My Ironman Training Regimen is Really Innovative

04.22.2010 | 11:32 am

One week from today, The Runner and I are heading to Saint George, Utah, to begin the Ironman check-in and pre-race meetings and interviews with the press (as a hall-of-fame blogger, my racing exploits are of very high interest to the press. Also, it’s actually me that’s the hall-of-fame blogger. My racing exploits are not a hall-of-fame blogger, and I regret implying that they are).

So it’s a good thing that I’ve really been training super hard for this event. Like, I’ve gone swimming and running a few times and everything.

Between now and after the race (on May 1), you’re going to need to plan on most of my posts being about the Ironman. My preparation for it. The workouts I’ve done for it. Gratuitous mentions of the cool free schwag that’s come my way because of it. My increasing concern about whether I’ll be able to fit into the wetsuit on race day.

Here, for example, is what The Runner and I did for a workout a couple of Saturdays ago.

The Plan

My attitude about trying an Ironman swings from wildly optimistic to paralyzing terror on a moment-to-moment basis. On one hand:

  • I have a lot of endurance experience, and a natural ability to tough out hard efforts for a long time. I’ve done Leadville a buncha times. I’ve done 24 Hours of Moab. I’ve done the Kokopelli Trail Race. I’ve Done the Brian Head Epic 100 several times. Which is to say, I know what it feels like to be in an all-day race, and how to confront the demons as they arise.
  • 112 miles on a bike — the longest part of the Ironman — is not a big deal to me. Providing the wind is not my enemy that day.
  • I’ve run a couple marathons, and I’ve run the Ironman course after riding the Ironman course. I think my lungs and legs are good for it.
  • I have no objective other than to finish.

On the other hand:

  • I am terrified of the swim. I don’t really know if I’ll make the cutoff.
  • I have done exactly one triathlon in my life: an Xterra event, as a joke, about ten years ago. Some people might claim that this is not enough triathlon experience.
  • While I can do each of the events individually, I have no idea what will happen when I try to do them together.

It was with this final bullet point in mind that a couple weeks ago The Runner and I decided we’d try to answer a question: what would happen if we tried to do a big swim, ride, and run in one day?

So we came up with a plan:

  1. Start the morning at the Orem, UT Rec Center, which has a big pool. Swim 2.5 miles.
  2. After the swim, go out to my truck, change into riding clothes, and bike over to Racer’s Cycle Service in Provo, where we’d join up with Kenny and Heather for a ride around West Mountain and then back to The Runner’s son’s (The IT Guy) house in Orem. Total ride distance would be about 90 miles.
  3. At the IT Guy’s house, change into running clothes, then run up to the water tower road (three miles, 800 feet of climbing), back to the house for more CarboRocket and Clif Bloks, and then repeat. 12 miles, 1600 feet of climbing. That’s a lot of climbing for a run, but the Ironman running course has a lot of climbing, too.

Basically, we’d be doing a hodgepodge, self-supported, two-thirds more-or-less Ironman.

With really long transitions and one of the most delicious rest stops I have ever had in my life. More on that in a minute.

The Swim

The more I swim, the more I hate it. Really. I just hate it. As soon as this Ironman is done, I am going to have a little ceremony wherein I set fire to my Speedo.

Why do I hate it? Because I am awful at it, and I am slow, and I don’t enjoy the isolation, and I am not willing to put the effort into becoming good.

That said, I would hate swimming about five times more if it weren’t for my H2O Audio Interval setup, which lets me listen to my iPod Shuffle while I swim. It’s worked flawlessly for every one of my swims. I love it. The Runner loves hers, too, especially now that I’ve adjusted her playlist to reflect her taste in music instead of mine (“I swear,” she once said, “You have put every single Greenday and Social Distortion song ever made on my iPod.” It was difficult to refute that statement, since it was in fact true.).

Anyway. We did the math and figured 40 laps made 2.5 miles in the pool, so we did it, taking care to go easy, since it was just the first workout in a loooong day of workouts.

