Ironman: should I be afraid? Part 1

What are my fears going into my Ironman journey?

In my first blog post I wrote about my experience running my first marathon. I described how my entire life I had thought marathons were for super human athletes, and how I was able to prove to myself that with incremental training and enough time, running a marathon is a feat within the reach of many, including me.

I am approaching this Ironman with the same mentality. Exercising continuously for 140.6 miles is inconceivable at this point, but I know that I don’t have to be able to do this from one day to the next. I’ll have eight months to train starting January, a structured training program with the DC tri club, and incrementally longer training workouts. My fear is not lacking the fitness to go the distance.

My biggest fear is one that could put an end to my Ironman dream long before race day: the fear of injury. I have been injured before during my 2013 racing season, and this can be physically and mentally crippling.  When training for my marathon, I developed pain in my right foot on a day I went out for an 18 mile run. During the following two weeks I was supposed to reach the peak of my training (a 20 and a 22 mile run), but I could barely walk. I had to skip training for two weeks. I was devastated. I felt so invested into marathon training that the thought of not being able to race made me feel terrible. These were two very frustrating weeks: I wanted to work out, but I couldn’t. In the end, luckily, I was able to resume training about two weeks prior to the event date and complete my first marathon without re-injury.

A second injury came during the running portion of an Olympic triathlon in June. I experienced IT band pain so severely that it brought me to a halt and then made it very difficult to put one foot in front of another for the rest of the run portion. I ended up in the medical tent after the race. This IT band pain has been very tough to deal with. For weeks after the race it kept me from being able to run at all. It carried into late August – less than a month before my next and last Olympic triathlon of the season – and kept me from running more than a few miles a week at an easy pace. I became very invested into getting rid of this pain, through physical therapy, strength training, roller stretching, and even dry needling. It has been very difficult to get rid of. As of this writing, I can still feel the presence of the pain when I run, albeit mildly.

Thus, my biggest fear next year is getting injured. I know I will have to be smart, disciplined, and listen to my body to prevent this from happening.

My second fear is… [stay tuned for my next post].

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The road to Louisville goes through Raleigh

With such an ambitious goal in mind as is an Ironman (IM) triathlon, I have to remind myself that another significant milestone will need to come first: completing my first half-ironman triathlon. Finishing a half-ironman is not an easy feat; it consists of 1.2mi swim, 56mi bike, and 13.1mi run (half marathon). Gabi and I are registered for a half-ironman in Raleigh, NC on June 1st and we are very excited about this race!

IMR703We’ll be racing in our former backyard in the Piedmont, and the thought of seeing our NC friends supporting us along the course is very encouraging! We’ll be swimming in Jordan Lake, biking around Chatham County, and running in downtown Raleigh. This will be the second year this event is held, earning very positive reviews in 2013: excellent organization and fantastic support from fans and volunteers. It’s great to know there is so much enthusiasm for triathlons in the Triangle area.

The Raleigh course will be very similar to the Louisville course, and thus ideal training and preparation. Both courses will feature rolling hills and without a doubt high heat and humidity. Could we have picked events that aren’t so hot? As it turns out, there are no “easy” Ironman events. We picked our choice of pain: heat rather than mountains. The good news is DC is an ideal place to train for hills, heat and humidity!

NC friends, mark your calendars for June 1st! We want to see you out on the course! And take a moment to also visit Gabi’s blog, http://islandgirlloves2tri.blogspot.com/

When did my Ironman journey begin?

When did my Ironman journey begin? Was it on my first day of Ironman training? The day I registered for Ironman Louisville 2014? Or maybe when I did my first triathlon as a teenager? Or perhaps when I started swimming competitively as a kid?

I think I can trace my Ironman dream to a day around May/June of 2012. I had just graduated from my Masters degree from Yale, which had consumed my time and attention for two years. It wasn’t long after graduation that I asked myself: Now what? What do I have to look forward to? What’s my next big goal (other than getting a job)?

And then one day I was sitting on my couch browsing channels on TV when I came across a replay of the 2011 Kona Ironman World Championships. What I saw on TV was beyond inspiring: athletes crossing the finish line included a double leg amputee, a woman who used to weigh 250+lbs, a guy running the event in a fireman’s suit in memory of his fallen NYC Sept. 11 comrades, and a lady close to 80 years of age. I thought to myself: I have to get off this couch. And thus was born my desire to challenge myself to athletic feats that I at first thought seemed impossible and meant for a different breed of humans.

DC Rock-and-Roll MarathonI decided I would run my first marathon. I had never been a runner and had always thought of marathon finishers as athletes in another league. Me? No way. But as it turns out, I learned that no challenge is too great when you approach it little by little. I ran my first half-marathon in the Fall of 2012, and with a little mileage added to my training every week, before I knew it I was training close to marathon distances. In March of 2013, I finished what I’d always thought was superhuman: I crossed the finish line of the Washington DC Rock-and-Roll Marathon. I proved to myself that if I set my mind to something and believe in myself, then everything is possible.

Near the end of my marathon training, I felt all the running to be a little rough on my body and found a need to mix it up with other disciplines. With the marathon goal date in March rapidly approaching, the “what next?” question arose in my mind again. Gabi and I signed up for a fun and easy Sprint triathlon in April, and I started mixing up my training regimen with a little swimming and biking. This made sense: I was a competitive swimmer for about ten years when I was a kid/teenager, and in 2009 I rode my bike for five consecutive days in the Climate Ride from New York City to Washington, DC. I felt comfortable with all three disciplines under my belt.

Fast forward to the Fall of 2013 and Gabi and I have done one Sprint and three Olympic triathlons. The next big goal to test our limits was to complete a half-ironman triathlon in 2014. However, I started thinking, why not go the full distance in 2014? Everything is possible if I set my mind to it! No doubt this was an intimidating idea: seven days a week training for ~7 months, 140.6mi race distance, and 11-13hr guesstimated completion time.

But just like I thought marathons were for a special breed of athletes and then proved myself otherwise, I am confident that little by little I will be able to reach my Ironman dream. I also thought to myself: Why delay the start of a journey that promises to be amazing in every aspect? Why wait to become a better and stronger person, both physically and mentally? Why wait to start this shared journey with Gabi? Why wait to build new friendships with DC Tri Club athletes?

With those thoughts, I approached Gabi and dropped the Ironman bomb on her. A few days later, we both hit the submit button on the registration page for Ironman Louisville 2014 (August). There is no turning back now! And while our formal training won’t begin until January, not many days go by when I don’t daydream about crossing the finish line and hearing the words “Pablo Torres, you are an Ironman!”

Ironman Louisville 2014

Stay tuned for my blog updates as I share this journey with you — my friends and family. And please read up on Gabi’s own journey at http://islandgirlloves2tri.blogspot.com/