Ironman Training: What It’s Like to Workout All Day?


I’m putting in a bit of volume this week — especially since I’m not fully on a Monday to Sunday schedule right now. That’s meant that I’ve had quite a few days of working out all day lately, which I suppose is good practice for Ironman, but it’s also long, long, long. And dirty and sweaty and it hurts in ways and places that you don’t expect.

Tuesday I did the third of four big prep workouts. The end one, which will come next Monday or Tuesday, is a five-hour hard ride followed by 10 x mile at slightly faster than IM race pace — 7:40-45 pace (with warm-up and cooldown). So the other key workouts have been building up to that, doing it over two days, doing smaller versions, etc. In case you were wondering where I get this shit from and how I decided on an Ironman training schedule anyway: it’s not totally made up. I sat down with Craig Upton, my last triathlon coach, who I love btw, at the beginning of all this Ironman shit. He laid out a rough plan for me. In it he heavily emphasized starting with harder shorter rides and strength work on the bike, then adding volume without losing the intensity. This is in contrast to the standard Ironman plan of 6-7 hour slow, easy rides every weekend and lots of shitty, slow base volume. My low(er) volume plan has been full of 4-5 hour rides with tempo and work and hill repeats and a few longer rides. Same with the running. Steve and Steve’s old coach, who also happens to be the coach of the guy who just won the Dauphine fyi, are also big proponents of harder medium-volume and tempo and all that. As was Mario. So, that’s what we believe in currently — especially given my particular strengths and weaknesses.

All of that means that Tuesday I had to ride 4 hours moderately hard, followed up by 7 x mile running at faster than IM pace. The thing about working out all day is that it actually takes all day. I left at 9:40 a.m., after an hour or two of work in the morning. I needed to leave by 3:35 p.m. to bike to somewhere I had to be at 4 p.m. That sounds like plenty of time. It wasn’t. It gave me just under six hours to do 5:20 of training + stoppage time + shower and eat before leaving. It was rough.

The bike was ok and included some Ironman pace and some hard long tempo uphill, but died in the last 30-40′ of going through town. It’s very nearly impossible to actually call it a bike ride when going through town. Can you imagine if on your run you had to stop every 30″-1′? Ugh.

Then, I needed to cram in the 9-mile run with 7 of it at 7:40-45 and I did not have much time. So, instead of doing a more interesting run, I warmed-up to the track and ran the miles around the track. This is easy; the pace just slips out of your legs. And I do need to convince my legs that 7:25 pace is NOT Ironman race pace, because my legs seem determined to blow the rest of my body up. Running around the track is easy, but it is also hot and mind-numbing. There was a lacrosse camp going on, so all the coaches kept making comments to me in that way that’s supposed to be vaguely humorous but isn’t actually funny. ‘You’re going to wear the track out.’ Yep, I said, and then went back out and did two more miles around the oval.

And, then, I showered while drinking a recovery shake at the same time and jumped on my bike to ride (not easily) to my appointment. Needless to say, I was still burning when I got there. And, when I finally got home I couldn’t move or think or get out of my chair.


After a few days of insanely easy stuff, I did the Best of the Bay long ride yesterday, which everyone kept calling Bob and The Bob.

My goal was to get in a ride that was significantly longer and harder than IM Canada will be. Accomplished. Usually when I have a long workout I come up with my worst case projection: NO way this will take me more than 8 hours. That would be crazy.

It took 8:40. There was an hour or two that I thought it might take ten hours. And, I wasn’t going slow. For those that care about the numbers and stuff: I averaged 117 watts, just about my regular long pace (though easier than my 4-5 hour rides lately obviously), and I did 3,600 kilojoules. Mathematically, I don’t think I even expect the Ironman bike to take that many kilojoules.

It was long and it was really hilly. I maybe should have expected that. For about 7 hours I felt pretty good. I sang songs and wrote stories in my head and talked gibberish (also in my head) and imagined there was actually a guy called The Bob who was in charge of this whole thing. Actually for the first hour or two I felt sort of shitty. But, I just kept chugging along and going up the hills and down the hills. The miles passed, even though I could not physically eat enough. By halfway, I had finished all the bars and gels and chomps I packed. Then, I was relying on aid station food — which was a mixed bag: latkes, goat cheese crostini, fruit cups, veggie wraps. I had to eat it, but it didn’t sit well. I suppose that was good practice for Ironman too.

At 90 miles, you had the option of turning towards the finish — 15 miles away — or turning and heading out for a steep, steep loop up Sierra Grade and then coming back to that same point before turning towards the finish. That means the whole extra loop all you can think is, ‘I really don’t need to be doing this extra loop.’

Sierra Grade is a Category 1 climb. Everyone the whole ride kept talking about Sierra and how hard it is and how steep it is and how rough it is. It wasn’t until partway through that I remembered I had ridden it once eight years ago as part of a race. I didn’t remember it being steep then, though that may have just been because that was a race, so it was all hard. The only things I remember from then are that Paul and Steve told me it’d take ‘x’ amount of time and it definitely took 1.5x, and at the top was a woman dressed as the Specialized Angel with wings and platform boots. I’m 90% sure that it only took me 5′ longer yesterday in hour seven of the ride than it took me as a stand-alone race eight years ago. There’s not really a way to go easier; it’s too steep. I was pouring so much sweat on the way up yesterday that when I stood up and bent over my bars the sweat fell on the inside of my sunglasses and pooled. When I tried to look up and not down, I started to swerve and wobble. It was hard.

And, then I was emotionally and physically done. But, we still had an hour of descending and flat riding to the finish.