By the halfway mark, The Runner had lapped me, as expected.

And that’s when I discovered something truly awesome.

You know how when you’re on a bike and you get right behind them that riding’s a lot easier? Well, that drafting effect holds true in swimming as well.

Except, like five times as much.

So I tucked in and basically coasted the second half of the swim. Listening to Greenday and Social D. Letting my wife do all the work.

It was downright pleasant.

For me.

The bad news came at the end of the swim: 1:50. In the pool. Considering the extra time the Ironman swim will take because it’s crowded and in open water, we were both worried.

“We’ll be faster in our wetsuits, you’ll see,” I reassured The Runner.

She wasn’t so sure, so we devised a test to find out whether we are actually faster swimming in wetsuits. And that will be the subject of my post tomorrow.

The Ride

Our transition to the ride part of our DIY Tri was what I’d like to call “leisurely.” I ate a sandwich as I got our bikes ready. (Yes, The Runner is perfectly capable of getting her own bike ready, but I did it because I was feeling chivalrous, and also a little guilty for being a non-contributing drafter for more than a mile of swimming.)

We cruised — nice and easy, just trying to get our legs to remember the cycling motion — over to Racers, where we ditched our jackets and met up with Kenny and Heather. They professed admiration that we had already been swimming for two hours, and suddenly I started loving the idea of multi-sport.

Not the races, mind you. I loved that I didn’t have to make excuses for being slow on a ride, because nobody expects you to be fast if you’ve already done a workout.

The four of us headed out, and right away, The Runner started pushing the pace.

Now before I go on, I think I need to clear up a misconception about The Runner. I don’t call her “The Runner” because running is all she’s good at. The fact is, The Runner has raced and finished the Leadville 100 MTB race five times (with #6 coming up in a few months). She’s very strong on a bike. So why do I call her “The Runner?” Because she runs, that’s why.

Anyway, my point is: The Runner is also a strong rider, and has been for years.

And my other point is, on the flats in particular, she’s fast.

I did my best to stay with her, riding behind and occasionally alongside her as she pulled the entire group for more than an hour.

Finally, I said, “Um, you’re killing us back here.”

She replied, “You’re the one pushing the pace.” Which was sweet of her, really.

In the interest of factuality, however, I cleared things up once and for all by hollering behind me, “Is there any question at all about who is trying to tear the legs off this group?”

Kenny and Heather laughed.

As we approached Payson, I started dreaming of Joe’s. Joe’s is a tiny little hole-in-the-wall coffee shop where you can get a drink and a bagel sandwich. And when you’ve been on your bike for 55 miles, I assert that a turkey-swiss-avocado bagel sandwich is the best-tasting thing in the world.

We relaxed for half an hour or so, talking about maybe having the four of us race as a SS team for the 24 Hours of Moab this year. Which sounds fun, since it’s still months and months away.

Which brings up an axiom I’m working on, tentatively called The Race Axiom: The enthusiasm-to-dread ratio for a given race is inversely proportional to the chronological proximity of that race.

Can anyone find any holes in that axiom? Cuz I think it’s solid.


We finished eating, rode slow for a few minutes while our legs got used to turning circles again, and then The Runner pushed the pace again, ’til we lost Kenny and Heather, and finished the ride at The IT Guy’s house, where I was anxious to find out whether I’d be able to run at all after two hours of swimming and five hours of riding.

The Run

We changed into running clothes — neither of us is interested in running with a chamois (no matter how small) between our legs, and it’s not like the extra couple minutes is going to make or break us, finishing-wise.

We began the run, and I began to feel . . . well . . . good. Here’s why: it’s uphill, and that allowed me to use my lesser superpowers: putting my head down and my feet forward.

We got to the turnaround point, coasted easily back to the house, refueled, and headed up again.

At which point I stopped feeling so good. Where I ran the first time, I was now walking. Where I had slowed to a walk the first time, I now shuffled.

