What I Learned from Ironman

Last May on the front sidewalk of Natural Grocers in Abilene, I registered for Ironman Texas on my brother's smart phone. It was a Sunday right after church. Registration opened at noon. I was registered at 12:01 PM.

The frenzy of getting registered took control of my mind that morning, then when I was registered...it hit me.

2.4 mile swim

112 mile bike

26.2 mile run

What am I nuts??

I didn't know how to train for that distance, how my body would respond to training, how I could train and take the last three courses of my MBA at the same time, while Jenn added a class to her teaching load, with a 2 year old, and a 1 year old...yeah, I must be nuts.

I still had some races to finish up that year. I did an Olympic triathlon in Austin on Memorial Day, then was registered for another Olympic and Half Ironman in October, and the Whiterock (now "Dallas") marathon in December.

Little did I know that the Memorial Day triathlon (Capital of Texas Tri) would be my last triathlon until the Ironman.

Check the archives of this blog for the story about me getting run over on my Specialized Transition about a month before the Half Ironman.

At that point not only did I not have my training specifics figured out for the Ironman, but I had to wonder whether or not I was even going to be healthy or strong enough to DO an Ironman at all.

To make a long story short, I nearly PRed the half marathon at Whiterock in  December and recovered from that injury extremely fast with no lasting side effects save for a big U-shaped scar on my left quad.

I decided to go with no animal products in my diet for the 16 weeks to show that it could be done. That you don't need animal products to fuel your system in preparation for one of the most physically challenging feats there is. That if you eat a nutritionally excellent diet, you can finish an Ironman with energy to burn, feeling absolutely great (I didn't sign up for the Memorial Day tri because I figured I would be too wiped after the IM, but I should have signed up because I felt great three days after the race).

I found a training plan that I thought looked good and made my Ironman training "binder" in late December. I'm very structured and have to know exactly what I'm doing, when I'm doing it, how hard I'm doing it, and where I'm doing it far in advance.

The 16-week plan began on January 30. It ended on May 19.

During those 16 weeks I felt great. I felt terrible. I slept great. I tossed and turned. I sat up all night with a puking baby. I sat in cold tubs. I got a deep tissue massage. I ran in rain. I trained in the freezing cold. I trained in sweltering heat. I rode my bike to Cross Plains, Merkel, Winters, Tuscola, Clyde, Baird, Stamford, Buffalo Gap, Hawley and Albany. I was chased by dogs. I ran intervals. I ran long distance. I biked for hours inside while watching non-fiction shows on Netflix. I biked in hotels. I got sunburn. I got stung by a bumblebee. I ran on my treadmill while listening to ColdPlay, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Jimmie Hendrix, and the Beatles. I ran through some tar. I trained in the dark. I trained at dawn. I trained at dusk. I trained all day. I left my running shoes in a hotel. I trained in Midland, Amarillo, Lubbock, Arlington, Georgetown, Las Vegas, Plano, and of course, Abilene. I only missed one scheduled work out. I swam. I swam. I swam some more. 116,000 yards in the water. I swam in pools and in open water. I swam in cold water and in warm water. I rested. I did Crossfit WODs. I ate vegetables. I ate legumes. I ate fruits and nuts and seeds. My treats were LARA bars, Nikki's yogurt, and bean burritos. I trained in wind. I trained on the most incredibly still day I've ever experienced. I produced buckets of sweat. I woke up at 4:30 AM. I went to bed at 9 PM. I was in the thoughts of my family and friends...all the time. I was motivated by my three girls, my parents, my brothers (including Ryan), my in-laws, my close friends, my heroes, and my God. I day dreamed about crossing the finish line. I day dreamed about failing. I worried. I prayed. I finished.

I posted a few days ago my total training volume for the entire 16 weeks. But that was just the physical training. There's no telling how many hours I spent thinking about the race, my nutrition, my training plan, how I was going to fit in my workouts for the week, how I was still going to get quality time with my girls, how I was going to fit in training on the road, and how I was going to finish my Master's work. I would guess it was somewhere in the hundreds of hours.

I learned some things from this process as well.

I learned that you don't conquer the Ironman. There is no mastery that is gained of the 140.6 mile behemoth. Ironman doesn't change. It is constant.

YOU change. You master YOURSELF. You conquer YOURSELF, and by doing so you complete the task at hand. It is an amazing feeling to be in the kind of physical shape that Ironman requires. There is a unique sense of strength and confidence about it. It's probably the reason 2,500 people signed up for Ironman Texas.

I learned a bit more about what the human body is capable of. I believe that most people are capable of doing something like an Ironman. Most of us have it in us, we just never try to find out if the ability is there...or not.

I'm not anything special. I don't have great genes (sorry mom and dad). I can't eat whatever I want and thrive like some people seem to do. I don't have a butler or a chef or a nanny or a chauffeur. I'm a regular guy that wanted to do something challenging, I made the sacrifices, changed myself through a long and daunting process, and got it done.

You can, too.

All you have to do is come to the realization that it will never be the right time to do anything monumental in life. You just have to make the sacrifices, change yourself and get it done.

Take your brother's smart phone and register for that next big challenge that's calling out to you.