When I was a teenager in middle school, I started a bucket list of crazy things I wanted to do before I pass. Hike the John Muir Trail, ride my bike across the country, do an Ironman… With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down a lot of normalcy in life, which for me is normally defined by set bike races around California, the US, and a handful around the globe, all of a sudden, my regular schedule wasn’t there anymore.
One week ago on the 12th, I jogged two laps of a hilly grass track we had mowed into our property. I recorded it on Strava and the distance was exactly one mile. My immediate thought was “That wasn’t very hard, I could definetly do 52 laps of this course and could do a marathon.” Fast forward about 10 minutes of thinking and I was like, “If I’m going to do a marathon, I should just do an Ironman.” So the stage was set. I gave myself a date a couple days out, so I could figure out a route, go for one or two more jogs to make sure I didn’t injure myself, and find a pool to swim in so I wouldn’t drown.
Off the couch isn’t an entirely apt description of my fitness level as I am an elite level cyclist. I knew riding 112 miles wouldn’t be too bad, but I literally had not swam in a decade and had run less than 10 miles in total in the past decade. I’m kind of a one trick pony, and although my cardio system is top notch, I’m not really that good at anything aside from spinning my legs round and round and hammering nails. I am stubborn though.
I spent some time trying to find advice on how to get ready for an Ironman in two days but didn’t find anything aside from one awesome guy who did a very similar thing (https://www.runnersworld.com/runners-stories/a23460129/i-did-an-ironman-with-no-training/). I had read this article about a year prior and it definetly gave me some motivation. Everything else I found let me know that I was about 6-12 months late to the training. Advice came in from a few friends after I had made it official on social media, with multiple runner friends telling me to get good, soft running shoes so I didn’t develop stress fractures in my feet, and wear good socks, but that was about it. And that I’m an idiot.
I borrowed a teammate’s time trial bike, raised the seat 1.5 cm rode it once for 90 minutes, and decided that was good. I did two more runs for a total of 5 miles in the week before, at an average of about 10:30/mile on our hilly, grass/dirt track around the property, and I bought some Saucony shoes on super sale at Big 5 the day before the Ironman for $39.99 at the strong recommendation of a couple good friends. I then went and worked at my construction job for about 6 hours wearing the shoes to ‘break them in’ before calling it a day a little earlier than normal and heading home to smash a ton of food in my face and get everything ready for the next morning.
I found a friend of a friend’s pool to swim in, borrowed a swim wetsuit because was water was 63 degrees, and got to it just after 6am on Friday, April 17th, 2020. I found out the goggles I had borrowed didn’t fit my face and leaked like crazy, but luckily found some cheetah print and pink ones lying around the pool’s bathroom which saved the day. Victoria showed up early on in the swim and helped me count laps. The swim wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be, aside from a some searing lungs and I got out of the pool just 1:15 later at 7:27am. I was borderline hypothermic from being in the cold water for so long though, and took 21 minutes in T1, to take a hot shower, put on some warm Voler cycling clothes, and drink some hot tea. https://www.strava.com/activities/3319294799
The bike route took me up highway 1 from SLO a bit past the elephant seals where I flipped it and rode back home (112.15 miles and 4,085 ft of elevation gain). I tried to keep it pretty easy on the bike leg, staying as slippery as possible, and not putting out a huge amount of power as I knew the run was going to be the hardest part. My back and shoulders were pretty sore from the swim but everything else was feeling good. I had a strict nutrition plan I had come up with the night before and stuck to it, eating a solid food bar every 30 minutes and then switching to just gels every 20 minutes for the last hour. I had brought some extra Herbalife24 CR7 drink mix packets and went through 4 bottles of those on the bike leg, which I did in 5:15:52 total elapsed time (2 pee stops, one stop to fill up bottles and a dozen traffic lights or so). I made it back to our house with an average speed of 21.7mph. https://www.strava.com/activities/3319264308
T2 consisted of a brief shoulder and neck massage, eating way too many snickers bars, crushing a breakfast taco (eggs, cheese, grilled onions in a corn tortilla), bathroom break, changing clothes and getting into my brand new as of yesterday running shoes. The run course was 3 laps of a road loop from my house which had about 1,400 feet of total elevation gain over 26.2 miles. My plan was to walk all of the uphills and try to run/jog all of the flat and downhill on this rather hilly loop. My roommates who had been cheering, heckling, and shooting some fun video clips throughout the day had set up 3 or so ‘feed zones’ on the course where I could get water, CR7 drink mix, snickers bars, and gels. On the first lap I felt amazing and had to make myself walk up all the hills, as I wanted to run them. Early on in the 2nd lap I still felt good and kept running everything flat or downhill. My legs were starting to get tired and tight though. I finished the 2nd lap (about 18 miles) with a 9:36 avg pace but was starting to die a million deaths. My legs just were not working how they should and my jogging stride length was down to about 50% of its normal length. The last 6 miles or so were an incredibly painful mix of fast walking and slow jogging – the slow jogging felt like it might even be slower than my fast walking. I really wanted to run the last 2 miles or so of the course, which was mainly downhill to try and get a sub 12 hour total time, but I just physically could not do it. The 26.2 mile run actually ended about a quarter mile from home which sucked, because I had to walk another quarter mile, but a slow limp walk and finally a jog back up our dirt driveway to my awesome roommates, fiance, dog, impromptu finish line, and John spraying me with Champagne was an excellent way to end the day.
Final total time was 12 hours and 5 minutes. We ended up raising $1,355 for No Kid Hungry (https://www.facebook.com/nokidhungry/) from a ton of wonderful friends and family who tuned in to watch the suffering. My mom even started a betting pool based off what my finish time would be and over 20 people got in on the pool (with the shared winners donating all their winnings to the No Kid Hungry fundraiser, thanks Murphy and Glenn!)
Closing thoughts – As I sit and write this 3 days after the fact, my inner and outer quads are still screaming at me, stairs are nearly impossible, I am still rather tired, and I’ve eaten a dozen snickers bars in the past 3 days (for recovery purposes?). I’m really glad to have knocked that off my bucket list and can’t see myself doing anything like that in the near future – running is really, really horrible. It was cool to have so many people interact through the great coverage that John and Victoria provided throughout the day, and friends who I haven’t heard from in years dropped in to say hi and even donate which was really great to see. You all helped donate over 13,500 meals for children in need around the country which is pretty amazing and makes me happy inside.
Stay tuned for some more insanity happening later this week and thanks for stopping by….