Ironman Training, The Starting Point

This weekend I’m doing my first triathlon, Cypress Tri. It’s a sprint distance (550 yard swim, 12 mile bike, and 5k run), which I should be able to complete with no problem. It’s more ceremonial than anything else. Being my first triathlon, it marks the unofficial beginning of Ironman Texas training. I have 10 months to learn how to be a triathlete and it all starts Sunday.

For those of you who don’t know what an Ironman is, let me explain. It’s a triathlon, which begins with a 4,200 yard open water swim, is followed by a 112 mile bike ride and finishes with a 26.2 mile run (yes, a full marathon). As you may imagine with an event of this magnitude, the training is difficult.

Peaking at 18-20 hours per week, for a beginner, it’s an average of three hours per day of training.

Three. Hours. Per. Day.

It’s not to be taken lightly. It takes both physical and emotional energy, and will impact all aspects of my life. Relationships. Energy levels. Appetite. It’s a test of endurance in more ways than one.

I thought it would be fun to document the training, how it impacts my life, my diet, my body and my routine. It’s going to be quite the adventure..

Much like the “before” and “after” photos in weight loss commericals, the journey is best documented when starting at the very beginning. Today’s post is about just that – where I am now.  Training. Food. Body composition. The whole shebang.

So, here we go.

WORKOUT ROUTINE

I run 6 days a week, averaging 40-45 miles total, I bike twice a week and swim once to twice a week. My workout routine looks something like this…

Monday: 6-7 mile run
Tuesday: 6-7 mile run & 2200 yard swim
Wednesday: 20 mile ride & 6-7 mile run
Thursday: 6-7 mile run
Friday: 30+ mile ride
Saturday: 10 mile trail run
Sunday: 6-7 mile run or something else light and fun like mountain biking

Things get switched up every week but this is a good snapshot of how things usually go. It’s not much different than my routine when training for Boston, just without the massive long runs on Saturday and epic weight lifting sessions.

When training for Boston, I peaked at 15 hours per week of cardio and since then it’s dropped down to about 12 hours. The training abyss between 15 and 20 hours is the area of the unknown.

NUTRITION

When it comes to nutrition, for the past several years, I’ve followed the 80/20 rule and it works pretty well for me.

80% of the time I eat a whole food diet that’s high in fat and protein with a few carbs. I generally eat all types of meat but try to limit each kind to once a week so I don’t overdo it.  The carbs I do eat are mostly fruits, vegetables and full fat dairy. I tend to avoid wheat, white rice, grains, refined sugar, syrup, etc. If I’m training for an event and my body needs an additional shot of carbs to recover from a workout I’ll eat rolled oats or brown rice.

The other 20% of the time (mostly on the weekend), I eat whatever strikes my fancy. If we go out for breakfast and a cinnamon roll is staring me in the face saying ,”EAT ME,” you can bet I’m going to eat it.

I drink 2-3 servings of alcohol per week. Most of the time, it’s wine or beer. I also have 2 cups of coffee a day, which I drink black or with a little half and half, depending on my mood.

Because I follow the 80/20 rule, I don’t count calories. I eat until I’m satisfied. If I’m still hungry, I eat a little more, all within the bounds of my “rules.”

Breakfast is usually my biggest meal and also the highest in fat and protein, lunch is the second largest and dinner is the smallest. The carb content of each meal increases as I get closer to the end of the day. I’m not exactly sure why, but it works for me.

I know that as training intensifies, my diet will change significantly. Past experience has taught me that getting enough calories becomes difficult as I get closer to 15 hours per week of exercise. My 80/20, whole food, diet turns into the Michael Phelps diet, so I can only imagine what will happen as the 15 hours turns to 20. The words “moving dumpster” come to mind.

SLEEP

My body operates well on 8 hours of sleep a night; ideally, that’s what I shoot for. Lately, stress and a few other factors have caused it dip into the 6-7 hour range. Most of the time I go to bed around 10, fall asleep around 11 and wake up sometime between 5-6 AM.

BODY COMPOSITION

My eating habits keep me pretty lean. I was body fat tested during Boston training and it was 19%. I suspect it’s probably closer to 20-21% now, as I’ve gained a few pounds and lost a bit of muscle since then.

As of this morning, I weigh 128.8 pounds and my current measurements are as follows…

Upper Arms: 10.5″
Chest: 33″
Waist, at smallest: 27.5″
Waist, at largest: 33.5″
Hips: 37″
Thighs, at largest: 22.5″
Thighs, at smallest: 17.75″
Calves: 14″

For the record…because I feel like I need to say this…IRONMAN IS NOT ABOUT LOSING WEIGHT. It’s not about loosing inches, or changing my body shape in any way. It’s not about looking better in a swimsuit or looking skinner in pictures.

Much like Boston, I’m doing it to challenge myself and to test the limits of my physical and mental endurance. BUT, I recognize as I take my body into the unknown, that it will change and adapt and I’d be remiss if I didn’t document the starting point…

…which includes a picture. I’m not exactly modest and I’m no stranger to posting swimsuit pictures on the internet, but that doesn’t make me any more comfortable with being scantily clad in front of the world. Regardless, here it is, in all it’s running-tan-line glory.

That’s it! Let the training begin!

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