30 August 2012

To Ironman or Not to Ironman - That Is the Question

With Ironman being more than a month in the rearview mirror, I have been wholeheartedly been enjoying and embracing the shorter, faster stuff.  Not only is it fun to go hard and do some intervals that could be termed "lung busting", the workout is over before you know it.  90 minute long run on a Sunday instead of a 3 hour long run?  I will take it!  3 hour Saturday bike ride instead of a 6 hour slogfest that has me home way past lunchtime - yes please!  I did actually enjoy Ironman training while I was doing it - I was mentally prepared to be out there for a long time on the weekends.  But this shorter stuff, which leaves me with more free time on Saturdays and Sundays... I could get used to this.  It's also kind of fun to try to go as fast as I can rather than for as long as I can.  Sometimes, just when I think that Ironman has killed off any and all fast-twitch muscles, I have a run which seems to show me otherwise.

Today was an interval run (or a fartlek run, or whatever you want to call it).  A few minutes all-out followed by a few minutes easy.  Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat for about forty minutes.  The middle intervals - those were rough.  I had my watch set to beep the designated intervals so I wasn't tempted to constantly look at my watch (but I sort of did anyway).  I started out semi-conservatively so I didn't blow up.  The middle ones were the toughest because my legs were fatigued but I was barely halfway through the workout - more of a mental hurdle than anything else.  The last ones still had me huffing and puffing, with sweat and spit flying everywhere (nice visual, huh?), but I was determined not to let my paces slow and at the end - SUCCESS!  The run wore me out for sure.  I got home and had a recovery smoothie and then got ready for work.  By the time I stepped on the metro, I was all set for a nap - it felt like it was at least 8pm.

Recently I've been going back and forth on what I think about Ironman.  I love the training, there is no question on that.  But I hate that feeling I get during the run, usually around miles 10-15 where I find myself questioning why I do this.  It's been happening more often in my recent Ironmans (didn't happen much in the first couple), and this year I was even cussing myself out during some low points on the run for already being signed up for IM Lake Placid 2013.  And after I crossed the finish line, I told Mark - after 2013 I am DONE for awhile (disappointment, frustration, and pure tiredness probably colored my statement, so take it with a grain of salt).  I read Damon's recent blog post on long-course racing and one of the lines he wrote stuck out to me - "If the goal is to do your best at Ironman, as opposed to merely finish it, the optimal approach almost certainly is to spend at least a couple of years training very hard and competing at shorter distances first.  It's much easier to add endurance to speed than to add speed to endurance.  People who move quickly to competing in Ironmans often find that they don't get much faster in the course of training for those events."  I did my first Ironman in 2008, the first season I started to really race.  Over the past four years I've spent very little time focused on speed and lots of time focused on endurance.  I've done at least one Ironman every year and my whole training cycle has revolved around that race.  I don't want to say that I've stagnated because it's hard to compare courses to each other and their results, and I think that over time I've done better on the harder courses than I would've done had I raced on those at the very beginning.  I don't give up the way I have in the past.  And I still have unfinished business with Ironman because I feel like I've yet to have that race where I nailed everything, where I exceeded my expectations, where I feel like I conquered the race and not the other way around.  In that sense, I'm glad I'm signed up for Ironman 2013 and I'm so happy it is Lake Placid again because I want to give it another go to turn this disappointment frown upside-down.  After next year, maybe I will focus on shorter-course racing such as halfs and olys (think of how many more races I could do in a season!!).  I could focus on speed-stuff all season, not just when Ironman is over.

1 comment:

Beth said...

I loved this post! I kind of feel like I jumped into ironman too quickly and never got the opportunity to work on my speed in the shorter distances, but I really love the training and can't imagine giving it up for a few years just to go a bit faster. I'm compromising by doing a later season IM next year and working on my speed for the next 6 months or so. I think when you are a mid-packer, its more important to do what you enjoy the most rather than what will get you the biggest gains!