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Training Journal

My journal of running, training and racing.

Filtering by Category: Triathlon

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.


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 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?


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.


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.


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!

Summertime Blues Triathlon

Mark Junkans

I just had the blessing of witnessing my daughter finish her first triathlon. Victoria did great and had fun doing it. At the end of her bike she yelled out "that wasn't cool." It was only 15 miles, but had two hill climbs over the Intercoastal Waterway in Freeport. She also won first place in her age group. I was super proud of her for putting her mind to it and, not only finishing, but never stopping.

After I finished my race, I waited for her to come in off the bike and ran the 5k alongside her. At one point she told me to be quiet, as I kept telling her who ahead of her she should catch. She had a great kick at the end and passed two ladies who were in front of her.

I entered the small elite wave and got third. I made sure to hold back both on the bike and the run so I didn't hurt myself two weeks out from Ironman Louisville. Still, I had the fastest run split in my division and second overall. It was a really fun day.

Biggest Training week So Far.

Mark Junkans

I just had my biggest training week ever last week and I'm super excited about my endurance level. I did 318 miles of swimming, biking and running, over 20 hours and burned over 16,000 calories. It's the calories part that I like the best because I was forced to eat a lot.

Sunday was a practice day for Ironman Louisville which included an 18 mile run before church, a 45 minute swim after lunch and a 101 mile bike ride that ended when the sun went down. Being 95+ degrees and humid from a recent rain shower, the conditions were especially wonderful. I was really getting tired by about 7:00 pm, but kept my eye on the goal of not only racing a strong Ironman, but also running for 24 hours in October.

As hard as it is to train, it's all worth it as I hear new stories weekly about new families that are reached and lives that are impacted by LINC's work. I am so privileged to have my health and a supportive family. I can't imagine what life must be like for our families who don't have enough food or are in incredibly difficult life situations.

Triathlon Training - This Cycle

Mark Junkans

Last year I felt like my training was harder than it is this year, but maybe it just seemed that way.  For one, I'm focusing my time better while training and I'm more efficient than I used to be.  

I'm not swimming as long each session.  In fact, I'm not swimming much at all.  However, I am doing drills, swimming faster laps and concentrating on form.  My swim sessions are definitely more efficient.

I'm also not doing as many long weekend rides as I did last year.  I'm spending most of the time on the bike trainer building power with a couple long rides here and there.

I'm definitely putting less time into running, but I'm running faster as well so my mileage is about the same.

In all, I'm putting in about 1-2 hours less a week than last year, but hitting the same mileage.  I'm really trying to keep my training hours below 12, which I've been able to do for the most part.

My first 70.3 this year is in about a week, we'll see how well this is working.

2012 Branson 70.3 - Race Report

Mark Junkans

My sister Sarah, mom and myself post-race

A year ago when I decided to start running, this was the race that I first signed up for.  My sister Sarah and I were on the phone talking about our dreams of doing a triathlon when I asked “Why don’t we just sign up for one and do it together.”  After thinking about it, we decided to look for one that is central to our locations and go for it.  Me being in Texas and she in Iowa, we decided that Branson was it!  After all, we could actually have family there to watch as well. We both did lots of prep for this race, and we were both a little scared of the race’s reputation for being a tough bike course.  Here is a quick rundown of the three stages.

Swim - 43 min

Not happy about this, but you'd never know it.

“Why am I such a bad swimmer? This is so depressing,” is all I was thinking came out of the water 74th in my age group. It was about 46° when we started to swim and felt much better in the water than outside. I got punched and kicked a little bit but that’s par for the course. I zigzagged a lot and probably swam a lot farther because of it. I did start to relax however, and wasn’t really tired when I finished. I guess that could be considered an accomplishment. T1 time was also horrendous at about four minutes, Partly due to the fact that we had to put all our swim gear including wetsuit and other items in a plastic bag before leaving.

Bike - 3:04

What a fun bike course! Although I don’t have a lot of climbing power, I still held my own and did lots and lots of passing on the uphills. The course started with about 8 miles of climbing. From there we started the roller coaster ride of up-and-down.

There were a couple two-mile climbs that never seemed to end, but what goes up has to come down. Was able to eek out some pretty fast down hills topping out at over 50 miles an hour. There were no real flat sections on this course, it was either up or down. I was smiling as I passed a lot of very expensive bikes that apparently didn’t have very strong engines. One time I was a real jerk and said “nice bike” as I passed. Moved from 74thto 26th in my age group on this section.

Overall I’m lukewarm about my bike time and know I could’ve pushed harder. I came off the swim demotivated about my chances for a podium, but looking back I should’ve pushed and maybe made it.

Run - 1:29:38

This is where my running coach told me to be an “assassin.”  

Coming off a conservative bike, I knew my run was going to be a good one. I got in and out of transition in under a minute. My goal was to be under 1:30, and I accomplished that with 1:29:38. I basically held my marathon pace the whole way, and never really had a bad mile. I know I could’ve pushed harder but felt like I would’ve puked if I did with gel and Gatorade still sloshing around. I got side stitches twice but ran through them. At about mile nine I had to stop and use the porta potty because all the liquids on the bike were causing some pain. Did my business, downed about 3 cups of Coke and headed off again wasting over 60 seconds in all. Finished up with the last mile at 6:38 And still had energy in the tank. This is really good sign for a sub three marathon, because my legs had just climbed about 5000 vertical feet on the bike.

Fuel Was just right on the bike with all liquids, I didn’t take any fuel on the run and had one cup of Gatorade and some coke.

Thanks to Coach Caleb for setting me up with some great training. I’m really stoked about Houston Marathon now in January. By the way, I PR’d My half marathon time by almost 5 minutes, and this one during a triathlon.

According to the paper posted on site, I came in 6th in my age group for the whole race, but the website puts me at 7th AG.  Not what I wanted, but I’ll take it knowing that I started out of the water in 74th AG place.

Family Support

The absolute best part of this race was that several members of my family, including my mom, were able to be there to watch.  I can’t express how thankful I am that they made the drive.