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Road to Ironman Part 2

PART 2: What it takes to go the distance.

Training for an Ironman can be an extremely rewarding and life-changing journey. However, it requires lots of preparation, a strong commitment, and some sacrifices.

Here’s what you need to do to prepare:

MONEY:
My new Felt try bike! Getting read for Eagleman 70.3
  • Training for Ironman is not an inexpensive thing to do. The racealone can cost close to $900 just to enter, but then you will need the proper gear/equipment- clothes (bathing suite, bike shorts, tech tees, running shorts, socks, etc..), swim goggles, wetsuit, a road or tri bike, helmet, a pair or 2 of running shoes, and an indoor bike trainer.
  • Then there’s everything you’ll need over the course of your training: gym or pool memberships, specialized nutrition gels/drinks/bars, bike parts and maintenance (i.e. spare tire tubes and tune ups), sunscreen, chafing creams, first-aid materials, food, doctors copays, entry to shorter races to help prepare you for the big day… the list can be endless.
  • Slowly but surely, other costs will begin to sneak in so be prepared to spend a pretty good chunk of change.
TIME AND TRAINING:
A few of my dt+n peeps. Love my Saturday morning computrainer classes!
  • You’ll need a plan that maps out what sport to do each day, for how long and what type of workout to do.
  • Be ready to train 25+ hours a week.
  • Be prepared for early morning workouts that last 2-3 hours- I got up everyday at 3:45am to swim, bike, and/or run before going to work. On the weekends you can expect to go longer; upwards of 6-8 hours if your doing a long ride or long brick (when you do two sport in one day, i.e. bike & run).
  • I highly recommend hiring a coach (you can add this to the list of expenses). Ironman is no joke and not something you should go into lightly. If you’re going to do it, do it right! (Chris Draper of dt+n)
NUTRITION:
Prepping for my century ride!
  • All the training in the world won’t prepare you for a race that youaren’t fueled properly for. A big key is not only to stay hydrated, but to be sure you know your caloric needs so that your body can go the distance. Figure out how many calories you need to take in every hour for your long training sessions. For me, I shoot for 300 calories an hour.
  • You need to start practicing nutrition very early on in your training. You need to train your body to digest the fuel you’re using so you don’t suffer from any GI problems on race day. I am a big fan of Cliff blocks (salted watermelon) and Honey Stinger Waffles (choc/vanilla) along with GU Roctane that I add to my water. Proper fueling is CRITICAL. You could get away with not fueling for a sprint or an olympic distance race, but not an Ironman.
SLEEP:
  • Sleep is critical to help with recovery. You need your sleep and should try to get at least 7 hours a night.  
  • No more late nights or parties on the weekend. You need to think about how your spend your energy. Is it worth sacrificing your training the following day?
MENTAL STRENGTH:
Yoga very damn day! Empower Yoga NJ!
  • As with many challenges, the right frame of mind and mental toughness can make a big difference. Your longer rides and runs are the perfect time to practice mental toughness. Find a positive mantra you can repeat to yourself when the going gets tough. Know that everyone has low points during a race, dealing with them, keeping moving and staying positive will carry you a long way.
  • Yoga is a great way to help with mindfulness, in addition torecovery. Take a yoga class, learn how to stay positive, be present, and keep breathing. These tools can be incredibly helpful come race day!
SUPPORT:
My doctor and teammate!

It takes a village. When you train for an Ironman you never train alone.

  • Get your family and friends involved. You’ll need people to help support you when your tired, question your sanity, feeling unmotivated, or just need a little pick me up. Plus it’s nice to have people who will listen to your endless talks about triathlons and training!
  • See a doctor. Be sure to check in with your physician before you tackle such a big endurance event. Make sure your body can handle all the stress you are about to place on it. And during training, if an injury should arise, take care of it immediately. Seek professional help and support rather than trying to take care of something on your own. It may suck in the short term, but will help you out tremendously in the long run.  My sport medicineguy became my best friend. He helped me with all my plantar fasciitis troubles so that I could still train and not suffer further injuries. Also, tell your coach if something’s going on. He can always substitute workouts for you and keep your training right on track! (Dr. Peter Wenger)
  • Find a good chiropractor. I saw my guy every week for adjustments, ultrasound therapy, and graston treatments for my foot. He was a critical piece to helping making sure I got to the start line. (Grossman Chiropractic)
  • Treat yourself to monthly sports massages. I saw my massage therapist at least once a month. Sports massages can reduce recovery time, promote flexibility, reduce fatigue, improve
    My girl Natalie! Her hands are magic!

    endurance, help prevent injuries and prepares the body and mind for optimal performance. (Natalie Johnston of Run Fit)

  • Acupuncture can do amazing things! I went every other week to help loosen my glutes, IT band, calves and feet. It was amazing!  (Relief Acupuncture)
  • Find a good bike shop, one that you trust and will be there to help prepare you for race day. Be sure to train on your bike regularly so that you know how it handles and rides. Get used to shifting gears, changing tires, etc… Make sure you have your bike serviced before the race to ensure it’s in working order. (My fave is Halter’s Cycles)

After all the money and time you will put into training, remember that the race is the reward. Go into it with a positive attitude. Embrace each moment and be sure to thank your body for its incredible work & always showing up, and all of the people who have been a part of your journey.  Smile at all you have accomplished and be sure to enjoy every step. You CAN go the distance and in the end when your name is called out with the words YOU ARE AN IRONMAN it will all have been worth it.