But I did make it to the top, and it was nice to know that most of the final three miles was downhill.

Then, with a mile to go, The Runner broke out ahead of me. Maybe she expected me to try to step it up, but I had nothing extra to give.

So she finished about a quarter mile ahead of me, turned around, and came back to finish the run with me. Her: cheerful and strong; me: toast.

As we sat, catching our breath, The Runner asked: “Do you think you could do that same run again now, if you had to?”

It was a good question. “I think so,” I said. “But I’d have to slow down, if that’s even possible.”

Degree of Confidence

So, after this big day, how do I feel about my chances with the Ironman? Not bad, actually. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that my primary concerns/questions are as follows:

  1. Will I finish the swim part before the cutoff time?
  2. Will The Runner get so bored of waiting for me at the finish line that she’ll leave and go get a shower and something to eat, figuring she has plenty of time?
  3. When — if — I cross the finish line, will I be lucid enough to say something clever?


  1. Comment by UpNorth | 04.22.2010 | 11:40 am

    Your Race Axiom – Brilliant. I’d say it’s pretty ironclad.

    Good luck at the race – and I’m excited/interested/intrigued to read about the wetsuit test.

  2. Comment by Kristina | 04.22.2010 | 11:45 am

    Go Fatty!! I think it’s awesome that you’re doing this. It gives me hope of someday completing ANY (read: a short one) triathlon.

  3. Comment by FatPedro | 04.22.2010 | 12:04 pm

    You can program my iPod any day! Oh, and my enthusiasm-to-dread ratio is declining for the 100 Miles to Nowhere since I’ve only been training about 6 miles per day. I will probably take first place in the “meant to do 100 miles but actually only did 40 before heading home and taking a nap” division.

  4. Comment by bikemike | 04.22.2010 | 12:28 pm

    here’s how you nail the swim. send your body double into the water, there’s probably an actor out there that’ll fit the bill or you can use dug in a pinch. you’ll be “hiding” out in the water near the finish line with just the tip of your snorkel sticking out of the water. after a predetermined time, about 3 minutes, rip off your mask and snorkel and come thrashing out of the water. pretend to be out of breath. bask in the glory.

    glad i could help. and remember, cheat only if it benefits you in a race.

  5. Comment by Megan (Best of Fates) | 04.22.2010 | 12:29 pm

    I don’t know how you could be anything less than 100% confident – I’m already in awe of you!

  6. Comment by dug | 04.22.2010 | 12:32 pm

    “When — if — I cross the finish line, will I be lucid enough to say something clever?”

    hm. i think i might expand the parameters on this a bit.

  7. Comment by Mikeonhisbike | 04.22.2010 | 12:40 pm

    Good luck with that swim. I think I would be doing the backstroke the whole way so I wouldn’t drown.

  8. Comment by LidsB2 | 04.22.2010 | 12:42 pm

    1. Time will tell.
    2. Probably
    3. Undoubtedly

    Will the helmetcam be onboard for the IM? Is there an H2O Audio Interval setup for the helmetcam? If there is, how would that factor into the swim cutoff time? I can’t help but ask these questions…

  9. Comment by FliesOnly | 04.22.2010 | 12:42 pm

    Just reading about your “practice” ironman makes me NOT want to do one. Triathletes are…well, let’s face it…nuts.

  10. Comment by ocary | 04.22.2010 | 12:50 pm

    1) Before lighting the Speedo ablaze, be sure to have changed into other clothes. :)

    2) the 99of29 (a non-sanction subsidiary of 100 Miles of Nowhere) riders and supporters will be cheering you on in spirit on May 1st.

    Yup, jumping the gun again this year. WooHoo!

  11. Comment by Cyclin' Missy | 04.22.2010 | 1:14 pm

    I completely agree with the race axiom. I may also add that the enthusiasm-to-dread ratio is directly proportional to the length of the race. A 5k? No big deal! An Ironman…heck of a big deal!