At mile 112, which took 8:20 to get to, I asked myself, ‘Could I run a marathon right now?’ And, of course, my immediate reaction was, ‘Nope, no way.’ But, I did a self-evaluation and thought about it and realized that yeah, sure, I could do a marathon. It’d take a while, but I’d get to the finish eventually. So, Ironman, watch out.

Then, I had to take BART from the finish back to my car, drive home, eat (and also try not to throw up from my stomach being so unhappy), and go to sleep. That’s what training all day is like.

Not a Race Report: Marin Century (Subtitled: Mean Things I Thought About Century Riders)

Yesterday, I did the Marin Century. And, despite the fact that I haven’t done any biking in months and everything lately has been SLOW and shitty, I biked the whole thing, with the 7,000 feet of elevation gain and the stupid extra three miles, in like 6:45 (which sounds like a lot but isn’t for the hills and the wind and my bike needing a bottom bracket replacement and etc, etc) and I felt crazy strong the whole time and had the highest wattage I’ve ever seen for anything over four hours.

So. What was my secret?

I basically ate so much I felt sick. The whole time. I started eating and drinking right from the start, from the free bagels at registration, and never stopped. Tired? Eat something. Legs hurt? Eat something. Guy in front of you being annoying and you want to give him space? Eat something. I ate so much I actually still don’t really want to eat. Today, I kept looking at food and wrinkling my nose and being like, ugh, do I have to. I also don’t know that I ever want to see another Oreo.

But, besides the insane amount of burping this caused, it worked.

My second secret was the secret of any long-distance: sometimes it sucks, sometimes it doesn’t. Just before four hours, I felt terrible, awful, wanted to lay down on the side of Highway 1 because maybe if I was on the ground the wind would be less shitty. Instead, I ate some more and drank some more and kept going, and it passed. I don’t know what I did for the 7+ hours I was out there by myself — all that stopping at every aid station took at least an extra 40′ plus there was a rather drawn-out incident with some bib shorts and a port-a-potty. I talked to a couple people, but not really, since I don’t like people. I talked to myself, but not really, since I don’t like to look crazy. I mostly did the long-distance mind zoning out thing. Oh, and I thought mean things in my head.

What mean things you ask? Well.

  • I started around the same time everyone started, which meant there were lots of different people doing different distances and the level of abilities ranged from those “hammering” in a “pace line” to those still pulling the price tags off their bikes. This made the first 30′ or so sort of a shitshow. And, at the top of the first longer climb, people were just stopping and gathering right in the middle/sort-of-side of the road. There was only one lane closed, so cars were waiting to get by the other way and there was a police officer and a mess of people and this couple in front of me starts weaving wildly looking for their friends and taking up the whole road and are about to stop right there in front of me, just as it’s dropping into the descent. So, I say under my breath, “Stop being sketchy.” Except, since I hadn’t really talked to anyone yet because I pretty much just woke up, played with Tupac, and rolled out, instead of coming out as a whisper, it came out as a way louder than I intended rasp. “STOP. BEING. SKETCHY.” After that, I kept my thoughts to myself. Like…
  • Stopping at the top of the hill just because it’s the top of the hill is inefficient and also dangerous and it makes me dislike and judge you.
  • Stopping abruptly in the road makes me dislike you and also want to hit you.
  • Are you seriously wearing earphones on this large a group ride with open traffic? Are you even more stupid than you look?
  • Because, fyi, if you’re a guy and wearing a full-on BMC team kit (or any pro team kit) and you can’t ride at least as fast as me, then you’re going to look stupid anyway.
  • If you’re a guy and you sprint to pass me and then can’t keep it up every time my steady effort catches back up to you, then you’ll also look stupid, but more importantly you should feel stupid.
  • If we’re leap-frogging and you acknowledge it, that’s cool. We can be friends. (And, also in hour five, it was nice to have someone to ride with.) But, if we’re leap-frogging and you just keep ignoring me, then we will be frenemies forever.
  • If you pass me on the right when I’m already to the right of the road and I don’t see you and you crash, it would be your own fault.
  • If you jump on my wheel so I can “pull you” and you don’t say anything, you’re really just tempting me to slam on my brakes. That would also be your own fault.
  • Maybe if you can’t ride in a straight line, you should practice that some more before you sign up for a Century.
  • Standard lanes on roads are 12 or 13 feet wide. Minimum regulation width is 10 feet. Bikes are maybe a foot across. It should be possible then to ride two-abreast without hugging the yellow lane. Surely, we can do this.
  • I know you’ve seen pros riding downhill with no hands. Generally, though, it’s because they had to in order to put on a jacket or zip up a jersey or grab some food. Also, they are better at it then you. When you ride downhill with no hands in your cargo shorts in the middle of a group of people for no reason other than to show off, you don’t look cool. You look like a moron.
  • If you want to race, sign up for a race. If you want to race and you sign up for a Century, we all assume you’re a jackass who couldn’t hack it in a real race.

I’m not the only person who thinks mean things about other people, right?

Wish Me Luck: Marin Century

Right now, this very second, I’m biking the Marin Century. I hope.

For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to try to ride 106 miles after having not ridden more than 40 miles in eight or nine months — and that 45 miles was three months ago. I figure this is all I have to do. It doesn’t look that far:


Last year, I did the Century for the first time and I didn’t fully enjoy all of the rest stops (which is really why you do a Century, per my understanding) because after my shifter cable broke and I had to spend 30′ in Tomales having it fixed, I then had to haul ass to get home in time to shower and leave for a wedding 20′ later.

This year, my plan is to eat more calories than I burn. That is also my philosophy on how I’ll get through this with no biking endurance to speak of. If I just keep eating Oreos and brownies, then I’ll never crash from the sugar high, right? I see nothing that can go wrong with this logic.