 

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Road to Ironman Part 1

Over the next three weeks, I’d like to share my Ironman Story with you. This week, I’ll fill you in on how I got into the world of triathlons and what made me sign up for an Ironman.  Next week, I’ll share what it takes to be an Ironman, and finally my top Ironman moments…. I hope you enjoy!

PART 1: Why Ironman?

For those of you who are new to the sport, an Ironman Triathlon is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon 26.2-mile run, raced in that order and without a break. It is widely considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world. Ironman started in 1978 and since then, has come a very long way.  What started as an idea on the back of a napkin is now calling to thousands.

I had started to learn about Ironman a few years ago when I entered the world of triathlon racing. Having had no experience swimming and limited experience biking,  the Ironman was so far off my radar that I had no idea what it was or even entailed.

It wasn’t until 2015, when I signed up for my first sprint triathlon as a way to not only force myself to learn how to swim, but also, it was something fun and active that my husband and I could do together.  After completing my first race (NJ State sprint- 500m swim, 11.5 mile bike and a 5k run), I vowed never do one again, I hated it so much. I got swam on top of and nearly drowned, I doggie paddled throughout the entire swim (taking over 30 min. to complete 500 meters, which I can swim now in 8 min.), fell off my bike and tore open my knee, and hobbled my way across the finish line. When I crossed the finish line, I cried. Now, these were not tears of joy but rather of pain and frustration. I couldn’t believe people actually enjoyed doing this sport.  

The following year, I watched my husband compete in a few races as I cheered him on, happy to be on the other side of things. Then in 2017, I decided to give triathlons another try. In my yoga classes, I always talk about stepping outside your comfort zone, facing your fears, and never giving up. So after some internal debate, I decided that triathlons weren’t going to get the best of me. I was going to face my fears and prove to myself that I could succeed and get better at this sport. I was prepared to work my butt off until I gained the confidence and skills I needed to complete a successful race.

Now at this point, I had only completed 1 sprint triathlon, but decided to up the ante and register for Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City anyway (figured I’d go big or go home). Now to prepare for a race of this distance, I knew I had a lot of training ahead of me.  With no real direction as to what to do, I downloaded a bunch of 70.3 training plans and made up my own; picking and choosing what I thought was a good fit for my schedule and had enough volume that I felt like I could finish the race.

To start, I joined a masters swim program at a local pool in Princeton, swimming 5 days a week,  rode on my road bike 3 days a week, and ran 4-5 days a week. However, I new this wouldn’t be enough. I was terrified of open water swimming. I went a few times to some local open water swims in my area and did ok, but this didn’t totally help prepare me to swim in a race when your adrenaline is pumping and you have hundreds of people around you… so what did I do? I registered myself for 8 sprint races and 2 olympic distance races that summer, basically racing every weekend). No better way to train yourself how to handle open water racing than to throw yourself right into it. Now the first few races I still panicked, but towards the end of the summer I was actually swimming and placing in my age group!! The races helped me get over my fears and taught me how to remain calm and in control when someone hit, kicked, or swam over me. By the end of the summer, I was feeling so confident in my skills and was proud of how far I had come, that I knew I needed to keep going and to do more. So prior to even completing in AC 70.3, I had decided to sign up for a full Ironman. Always down for a challenge and a way to get better and stronger, I knew I just had to do it. I wanted to see what my body was capable of. In such a short time if I could go from being afraid to put my face in the water to swimming over a mile, I knew I could do anything. Less than 1% of the population complete an Ironman and I wanted to be one of those people.  My husband (and prob the rest of the world) thought I was nuts. I hadn’t even completed a 70.3 race yet, what if I hated it. Why sign up for a full? I said that even if I hated it (which I doubt I would) I would do it anyway because completing an Ironman quickly catapulted to the top of my bucket list

When I have an idea or want something, there is nothing getting in my way, and I wanted to be an Ironman!  After AC 70.3 I was hooked on triathlon racing. I was anxiously awaiting to start training for my next goal, completing Ironman Lake Placid.  I knew I needed some help and expertise to really go the distance and get the most out of my race, rather than piecing a plan together like I did for AC. This was something I didn’t want to wing and I knew it would require hours of work each week for my body to get there.

