How Do You Know You Can Finish Ironman?

Yesterday, after being gone for work all day Thursday and Friday and somehow ending up at a beer fest Saturday and being completely painfully exhausted from how much work I’ve been trying to cram in before I disappear on my wedding-Ironman-grad school extravaganza, yesterday, I did my last big hard key workout for IM Canada. (Lots of people keep acting all shocked that my biggest key workout would be four weeks before the race. Um, well, I am going to still work out. This was just the last big 6+ hours put in the bank.)

Steve promised to ride five hours with me, which is sort of a way for me to guarantee that it’ll be hard. Not that I don’t ride hard on my own, but trying to keep up with Steve is another kind of hard. Only he doesn’t have cranks or a chain ring or, I dunno, stuff on his road bike, so he decided to ride the mountain bike while I rode my TT. This is fine. Obviously, he’s faster than me and it sort of just equalizes things by giving him a handicap, so he isn’t constantly asking me if it’s too easy while I’m trying not to throw up. Except, with the wind, it equalized it more than he expected. I was all aerodynamic and tucked and he was sitting up on a mountain bike on Highway 1 out in Tomales. So, it sort of became a contest to see if I could keep the foot on the pedal and make it hurt him.

I was dying the last hour. It was exhausting. But, we finish home on a long false flat downhill through the valley. If you’re tucked and aero, you can really hammer. I put an effort out there just to see if I could drop him. (Which he totally knew I was going to do, btw, because he took the winding downhill into the valley really aggressive just to gap me at the start.)

Basically, we got home after 5:05 and 2350 kilojoules and I just wanted to lay down.

But, it was time to run. I jogged the 17′ over the hill/trail to the valley. And, then did 10 x 1 mile back and forth. It was just supposed to be slightly faster than goal IM pace, which is 8:00. Actually, my real IM goal is just to keep it in the 8’s (sub-9:00 miles) after whenever the blow-up comes. But, 8:00 is the “goal.” So, I was going to do the miles at 7:40-45. This felt really slow and I tried to keep it easy. But, I did them too fast, the first 5-6 in 7:30s, high-7:20. One direction is a false flat downhill, about 140 feet change over the 1.5 miles; the other direction was into the wind and shitty. I was dying. In the middle of the 7th mile, I had a meltdown. I walked. The only reason I started jogging again was to get back to the car and then, when I realized my jogging pace wasn’t that much slower than my goal pace, I slowly picked it back up and ended up doing about 3/4 of a mile in 7:55 pace. I told Steve I was done. (I had convinced him to drive over to the valley to bring me water and gels.) He said instead of doing one mile out and then one back, which was killing me on the shitty back direction, just to go a half-mile out and then come back, get some water at the car, and see how many more I could do.

I did two more in 7:37, 7:48. And, then I laid down by the car and told Steve I was really done. I was so thirsty and tired and done.


He said I wasn’t really that far off my goal pace, so I should probably just do the last one. I did. I ran 7:34 in the down direction and then Steve drove me home.

Everything hurt. My arms and legs literally hurt to the touch. Taking a shower hurt. I couldn’t even sleep well last night, because it hurt.

Craig had told me, back at the start of all this, that if I could do this workout 4-6 weeks before Ironman, then I could do Ironman. I clung to that a bit as a guide in this blind training process. And, I did it. Sort of. Which is probably a good summary of how Ironman will go — as in I’m still not 100% sure. And, it actually was all very metaphorical of things we learned about how this race will likely go:

1. Don’t start out too fast at the beginning, even if it feels stupid slow.
2. I will almost definitely have a meltdown (or two) at some point. That doesn’t mean I can’t keep going.
3. When I decide I’m done, I’ll probably need someone to tell me I’m not really done. Maybe multiple times.

9 thoughts on “How Do You Know You Can Finish Ironman?

  1. Awesome workout. All the best for the race.
    Sometimes the strong winds on hard workout days seem to conspire against us. And we think – why today? But in the hindsight, it makes us stronger, isn’t it?

  2. Is this your first ironman?? For some reason I thought you did one already. There *are* porta potties at almost every aid station on the bike. It took me at least 10 ironmans before I could pee on the bike. And only when NOBODY was around me. And while I was coasting. Can’t do it when I’m pedaling. Volunteers are helpful to get you changed when your brain is fried or your clothes are stuck on you after swimming!

  3. P.S. Awesome job in the workout! It’s 90% mental after you put the training in. My previous comment was referring to your other post about random ironman questions 🙂

  4. If I didn’t think I would die during the swim I would finish…I wish the swim was last so I could at least enjoy the bike and the run before drowning…I am not a great swimmer

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