Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Year of the Ironman

It's not really a big announcement because I've already mentioned it a couple of times, but earlier in the summer I signed up for the first ever Ironman US Championship on August 12th, 2012. First of all, I'm not sure why they're calling it a championship because I didn't have to qualify. I was under the impression that Lake Placid was an actual championship Ironman, but I was either mistaken or something has changed. Whatever. The point is I may or may not have done something very dumb by signing up. At the very least, though, I had that epic failure of a half Ironman last year and so have a better idea of what to expect.

So what is an Ironman? Well, it's a triathlon of epic proportions. It starts with a 2.4 mile swim. This particular swim will take place in the Hudson. I've heard that the current in the Hudson is extremely strong, so that will work to my advantage. After that, I'll embark upon a 112 mile bike ride through New York and New Jersey. The final leg consists of a full marathon, which will end in Riverside Park. I'll have 17 hours to complete this thing. My time constraints are as follows:

7:00am - Race starts (though I will probably be in a later wave)
9:20am - Swim closes. Athletes who haven't crossed the timing mat are disqualified.
5:30pm - Bike closes. Athletes still on the course are disqualified.
12:00am - Run closes. Athletes who have not finished are disqualified.

So there are my cutoff times. This is going to be a massive undertaking, and I understand that. The difference between training for this Ironman versus any event I've trained for in the past (marathons, most notably), is that succeeding at this endeavor is going to involve major life changes. I'm going to have to start working out in the morning AND the evening. I've tried to start paring down my other activities to make space for this because I'm going to need almost everything I have. One extreme preparation measure that I've taken is giving up alcohol. Now, I've done this for the past two NYC marathons, but the longest that period has been is four months. I'm giving up alcohol for a full year. This started last Saturday, by the way. My last day of drinking for the year was on Friday. I did decide to allow two days off for this. One is going to be my birthday and the other one hasn't been determined, but I'll be saving it for a special occasion.

I've been asked multiple times about the alcohol abstinence and whether or not it actually improves my performance. The truth is, I don't really know. Even if I was more observant about it, I probably couldn't pinpoint a worse or better performance to it alone simply because there are so many factors that go into race day preparation. What I do know, though, is that it can't hurt and it gives the whole effort a sort of discipline context. In my comedy classes I've learned about the strategy of "if this is true, what else can be true" for making something funnier. I think the same rule can be applied here (not for the purpose of being funnier, of course). If I can give up alcohol for a year, what else can I do?

Another thing I need to do that I've been talking about for months and months and months is buy a new bike. It's finally time to just bite the bullet and get something better than my current two-wheeled behemoth. That's the plan for Saturday. I'll go here and leave with a brand new bike that will get me through training for and racing this thing.

I'll also be purchasing new running shoes tomorrow from this place. I'd normally go to JackRabbit because I can get 10% off, but I stopped into a nearby Super Runners Shop during lunch a few weeks ago and one of the sales guys was very helpful. I said I'd be back later to actually buy shoes and I did mean it. I only wish I'd gotten the guy's name. Hopefully he'll be working tomorrow.

Yet another strategy I need to employ is making a concerted effort to lose weight. This isn't the main goal, but there's no question shedding 10 or 15 pounds would help. While weight loss is what got me started on all this in the first place, it isn't something I've actively tried to achieve for awhile, mostly because it's happened on its own very, very slowly as a result of constantly training for one thing or another. Also, I really like eating and drinking. But if I can achieve a higher level of efficiency by getting stronger and leaner, it's worth it. 17 hours is a long time to be carrying around extra of anything. I plan to work toward this through good, old-fashioned balanced eating and discipline.

My last thought about this for the evening is my training plan. I'm sure I can find one on the Internet, but I'm worried that I won't be able to stick with it. I'm starting to wonder if it wouldn't be worth looking into coaching of some sort. There's also Team Lipstick. I kind of wanted to do their fall program anyway, but I'm still looking into all the options. If anyone knows of a good coach, let me know. I leave you with this:

This is it. IT BEGINS.


  1. "You realize that you will not have sex with anyone for six months" hahah there's a harsh condition I didn't think of. I'm so excited for you, though! 17 hours. I really never thought of it like that. dear god.