The Knuckle Dragger’s Approach to The Half IronMan

By t. | In Articles, Mindset, Nutrition, Training | on October 24, 2012

Melissa and I did the Beach 2 Battleship Half Ironman Triathlon last Saturday.  I can’t speak for Melissa, but I can say for sure I really didn’t enjoy it or or that it wasn’t pretty boring.  I also didn’t care for the spectators.  I don’t know who needs random people yelling “good job”, “you’re doing great”, or “looking good” yelled at them while doing this sort of thing, but I would certainly prefer it quiet.  I think it advocates for allowing the iPod or other music during the race. Hell, I’d rather listen to hip hop or rap than the spectator’s less than motivating, motivational chants.  Ha.

The race was, however, a good workout and gut check.  It is always good to get out of your comfort zone and do a legit endurance event.  Let’s also note sitting on a bicycle seat for 56 miles is certainly NOT comfortable.  I do, however, enjoy outside exercise.

In this previous post, I talked about my dabbling in triathlons and my prior endurance experience.  I also touched on how little you can do and still finish one of these events in a respectable time.  The main reason we did the race was to show anyone who wants to do a triathlon but thinks they don’t have time to train for it, they still can.  While neither my or Hoff’s times were record breaking, we did finish in times much faster than people who logged in many more hours and miles over many more months of training.

I do not kid anyone, minimalist training will not get you record times, only get you a finish.

I intended on finishing in 5:30 – 6:00.  I missed that goal by 6 minutes.  But all things considered, the race went well.  Conditions and weather cooperated.  The air and water temperatures were close to perfect and the wind didn’t beat us up on the bike.  So no complaints there.  Last year’s event had bad weather and the competitors suffered.  We were lucky this year.

The race course is nice.  It gives you an opportunity to see our city and some of its surrounding countryside from a different point of view.  Some would say it is worth it just for that.  I’m no “site-see’er” myself, but I figure it is worth mention.

My race began well.  I wasn’t sure about pacing the swim.  I took it much easier than I should have.  My time was 30 minutes, but should have pushed it and hit a 26 or 27.  But since I haven’t swam that far without fins before, I didn’t know how to pace it.  The current was rolling at almost 4 knots.  While it is obviously a HUGE help, it makes pacing and exertion difficult to judge.  So my swim was at a decent time with little effort.

My bike transition was smooth.  In sprint races, your transitions need to be quick to save your overall time.  In a sprint I try to make sure my trannies are 1 or 1:30 at the most.  You don’t even bother drying off and I use cages/running shoes instead of cycling shoes and clip-less pedals.  For this race, I used cycling shoes and other equipment designed for longer events… equipment that required more time to change into.  I didn’t mess with changing clothes, but I took my time and waxed my crotch with BodyGlide, ate half an Evolve bar from Paleo Treats and took a few pre-planned sups (Alpha GPC, L Carnitine, and a JavaStim [caffiene]).  I still rolled out in 7 minutes.  While that sounds long, it also includes the approximately 1/4 mile run from the water exit to the bike transition point.

Eating that Evolve bar may have been against my typical way of smashing through a transition, but may have been one of the smartest things I did.  My bike began with a slight proverbial kick to the nuts.  Only a quarter mile into it, just before Blue Water restaurant, the speed bump ejected my two water bottles from their cages and when they made contact with the pavement, they exploded. Oops…  that was a completely amateur (clown show!) move on my part.  It wouldn’t have been a big deal, but those water bottles didn’t have water in them.  They contained my primary sources of nutrition…  Protien, BCAAs, Glutamine, lime juice, raspberries and electrolytes.  All in all, my bike went well.  I averaged 20.9 mph for the 56 miles.  I am a little slow on the hills because of my “not so endurance athlete’s” build and weight.  If I were to train for another race this long, I would go out to the bridge or maybe take a trip to the mountains and do hill sprints.


Pre, Peri, and Post Nutrition

The burgers and veggies were dinner the night before the race.  The middle pic is the makings of my gel.  The right pic is my cheap HT girl scout cookie knock offs, milk and branched chain aminos (BCAAs).  A little cheat, I felt, was doable.  BCAAs are the number one most overlooked supplement by endurance athletes.  BCAAs provide a great source for mitochondrial fuel and provide recovery.  Recovery equals performance.

The run didn’t go as well.  Since I lost my food and hydration, I should have backed off the bike pace and saved for the run.  I didn’t.  My vastus medialis (VMO) on both legs began cramping after only the first mile.  They cramped every single step of the entire 13 miles.  It sucked.  I’ve only had that happen one other time and that was on an 20 or so mile ruck run in the mountains of West Virginia.  After trying to walk off the cramps for much of the first half of the run (split: 1:20), I sucked it up and ran the last half negative split for a horrible 2:31.  That was almost 40 minutes slower than I was planning.

One of the most notable things about our race actually came afterwards.  Within an hour Hoff and I were pretty well recovered.  Other than the cupcake (hey…  the girl is fat kid on the inside and loves cake! ha.) she had, we stuck to our diets.  Immediately post workout we did our regular:  30-40grams of whey, 50 grams BCAAs, 500mg of CoQ10 and 30-40 grams glutamine.  We also did 3 grams of vitamin C and 3 grams of Taurine.

