Hi everyone! I’m Heather and I blog about food & fitness at Better With Veggies. When Lindsay asked for guest posts about fitness a few weeks ago, I jumped at the chance to share my journey to Ironman.
If you’re not familiar with Ironman, it’s a long-distance triathlon consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run. Now before you say you could never do that, let me assure you that you could! It’s all about slowly working your way up to the distance. I firmly believe that anyone can do an Ironman, if they have the patience, dedication, and the will to train for it.
So how did I get here? It all started about a year and a half after college, after trying and failing to motivate myself to go to the gym regularly. I needed a goal – in my case a 5K – to keep me motivated. After 12 weeks of training, I completed my first 5K. Next, I slowly increased my running distances to a 10K, then a 1/2 marathon, then a marathon. I wasn’t fast, but races kept me moving and motivated! I also found that as I ran more, I slowly got a little faster.
After a few more marathons, I gave triathlons a try for more variety in my training. Over the course of 5 years, I tackled the Sprint, Olympic and Half Ironman distances – moving up slowly over time. I registered for Ironman Austria the night after watching my husband complete Ironman Germany, his first Ironman distance race.
Training for an Ironman is a big time commitment, but my goal was to have fun during training. I did a lot of my training with my husband and friends, joined a masters swimming group, and got up early for a lot of workouts! I’m not a morning person, but getting a workout out of the way before starting your day leaves time for a second workout or a little fun!
Race day was one of the most amazing experiences. I picked a scenic location to race my first Ironman – Klagenfurt, Austria. If you’re going to race for 10-17 hours, I think it should be in a beautiful place! My mental strategy for the race can be applied to any long distance event. I broke the day down into smaller sections, refusing to think too far ahead:
- First, I went for a “little” swim. I knew I would be in the water for a while, so I just enjoyed the scenery with each breath. I knew the distances between each turn buoy and focused on swimming to the next one.
- Next up, time for a bike ride. I broke each loop (there were two) into three sections based on the 3 climbs I had to tackle. I focused on making it up each climb and celebrated my progress. If I started to think ahead, I stopped and redirected my thoughts to something else. No thoughts of running allowed!
- Finally, it’s time to run. I didn’t think of running a marathon, focused on one mile at a time. A trick I use on the run is to cheer on everyone around me, which shifts the focus off me and onto other people. For this race, I also tried to figure out what country everyone was from and how to cheer them on in their language. 🙂
Running down the finisher’s shoot is an incredible feeling! Can you see all the people in the picture below – all cheering for me like I’m a rockstar?!
Right in front of me at the finish line was a physically challenged athlete who did the entire race without his legs. He completed the swim with no kicking, hand cycled a challenging bike course, and then powered through the run course in a wheelchair. Simply amazing! As I said at the beginning – anyone can do an Ironman! You just need patience, dedication, and the will to train.
- Patience: Don’t sign up for an Ironman tomorrow, if you haven’t already completed a half ironman. It can be done, but you’ll be so much happier if you have patience and work up to the distance over time.
- Dedication: There is a lot of training, so you need to be dedicated and stick to your training schedule. You put in the time during training, so race day can be fun.
- Will: You have to want it. You won’t have the drive or motivation to keep going when things get tough if you don’t want it. Until you really want it for you, it’s not time to register.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed my story! If you are interested in the much longer version, check out my Couch to Ironman series. I hope you’ll dream big and go after your goals!