    Also, if you can do the workout you just finished, you’ll rock the race next week! Good luck!

  12. Comment by Adventure Monkey | 04.22.2010 | 1:19 pm

    Your Race Axiom – rock solid. Not only am I dreading the 100 miles to nowhere, the Dirty Kanza 200 is about a month after that, yikes!

  13. Comment by KanyonKris | 04.22.2010 | 1:29 pm

    That axiom isn’t just for races, RAWROD has me anxious.

    Water TANK road. I know lots of people say water tower, but I’ve been to the midwest and I know water towers, and there aren’t any up there – just tanks. Yes, it’s a pet peeve. I’ll go back under the bridge now.

  14. Comment by Clydesteve | 04.22.2010 | 1:30 pm

    As your attourney, I advise you to think of & rehearse something clever ahead of time.

    Who would know? (Except maybe Dug, if his suspicions are correct, and you need to, say, hire him to compose something clever for you.)

  15. Comment by BKat | 04.22.2010 | 1:31 pm

    That axiom is so smart, I don’t even know if I know what you are saying. So yes, SOLID!

  16. Comment by Clydesteve | 04.22.2010 | 1:31 pm

    BTW, an attourney is different than a lawyer. The two ‘t’s change the meaning from its homonym.

  17. Comment by Loco88 | 04.22.2010 | 1:42 pm


    How do you find time for all of your sporting activities, work, your blog and your family? It does not seem possible that you can do it all.

  18. Comment by Jenn | 04.22.2010 | 1:55 pm

    I read that while eating cake. No lie. And I’m not sure I really even feel bad about it.

  19. Comment by John | 04.22.2010 | 2:30 pm

    Fatty -

    I get to St George Wed night also, I hope we can cross paths. You’ll do awesome…are you going to use a Tri bike or flog your Orbea around?

    Forecast is for rain at this point on Saturday…but this is a desert, right? It will be like the mist they spray on celery at the grocery store.


  20. Comment by Raph | 04.22.2010 | 2:32 pm

    Not sure about the axiom: why inversely proportional to proximity and not just proportional?
    Anyway wishing you a great swim and a fantastic race. Hawai’s next!

  21. Comment by Rokrider | 04.22.2010 | 2:46 pm

    You think you hate swimming now, just wait til winter when you have to swim on the rollers.

  22. Comment by Constantin | 04.22.2010 | 3:26 pm

    I think you’ll do fine in the race!
    And about saying something clever at the finish – I believe fatigue will spur your creativity :-).

  23. Comment by Shawn | 04.22.2010 | 3:26 pm

    I’m enjoying these Ironman posts, especially since I’m doing two triathlons this year and an Ironman 70.3 and 140.6 next year. Us cyclists tend to share similar opinions on the swim and run.

    Keep up the good work on your training and good luck with Ironman St. George!

  24. Comment by Samantha | 04.22.2010 | 3:37 pm

    I’m going to let you in on an age old secret the Runner ha that you don’t and can’t get. She’s female. Going longer, further and being ready for more, it’s the way our bodies were designed. Men have an advantage in brute force, speed, and explosive power in the form of sprints. Women are designed physically to endure. Out of the gate you can easily clock most women without to much trouble, but in the long run we’ll get you because of the speed to endurance ratio. So yeah, she’s got an edge…

  25. Comment by SuomiTri | 04.22.2010 | 4:07 pm

    Ummm, Samantha, you realize the top male has a faster time than the top female at the ironman, right? Notwithstanding the fact that Chrissy Wellington (sp?) is AMAZING.

  26. Comment by SanDiegoPJ | 04.22.2010 | 4:32 pm

    Not only will the wetsuits help…but you know that awesome draft you got behind the wife? Multiply that by a couple thousand people and that’s what pulls you in an IM swim. I’m pretty sure there was points where I could have just rolled over on my back and just enjoy the current.

