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Training Journal

My journal of running, training and racing.

Ironman Week

Mark Junkans

My sister Sarah and I after our first triathlon ever at Lake Okoboji, IA.

My sister Sarah and I after our first triathlon ever at Lake Okoboji, IA.

This Friday I fly to meet my sistser Sarah in Louisville so we can do our fourth triathlon and our third Ironman event together.

Our first was IM 70.3 Branson last September. Our second one together was IM 70.3 Kansas this summer.

Right after that race I decided that my life just wasn't complete without doing a full Ironman this year so I signed up to race IM Louisville the day before my birthday. Shortly afterward, Sarah called me and told me she was seriously considering doing it as well, and I couldn't believe it.

A few weeks later, she told me that she was registered and I'm very excited to be sharing the experience with her. All I can say is that I wish I were as tough as she is.

Training

In deciding where to put most of my efforts in this training block, I decided that spending hours in the pool just to shave off 5 minutes wouldn't be the best use of my valuable time. The bike, however, is still an area where I can make up a lot of time and still have energy to run a full marathon. So, I reduced my running mileage, swam only enough to get me ready, and put all my energy into building my bike power and endurance. Also, since I don't yet have a powermeter, I signed on Trainerroad.com and began to do some serious bike training. I can't recomend this website enough for improving bike fitness.

Since I cut my running way back to save energy for the bike, my coach and I decided that I do speed work on Wed, endurance work on Friday and a long run on Sunday. That meant that Tuesday I had bike intervals, Wed I had run intervals, and Thursday I had bike intervals again. on Friday my legs were shot and those runs turned into recovery days to try and rest up for my 80-100 mile bike on Saturday and 16-20 mile run on Sunday.

Also, in order to not take up too much family time on Saturdays, I woke up super early and spent the first two hours on the bike trainer until the sun came up, that way I only had to be out of the house for another 2-3 hours. I have a wonderful wife who was very patient through this process, but I didn't want to be out every Saturday and miss my time with the kids or make her stay home all day.

I only swam an average of 2-3 times a week and built my volume to where I would be sure I could finish the 2.4 mile swim without expending too much energy. This means I'll be about 15-20 minutes behind the leaders when they exit the water, but I had to pick my battles.

Am I ready for this race? I guess as ready as I can be. I didn't set out this year to do a full IM, but why not? It's the question that I get asked most when I tell people I'm doing triathlons. "So, have you done an Ironman?" I'm just enough of a contrarian that I enjoy saying no.

Why have I never aspired to do an IM before now?

Time

It takes a lot of time to train for an Ironman event, but it doesn't have to take 20+ hours a week. The biggest time investment is on the bike. Moving from 2-3 hour weekly long rides to 4-6 hour rides is a big jump along with the added workouts during the week. Other than the bike, everything else has been pretty much held in check. I figured out a way keep my training at about 12-16 hours a week with only one week above 20.

Popularity and Commercialization

Another reason I never wanted to do an Ironman event is because it's become way too popular among the 1%. I don't know why, but I cringe everytime I see a type A executive roll up with a $10,000 bike and the IM logo on everything. I keep thinking to myself, why do I want to be part of a crowd that measures everything by how expensive your gear is?

Then I'm reminded that most of the participants are just average people with average jobs who have set a goal and are achieving something amazing. I can relate to that, but you won't ever see me with an WTC corporate logo tattoo or a 140.6 bumper sticker on my car. But hey, everyone is motivated differently.

Competition

Another reason I never wanted to compete in a full IM is the same reason I don't play golf. It's because I'm not as fast as the top guys in my age group, and I know it would take tons of work to get there. I know it may sound silly, but I'm never satisfied with just finishing and I also don't want to get sucked into selling my soul or sacrificing my family to earn a World Championship spot. However, with my competitive nature, I'm also never satisfied with just finishing. Since Ironman can become all-consuming, I have to seriously consider how I can cap my training load and still keep improving to the point where I'm on the podium at a larger race. I will also need to get over my hatred for swimming laps, but that's another story.

Cost

Ok, so that's the other reason I don't play golf. Even though I'm a pretty frugal triathlete, Ironman is still a costly venture. There's the entry fees, equipment, gym/pool membership, toys, nutrition, injuries, travel, coaching, etc. All this has to come out of our family budget from somewhere, and whatever I spend on this reduces reduces our vacation fund, savings, household items, etc. It's a pretty selfish endeavor for me to spend so much time and money training for races. The upside is that I'm setting an example for my daughters and hopefully helping them see that putting priorities on physical activities is better than just entertaining and feeding oneself. Is the cost worth it? Hmmm.

Either way, I'll be in Louisville this weekend to compete, and hopefully I don't completely blow up in the process. After that, it's back to doing what I love best...running!