Ironman Training Update…t-minus 6 weeks

6 weeks to go, and I’m ready.  I’m not sure if I’m ready for the race, but I’m surely ready for the weeks AFTER the race!  Training in Afghanistan has been hard…I mean realllllly hard.  Staring at sandbags in a freezing cold room for 6 hours at a time on the trainer has taken its toll on me, as has running nearly every mile of training on the treadmill (minus 2 long runs in Dubai) and having no access to a swimming pool.  Nevertheless, I’m determined to toe the line come 22 April, but man am I mentally exhausted from this.

Today was one of those rare days, having escaped briefly to Dubai, where I rediscovered for a moment the joy of running.  I found this really great, peaceful, and unmercifully hot place about an hour running from the Dubai coastline, and it made me feel like I was in an extreme training video.  Away from the big buildings but still surrounded by city, there’s a massive lot of sand dunes with parallel hardened utility truck tracks which makes way for 5 massive 400,000 watt strings of power lines – probably 300 meters across and around 5 km long with walls of sand blocking 90% of the views.  For the first time in almost a year now, it was just me, the ground (not the belt of a treadmill) and the elements.  All I could hear was the pounding of my feet, the wind whipping sand by my face, and the hum of high-voltage power lines overhead.  Man I’ve missed this…I mean I’ve never been there before today, but that solitude, confronting the elements, and feeling out the earth with my toes – awesome.

Feeling pretty insecure about whether or not my indoor training is going to be enough – no water to test myself in, no elements to master nutrition, no real road resistance to tell if I’m really on track – I discovered today that there’s one thing that is the unquestionable positive result of training indoors: mental toughness.  Spending hours on a bike and treadmill staring at nothing, not going anywhere, nothing to really distract me or allow me to get out of my own head, has had this strange way of forcing me to confront personal demons.  Biking or running in a 3m x 3m room for hours on end is not a physical challenge nearly as much as it is a mental challenge, and today showed me that I’m seeing some positive results.  Absolutely wrecked from a tough ride yesterday, being able to go outside I found that there was NO mental game – that game is over for now.  I think months of struggling to keep up with this training regime indoors, and listening to nothing but the thoughts in my head, makes the prospect of a big workout outdoors infinitely easier – and finally FUN – to swallow than even half of it indoors.

That being said, I’ve got another 5 weeks of training indoors to swallow, and I’m right on edge of wit’s end.  I’d be lying if I said “6 weeks to go, I’m basically there”…in fact, I feel quite the opposite feeling right now.  After getting rocked yesterday on my first outdoor ride in months, I’m questioning my trainer sessions.  A recent shoulder injury from overuse of the rubber bands has me worried about the swim.  And, well, the run comes after all of that, so naturally that leg is of equal concern.  My feeling at this point is that I’ve got a lot of work to do just to finish.

But as they say, these are merely the problems of a rich man.  I guess the one point of solace in all of this is that it doesn’t really matter what happens, finish or not.  I’m happy, I’m healthy (thanks to this crazy training), and I’m enjoying life.  Ironman is supposed to be crazy hard, and these are just musings on my personal struggle to reach the finish line.  Crazy hard it is, ready to toe the line I am, and most of all thrilled that this update says SIX weeks to race day and not TWELVE!!



12 Responses

  1. What an amazing story! Just keep your focus up! I live and train in port Elizabeth and tomorrow I am faced with a 5hr indoor set… After reading this it WILL BE EASY!!

    I am doing my 4th IMSA and I can guarantee you, that you will manage just fine!! Good luck with the weeks ahead and know that your reward is waiting ‘just around the corner’…


  2. Hi Nathan

    See this link below for a review of the IMSA course. It’s from 2009, but the course is exactly the same!! This site belongs to Raoul de Jongh (Urban Ninja) who has finished as the top AG’er and gone to Kona. The guy is awesome and here he has broken down the course…
    I read and re-read this prior to each of my races!

    Enjoy and good luck! Follow me on twitter @Vince1103 and maybe we can hook up when you get to PE!


    • Thanks for this Vince – what a great course review! I’ll definitely be reading and re-reading, as you said. Would be great to catch up in PE.


  3. How goes it Nathan? Ready for the race??? Interested to hear what you are doing workout wise the week before, if anything! Good Luck!

    • Hey Jason, all is good! Having some IT band issues when I reach 3 hrs on the bike, so I’m taking it a bit easy right now with 2 straight rest days. When I get to Cape Town tomorrow I’ll do a 2km swim and a set of hills on the bike for 1 hr maybe, just to get the feel of the road. After that I’ll be doing muscle memory work just to stay fresh, but resting, eating good food and hydrating my butt off. I can send you my exact workouts if you want. What’re you going to be doing that last week?

  4. You have conquered the hardest part which is mental toughness. Your training and previous race experience is invaluable as you take on this challenge. Will be cheering you on Apr. 22nd!


  5. Hi, I just read your story on the Ironman South Africa website.
    I live in PE and have raced IMSA twice. It is an amazing race. This time I will be cheering. I wish you all the best and am sure you will have a great race and enjoy it as much as i have each time.

  6. Hey Nath,
    I also have 6 weeks til my first half Ironman. Your story is an inspiration! I take my hat off to you and feel your pain. Keep it up!
    I cant wait to hear your results! Go get-em tiger!

  7. Best of luck for Sunday Nathan! I’ll also be taking part – can’t wait!!!! Excited to hear how your race went!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: