That which does not kill us, makes us stronger. - Nietzsche

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The things nobody ever told me about training for an Ironman

The part I knew going into this insanity is that it's a lot of running, biking, and swimming. I'm ok with that. It's a lot of hours and scheduling gets difficult. I'm more or less ok with that. I've learned some crazy awesome time management skills. However, I'm learning some surprising things about Ironman training as I go. Here are some of the latest unexpected surprises:

It makes you crazy. Literally.
I thought I had lost my mind until I found a thread on titled "Emotions while training for IM." It seems that this is a pretty normal phenomenon. I'm not making this comparison lightly, but I really do think it's akin to a mild case of bipolar disorder. Or a lasting case of PMS. The stress and fatigue of training can really get to a person's brain and sometimes I'm all over the place. Some days every cute animal picture on facebook will make me cry. I'll go from completely energized to a sobbing mess. One day, I just broke down in tears because all I could think was "I AM SO TIRED AND I CAN'T HANDLE ANYTHING ANYMORE!!" Now that I know it's normal, I'm coping with the mood roller coaster much much much better, and I'm recognizing that my mind gives me signals like my body does when I need to SLOW THE EFF DOWN and/or take a rest day. When I start getting weepy, if I can treat that like the niggle in my knee, things go better.

You want to eat ALL THE FOODS.
I'm familiar with crazy levels of training hunger from marathon training. This, though, is a whole other level. I have days where I get tired of eating. Read that again. I GET TIRED OF EATING. I eat a full meal and then it hits me an hour later and I'm like, really? I don't FEEL like making more food. Nothing even sounds good but I'm sooooo hungry! I go out to eat with my husband and I eat all my food and half of his. It can be hard, too, because it's so counter intuitive. I had my portion sizes all figured out and how to balance my diet and I've had to throw a lot out the window and just eat as much as I want to eat when I'm hungry, because what I USED to eat won't cut it and I'll experience it in the form of a major bonk on the bike the next day, or a mental breakdown like I described above. I feel like I eat all the freaking time anymore, and if I don't make SURE I eat all the freaking time, I'll get so hungry that no amount of food will make me feel better. Our grocery bills are getting insane.

You don't lose tons of weight.
Well, some people do. I've maintained and I'm ok with that. I've noticed a couple of differences, though: my upper body got more toned, my delts are insane (I may or may not stroke them when I'm alone) and my thighs, which have always been on the larger side for my size, are redonk now. All my jeans are tight. 

You get insane tan lines.
I have a normal shirt line, a trisuit line and a racerback tank top line. On my legs, I have varying colors for varying lengths of shorts. My feet are white. It's awesome.

You turn into a camel.
We have a water filter in our fridge. Husband says "WHY am I always filling this thing???" Whoops. I want water like I want food.

Your bodily functions change.
I've seen this on the bt forums too. I can fart like none other now, particularly after swimming. It's BAAAAAD. I went on a solo run after masters one night and thank GOD nobody else was out. It sounded like I was carrying a duck with me. And I pee more than I used to. I've never had to pee while running, not even during a marathon, until these days. And swimming?? Out of the pool, SPRINT to the locker room. Holy cow.

It's terrifying.
I knew that, but nothing can prepare a person for the fear. Some days I'm so pumped and I think I'm gonna KILL this 140.6 mile beast. Other days I'm pretty much convinced that there is no way in hell I'm going to make the cutoffs. I read other people's race stories and all I can think is, "That's their marathon time? I wonder what their training pace is? How much time am I going to have to finish if I get a flat tire?" There is no way to do a training day that is even close to the volume of an Ironman. There is no way to go in KNOWING that you can swim 2.4 AND bike 112 AND run 26.2 AND do it all within certain limits. It's insanely scary and I know that all I can do is train the best that my body, mind, and life will allow and leave it up to luck, stubbornness, and the gods of triathlon when the day comes.

It's doable.
Some days are a bit of an epic fail, but there are a lot of days where I stick to the training plan, do my job and do it well, and get a hot, healthy meal on the table between 2-3 workouts.

If you're single, you may not want to try dating anyone while training for an Ironman.
I just added this because I re-read the rest of my blog and laughed. So glad my husband's stuck with me. I'm not sure how I'd get any dates with my thunder thighs, tan lines, mood swings, crazy schedule, and propensity for pigouts and farting and nearly peeing on myself. I didn't even mention how often I smell like sweat and/or chlorine. Or how, on the weekend after a long run Saturday and a 4-5 hour bike ride on Sunday, I'm lying around in comfy clothes and my hair is a mess and we need to go somewhere and I groan "does that mean I have to put on a bra???" Yep. I wonder how he can stand my sexiness???

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