    And the race axiom is perfect!

  27. Comment by Betsy | 04.22.2010 | 6:45 pm

    I’m with everyone else……Race Axiom is rock solid. The 100 Miles to Nowhere is not looking as fun as Noodle made it seem in her video. I find myself saying “What was I thinking?” But I am hopeful to win the “I’m doing 8hrs of riding and then I’m done” catagory. I know I can win that one.

  28. Comment by Chicken Legs | 04.22.2010 | 6:50 pm

    Just think of all the swimmers to draft. Just try not to eat too many feet. If they get to close you can drop a peoples elbow or some other pro wrestling move!

  29. Comment by IAMSDM | 04.22.2010 | 7:35 pm

    Maybe load an audiobook on her ipod also, just in case she has more waiting time at the finish than planned. Better safe…

  30. Comment by Misty | 04.22.2010 | 8:22 pm

    I think you’ll be good. I will warn you that the swim is just the worst washing machine of humanity you’ll ever endure. I’m not worried about it, since people pull out soon ahead of me and I have loooots of rooom to swim in. I’m worried about the bike. I hate bike with the same white-hot intensity that you hate swim. I mean, it’s straddling a broomstick for 7 or 8 hours. I couldn’t hate it more. Anyway, I’m driving teh course before I make a final decision on doing IMSG.

  31. Comment by gt | 04.22.2010 | 8:59 pm

    hi fatty,
    it will be an amazing experience for the runner and you to be part of an event like this together, to suffer, to enjoy and to laugh about it.
    I will do my first triathlon on sunday, so finally last night i swim for the first time in a tri outfit, wondering in the beginning what i am doing in the water with clothes on. After I got out of the water my next thought was, so, this stuff will be dry on the bike???
    Have fun and good luck to you.

  32. Comment by Sophia | 04.22.2010 | 9:22 pm

    New to your blog. Love it! Keep the training reports coming and I can’t wait to hear about the IM sounds like you’ll do just fine.

  33. Comment by R. Mandos | 04.22.2010 | 9:38 pm

    Everyone is missing the salient bit from this post: Social D and Green Day go together like endurance sports and headcheese flavored recovery drinks, or something more cleverer than that even. Free your iPod and your ass will follow, my friend.

  34. Comment by chas66 | 04.22.2010 | 11:05 pm

    I improved my swimming no end when I realised it’s actually a skill not an ordeal. Check out the books and videos form Total Immersion, They pretty much changed my swimming performance beyond measure

  35. Comment by Shannon | 04.22.2010 | 11:58 pm

    While I am scared to death of this race, it gets a little better thinking that I may have a photo-op with you, Fatty…. good luck.

  36. Comment by buckythedonkey | 04.23.2010 | 1:26 am

    I find no fault in the Race Axiom. I’m doing the Etape this year and I spend half the time imagining myself beating the Tourmalet and the other half bricking it.

  37. Comment by Mike Roadie | 04.23.2010 | 5:16 am

    Great, great, great post!

    Made me think of two things……….
    1. If I ever train to do an IM, I will simply plan to finish the swim after the cutoff point, thus alleviating the need to suffer the bike and run pain;
    2. Don’t you find that the “guts” of the turkey, swiss and avocado sandwich squirt out the sides of the bagel???

  38. Comment by Mike Green | 04.23.2010 | 9:25 am


    I am volunteering at the final aid station on the run, I’ll be cheering you and the runner on. Hopefully you will notice as I am sure you will be in the depths of the pain cave at that moment…

  39. Comment by jperkins | 04.23.2010 | 12:22 pm

    Sounds like you and me are in the same boat, our swim times look very similar. HEY, Maybe they would let us use a boat on the race. See you down there.

