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Club Member: Sharon McNary
Race: Sharon McNaryís IM CdA Pre-Race Report
Distance: Ironman
Race Date: 06/22/08
Submit Date: 06/15/08

Sharon McNaryís IM CdA Pre-Race Report

I love reading race reports, and Iíll write one as well, but I wanted to take some time today, one week before my first Ironman, to reflect on how I got here.

Why? Maybe to help would-be Iron-folk work their way through the self-questioning, schedule-mangling, gastro-intestinal upset and outright panic that comes with the challenge.

In just the past week, Iíve had two friends tell me they wonít do the Ironman race they had put on their schedule. One decided her heart was more in running, not so much in the bike and swim The other questioned whether she could sustain job and social life with the training volume.

Those are valid concerns, ones with which Iíve also grappled. I guess I got past them, because a week from today Iíll be jumping in Coeur díAlene Lake with more than 2,000 of my new best friends. And yes, Iím a bit freaked out. The lake water temperature is so low the race director is requiring wetsuits, and lifting the ban on neoprene swim booties.

Like most Iron-wanna-bes I signed up for the race a year ago and started training. At first I figured I would write my own training schedule, using the principals and weekly training time suggestions in the book, ďGoing Long.Ē For a while it worked okay, and it got me through the Lake Tahoe Three-Day Triathlon (100 miles total) last September. But I wanted something more specific than a plan I would write myself.

Then I joined www.beginnertriathlete.com and followed its Ironman training program for a few months but the weekend workouts seemed too minimal, given my extensive distance running background and minimal swim and bike experience. Using the plan for the weekday workouts and going on the Tri Chicks hill rides got me through Oceanside 70.3 in March.

But by then, I wanted something super-specific for my last three months of training. I interviewed a few coaches, and ended up using the Triathetix Jump Start plan. The bike ramp-up was steep, with successively longer rides in the hills and flats, topping at 120 miles. Sundays were generally hour-long swims followed by runs of 10 to 17 miles. Doing the Wildflower Olympic course seemed like a relief after the longest of those training weeks.

There were nights I went to bed slightly dreading the work to come the next day. Iíd sleep a little too late, procrastinate, only to find that once I was doing the workout, it was fine, and I was having fun, like a little vacation in the middle of the day.

Imagine, leaving work at 3 p.m. in bike clothes, bicycle already loaded in my little two-seater car (thank goodness for shaded underground parking) to go do a 30- 40- and eventually a 50-mile mid-week ride. Okay, when I was supposed to do a 60-mile ride I got sick to my stomach all day and to this day I donít know if it was nerves or just food poisoning.

I remember that my training volume seemed more difficult to cope with and schedule when it was 8 to 10 hours a week in the first six months or so.

By the time my training week had gotten up to 12, 14 and even 18 hours a week, it seemed much easier to do and I resented the time commitment less. Iíd go do a 45-minute swim, then run 7 or 9 miles. It seemed more like a pleasant second job.

There were breakthroughs along the way. On the bike it was the first time I realized I could climb Piuma seated and without stopping. What a great reward for all the lactic acid burn Iíd gone through throwing myself at those Malibu hills.

Another day I was able to pass a couple of men my age as we climbed the switchbacks on the PV loop. They were all dressed up in their road race gear, standing on their pedals doing the Alpe du 'Huez hump, and I was comfy in the aero bars, just spinning past them. ďHi guys. How yaí doing?Ē

I also resigned myself to get better on the swim. Who re-learns inefficient childhood swim training by reading a book? I guess that would be me, because Iím too cheap to pay for swim lessons and too embarrassed to ask the masterís coach for help. My breakthrough was realizing that the less physical effort I put into the swim the better I felt and the faster I swam.

Still I did most of my open water swimming at flat, calm Alamitos Bay, avoiding the rough surf. I would say that my single item of magical thinking about my upcoming race is that Lake Coeur díAlene will be calm. I've been in denial that the wind and chop last year was so bad, the race director gave athletes the option of skipping the swim and making it a duathlon.

So today, I had committed myself to swimming in the ocean. My anxiety about the swim had me tied up in knots for days, but this morning, I joined the Manhattan Beach ocean swim, met friendly people (Thanks Ray, Heather S. and others) did an hour and felt like I could have stayed in another hour.

Anyway, the point Iíve been working toward is this: You may not think you can get through the training for Ironman Ė it truly is daunting and it absorbs a gigantic portion of your time, attention, money, nutritional choices and everything else that you value.

But Iíve become convinced that you donít need to bring to Ironman any particular athletic talent. Like marathoning, it turns out that for me, itís a mental sport. It helps if you are richly self-entertained, because youíll be alone for a lot of the training. You need a willingness to slog through the hours at a moderate cardiac effort, find enjoyment in it, be flexible about the things that go wrong, and just keep going.

Thanks for reading, and wish me luck next week.

Sharon McNary


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