my race prep came when I had an unfortunate run-in with a drunk driver (see photo below – I’m NOT the semi).  Some drunk guy at 2 p.m. on a Monday afternoon (I know!) decided to do a full-speed u-turn right into my lane on a non-divided 2-lane rural highway.  Without any anticipation, I plowed into the guy at 55 mph, and momentum took over and carried the car to a nice, soft landing right in the grill of a parked semi-truck on the side of the road.

So after all was said and done, I ended up with a bunch of cuts and scrapes, a sore chest, and a partially torn right bicep.  My legs were pretty sore for a while, but not so bad as my buddy Adam Hill who managed to stop himself from going through the windshield despite the fact that his seatbelt was broken and unwearable, and he didn’t have an airbag.  His knees took the brunt of the damage, and unfortunately he hasn’t raced this year because of some ongoing issues.  What sucks is that Adam was only in for a weekend visit – welcome to Guatemala, buddy!

So other than being a certified bad host for almost killing my friend, I ended up with a 3.5 week training gap as my body slowly recovered.  I started running and biking first, but with the bicep the swim was just not in the cards.

Eventually, however, things came together and I went to Florida with just 3 weeks of training in the last 6.5 weeks leading up to the race.  I had been wearing compression braces on both quads, however, as I over-trained big time to try and make up for lost time in the last few weeks.  My biggest fear was that I wasn’t prepared with enough miles under my legs to finish the race because of the hiatus in training.  I considered myself day-to-day going into the race, partly attracted  to the cop-out, but then realized I was being a huge wuss, manned up, and put my toe on the starting line.  I’m just glad I realized I was being a wuss before race day!


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