  40. Comment by alpinerabbit | 04.23.2010 | 3:53 pm

    Fatty, I’m sorry to say it, but the only way you will learn to swim, like for real, is by using a coach, or at the very least by practicing dilligently. It will take about a year… Good luck.

    oh and @SuomiTri check out decas…

  41. Comment by Kathleen@ForgingAhead | 04.23.2010 | 6:56 pm

    Your race axiom is right on. I’m thrilled beyond belief when I’m paying for all my races at the beginning of the season – and then as the months go by my tummy gets more and more filled with butterflies.

    The other axiom is that if you can do half the distance you can do the whole distance. You’re golden.

  42. Comment by Greg @ Greg Rides Trails | 04.24.2010 | 7:08 am

    Now THAT is an epic day of workouts!

  43. Comment by stanaconda | 04.24.2010 | 6:04 pm

    I learned two things in the Ironman Wisconsin swim last year.
    1. Leave your arm in front of your face until the next arm is in front of your face to protect said face. Become a swimming ninja.
    2. If you find yourself running into an excessive amount of people or an excessive amount of people are running into you. It is likely that YOU are the one going the wrong way.
    I’m looking forward to the updates.

  44. Comment by judi | 04.24.2010 | 7:21 pm

    you have the swim. i swam it in 1:30. in the ohio river. you guys probably swam too long. do not even worry fatty. you got this. i didn’t realize your IM was on the 1st. i am doing a 12 hour on the 1st. on a road bike. :) i’ll be sure to think about ya.

  45. Comment by Big Mike in Oz | 04.25.2010 | 8:15 pm

    The biggest trick with the swim is finding your place in the pack. My first experience in a BIG triathlon (2500 individuals starting in waves of 250) was aided by a nasty experience in a little event a month prior where I was kicked square in the mouth in the first 100 metres. I swam, rode and ran for over 2 hours with the taste of blood in my mouth.

    For the big one I wore a mouth guard, which I tucked away after the first couple of minutes once the crowd thinned out.

  46. Comment by Jon | 04.27.2010 | 12:24 am

    A few things to make the swim easier:

    -Entry is critical. You’ll kill yourself trying to slog through the water with a normal running stance. High knees, until your at least up to your waist. And swim with your head up for the first 100m or so. So that you don’t get kicked in the face.

    -Focus on your kick. Your a cyclist, right? So you’ve got strong legs, right? So use ‘em! Keep the kick going continuously (not necessarily balls out! Just steady), and it will drive your entire stroke for the whole duration of the swim.

    -Draft, obviously. But also, if the swim course is circular-ish, poke your head up occasionally and check to make sure that you’re swimming at the marker buoy. Don’t waste effort swimming at some kind of weird right-angle towards it. Make sure you’re heading straight at it at all times. Why swim further than you have to?

    -Breathe as much as you want to. This isn’t the Olympic 400m medley. Open water swims are not about stroke efficiency. Trust me, the more oxygen you’re getting, the better. Plus, when you breathe, you can occasionally check your bearing on the markers.

    -Really, the swim is miserable for everyone, no matter how good you are. My swim is better than all my other legs, and I still hate it. Get into a groove as fast as you can, and just shut your brain off and swim. Once you get out of it, you’ll recover on your bike. It’s more important to finish it, and as long as you can jog a little when you get out of the water, you’ll be fine.

    PS, swim as much as you can in open water. Pool swimming is a big fake out when it comes to the real thing. No currents, there are jets you can push off with, and the water is clearer, making it easy to see what you’re doing. Do a few open water swims, and you’ll see where you really stand with the swim.

    Good luck! Really, you’ll stomp everyone with some good ol’ indomitable spirit!

  47. Comment by Celeste | 04.27.2010 | 8:48 pm

    Your wife rocks. :)

  48. Comment by Shevonne | 04.28.2010 | 12:58 pm

    Good luck! The Runner sounds hardcore

  49. Comment by michwea | 04.28.2010 | 1:59 pm

    Green Day and Social D? You stole my playlist!

    Excellent post! Can’t wait to read your race report next week. Good luck!


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