After a massage we ate dinner at El Cerro.  I ate a couple of tacos and a burrito with no tortilla and I even had a little rice.  She had chicken and guacamole.  We did eat chips and queso though…  the horror.  Before bed I cheated.  I had a few Harris Teeter girl scout knock offs, BCAAs and milk.

Sunday morning we were neither as sore as we anticipated.  My VMOs felt like they’d been beat with a hammer, but otherwise we were  only a little stiff.  On Monday, we both planning on getting back in the gym.  Hoff did.  I got in a car wreck and had a slight concussion, so I laid out another day.

Considering our training leading up to the race was what most [especially in the endurance community] would consider less than optimal our performances were not bad.  The longest bike we did was 1 hour.  The longest swim was 800 meters and the longest run was 2.47 miles (the Wrightsville Beach Loop).  We did do a few of those in conjunction and that gave me us our opportunities to practice transitions.

This less than optimal approach is far less than I recommend for m endurance athletes.  My programs typically have the athlete work up to one half the distance of his / her event.  With our short timeline, we were unable to reach that volume.  Funny though, after the race Melissa said to me “I’m glad we didn’t put any more time into training for it.  It wouldn’t have made it suck any less.”

A good point.  No matter how trained you are for an event, you will push yourself at max exertion.  Your time may be better, but the pain is relatively the same.

The most important thing we did not do was change our diets.  Not on race day (especially not on race day!!) and not in the days leading up to it either.  Yep, no idiotic pasta meals or bread in the name of “carb loading”.  All those foods do is increase systemic inflammation and raise insulin… both of which impair performance.  Quality feeding and fueling, or lack thereof, is where the endurance community is completely missing the boat.  Junk food and sugar in the name of carbs is why so many endurance “athletes” are fat.  It makes absolutely no sense to do an event in the name of fitness and health but fuel it with junk food.  It is common place for endurance athletes to eat Snickers bars (or the energy bar equivalent) for fuel.  Cleaning up an athlete’s diet is a certain way to increase performance.  Losing a few pounds is another.  Both are very easy to do.

Changing your food on race day is one of the most detrimental things I hear about after endurance races.  It usually revolves around the sugar gels.  If a participant introduces a gel, or any food, their GI tract isn’t accustomed to they will inevitably get cramps and / or bloating in the gut.  It happens the other way around too.  A week before the race, an athlete will start trying to eat healthy.  While not only is it too late for that, but if you are accustomed to junk food like pasta and bread, switching to rice, sweet potatoes, and fruit/veggies can ruin you too.

  • Take away #1:  Diet and nutrition is just as, if not more, important than training.
  • Take away #2:  Don’t change anything on race day or the days leading up to it.
  • Take away #3:  Have the discipline to eat clean, healthy foods and cut out alcohol.  If you have the discipline to get up at 5am or earlier to train, you can have the self discipline to control what you put in your mouth.

For the participant only wanting a “respectable time” but lacks the time to train it is possible to best many of those who put in much more time.  It is all about training smarter, not harder per se.

If you want to know more about Hoff’s experience with the race,  I’ll let her tell you.  She has no where near the endurance base I have but still hit excellent times.  She only trains fast, sprint work.  She hates the bike.  Even still, she nailed her first half Ironman in 6:20.  With a decent TT bike she would’ve knocked off 10 or 15 minutes (yes the bike makes that much difference).  And heck, she wasn’t even pissed at me for getting her into it.

Congrats to Ilario (6:04), Kelly (6:36), and Frank (6:52) on their times.  It was the first race of that distance for Frank and Kelly.  Good stuff.  Hit them up for details about their preparations.

If you want to do a Tri next year and interested in doing less training to accomplish it, let me know.  I can help.  I can definitely help with the nutrition piece.  North Carolina and Wilmington have great races.  Get out and do one.

A big thanks to Bike Cycles and crew there.  They set me up well.  Kudos to Set Up Events for running another excellent race.



7 Comments to "The Knuckle Dragger’s Approach to The Half IronMan"

  • Brock Wislon says:

    October 24, 2012 at 8:05 pm -

    I really enjoyed the race day play by play. Thanks for taking the time to share as specifically as you did.

  • Joe W. says:

    October 25, 2012 at 9:41 am -

    Damn T. Legs looking a little skinny. Or is it Melissa is just a power house.

  • t. says:

    October 25, 2012 at 8:48 pm -

    Um… black is slimming.

    And Hoff is jacked. I’m so doing a squat program now.

  • Rob 'The Ghost' Sheldon says:

    October 25, 2012 at 9:08 pm -

    Great write up t! And I hope you are well after your car wreck!

  • Amanda W says:

    October 26, 2012 at 9:59 am -

    lol t. Like, SO TOTALLY. Now you’re a valley girl?

  • t. says:

    October 26, 2012 at 11:47 am -

    The W. family has jokes… I’m glad Hank is going to grow up smart, not just an athlete. ha.

  • Jocelyn says:

    October 29, 2012 at 3:47 pm -

    Loved reading about your experience! you two are badasses!