“You got big dreams, You want triathlon, Well triathlon costs, And right here is where you start paying, In sweat.”
— Dance Teacher Lydia Grant (played by the incomparable Debbie Allen in the hit (that’s right, I said hit) ‘80s TV show “Fame” (paraphrased).
“I said 67 second quarters, not 68! Give me ten more!”
As triathletes, we’re often considered crazy, insane, obsessed, and weird by the public at large. Most people think that anyone who trains for three sports at the same time must have some type of chemical imbalance or are over-the-edge Type A personalities. Although ask anyone who’s ever done a Turkey Trot 5k or played some semi-athletic sport in high school (re: bowling or archery), and they are all quick to quip that they could do an Ironman, but they just don’t like to wear bike shorts. Most of us have met people at a social type gathering (while frequently glancing at our Timex Ironman watches to calculate when to leave in order to get eight hours of sleep before tomorrow’s five hour ride) who boldly state that as soon as they get done painting their house or sewing curtains, they’ll start training and will definitely qualify for Kona within the next two years. That’s why whenever a non-triathlete starts a conversation with me about the race t-shirt I’m wearing, I tell them that I stole the t-shirt from a nun. I think her name sounded something like an ‘80s pop singer. Maybe it was Cyndi Lauper.
Theft is a very serious matter, especially the theft of ideas and intellectual property, although we’re all probably at least a little guilty of the occasional transgression. After all, what better way to impress people at the office Christmas party (other than wearing an Ironman finisher’s shirt, now yours for the low price of $5.00) than to pass off the witty remarks you read regarding the health care debate in Guns ‘n Ammo magazine as your own. Well, Joe Friel, author of such well-known Restoration-era romance novels as The Triathlete’s Training Bible and Going Long, has basically stolen one of the workouts that my training partners and I do in the final weeks of Ironman preparation. OK, we stole it from someone else, but at least we never tried to profit from it.
In a recent post in his blog entitled “Ironman Big Day”, Friel details a day-long workout which if all goes well should nicely prepare you for 140.6 miles of paddling, pedaling, and plodding. In this workout, you’ll swim for an hour, take a break, bike for five hours, take another break, then run for two hours, and finally sleep for three days. The workout totals eight hours with a total of three hours of rest in between disciplines. Personally, I think the breaks in between would be the hardest part of the workout as a five-hour bike ride usually calls for a burger/beer happy meal and a five hour nap; a two-hour run ain’t happening.
Our workout is a little bit different (no swimming (yippee!!) and no breaks), but it shares a few commonalities. It’s an all-day workout, a good deal of it should be done at race pace, and race-day nutrition and gear should be prioritized. Even though I haven’t attempted Mr. Friel’s workout, I can imagine that the biggest common factor with our workout is that it’s really frickin’ hard. Like painfully, mentally, and emotionally hard, like watching a Steven Seagal/Jean Claude Van Damme movie marathon while sipping on prune juice smoothies and no access to a bathroom (although you probably won’t waste as many brain cells in the workout).
Now many people who are training for an Ironman may scoff at such a workout, and chances are that such a workout may not have much of an impact on your race, but the merits of these workouts are so great that they shouldn’t be ignored. The greatest benefit is the confidence gained from knowing that after finishing this workout, Ironman will be not necessarily easy, but definitely doable. If you can complete this workout in relative comfort, then you know that can actually race an Ironman instead of just finish.
Obviously, a workout like this can only be done once or twice a season, and Friel suggests doing his workout twice in training for an upcoming race. But for the bigger picture, these workouts demonstrate a training principle which many recognize as essential, but many people may forget or choose to ignore – if you want to race an Ironman, or even just get through the day without completely suffering, then you have to train hard. Pain, discomfort, hunger, fatigue, and even boredom should become your new best friend; screw your drinking and golf buddies, even your husband/wife and kids. By regularly incorporating masters swim classes, track workouts, group rides, and quad-crushing workouts with your training partners (i.e. “friends”), you’ll get to the starting line with the confidence that you won’t completely suck that day.
Since he’s posting a workout that all Ironman triathletes should incorporate into their schedules, I’m gonna let him go this time. Next time though, we want some credit, or maybe just a free autographed book.
If anyone’s interested, the Tampa Bay contingent to Ironman Arizona 2010 will be doing a similar workout in early November. Come out and join us, it’ll be “epic”.