Training for an Ironman takes lots of time, sacrifice, and dedication.  I had interviewed several coaches before deciding to hire, Chris Draper of dt+n. Immediately when I met him, I knew that he was the right person for the job. Chris is incredibly smart and talented. He’s honest, real, and straight forward. While he can be a hard ass at times, he is also incredibly attentive, supportive, and encouraging.  Chris developed appropriate and well balanced workouts to develop my strength and my skills across all three areas. Training wasn’t always roses and butterflies. It was hard, grewling, time consuming and left you at times beaten up and bruised. Throughout my training, I had been suffering from very bad plantar fasciitis so it was a delicate balance for a while to insure I could help my foot heal, but also continue to develop the endurance I needed for such a long event. And even though it was challenging, I have to say that I loved every minute of it. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and more badass.  

Chris’ smart training helped me to not only be able to get to the start of my race, but across the finish line. There is nothing in this world that compares to 15 hours of non stop physical activity and finally running down the shoot to the finish; where you here your name- Keri Mandell, you are an Ironman!! I think Chris will be stuck with me for a while, because triathlon is something I have grown to love and not seem to want to live without. Who knows what’s next… but I will tell you that it will entail, swimming, biking, and running.

Here’s to chasing your dreams and making the impossible, possible! 

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IMAC RECAP

A few weekends ago, I ticked my first IRONMAN 70.3 race off the list. Crossing the finish line in Atlantic City, New Jersey was amazing. I am incredibly proud of myself and pleased as to how I performed during the race.

Nestled between the fast, dynamic Olympic-distance races and the revered IRONMAN, the 70.3 occupies a unique place on the distance spectrum. It’s definitely a race worthy of respect and a feet to tackle, but it’s certainly doable.  

RACE RECAP:

The Ironman Village was great. They offered fun entertainment, lots of cool swag to purchase, and great vendors. Packet pickup was easy, and the volunteers were incredible. Race day was the same. Things appeared to be well organized and all the details taken care off. We were slow to start the swim, but the 6 person every 10 seconds into the water seemed to really pace us out well and prevented people from swimming over one another, which I really appreciated, because that scares the sh*t out of me.

I was terrified at first about getting in the water, but one of the volunteers looked at me & said- do it for someone who’s not here today and can’t do it. Well I immediately started to cry because it made me think of my dad- I decided to do it for him. Thank god my husband was standing by the start too as this happened because he gave me one final kiss and hug and reassured me I’d be great. When I got into the water I knew dad was there. It was a great swim. There wasn’t any real current, things were clearly marked, and there was a lot of support in the water if needed. I felt good and truly enjoyed the swim. I got out in 42.33 (2:12 min/100m)

Coming out of the water was easy, the wetsuit peelers were fast and efficient. They certainly helped lessen transition times.

As I got on the bike, we headed out toward the AC Expressway. They closed off one lane. They informed us it was a closed course, so I expected the entire Expressway to be closed. But one lane seemed sufficient enough. It did become a little scarey when large trucks and buses came zooming by and your bike would shake.  Part of the course was also on some back roads. These roads were not well paved and very bumpy. They also had large potholes and broken glass you needed to maneuver around to avoid, so not so easy at times.  The course was 2.5 loops and at least after the first loop, you remembered where the rough parts of the road were. Unfortunately, lots of people got flats and were pulled over along the side of the road. I was very happy that wasn’t me. The highlight was riding towards AC and seeing the skyline. I completed the bike course in 3:13 with an average of about 18 mph.

The run course took place on the boardwalk. It is pretty tough to run on a boardwalk. There were lots of loose boards and nails that stuck up. However, the crowds were fun, there were aid stations every two miles, and the music throughout helped you to keep moving.  I felt ok on the run minus the large blisters that developed on the pads of my feet. The first few miles were fast and great (averaging about 8:30) but then my feet started to hurt so bad that I basically ran with my toes curled to protect the blisters from hitting the ground each time. I stopped and walked through every aid station to give my toes a break and to refuel. Overall, it was uncomfortable and made the run seem longer than it would have been, but I got through it. This has never happened to before, so I’ll have to do some research as how to avoid it for the next one. I completed the run in 2:16. Which is about 10:30 per mile.

Best part of the race was running down the shoot and crossing the finish line. It was pretty exciting and emotional. What a huge accomplishment. I have a lot to be proud of and a lot to be grateful for. For starters, this body who works so hard and does so much for me, my husband who appreciates and encourages my crazy side, my family, and of course my friends who are always there to listen or run/swim/bike countless miles with me… for all that I am extremely grateful.

Total finish time: 6:19:47

WHY RACE IM 70.3?

  • The IRONMAN 70.3 is a challenging step up from shorter-distance races (sprints and Olympic/international) to “test” yourself at a longer, more endurance-focused event. Once you complete one, you’ll know whether you’re hooked like I am or whether you prefer shorter events.    
  • In about 10 hours a week, you can become fit enough to complete a 70.3.
  • Many people’s first IRONMAN goal is simply to finish. For more seasoned triathletes, the IRONMAN 70.3 distance offers the chance to focus more on performance (qualifying, setting PR’s, etc) than just getting across the finish line.
  • IRONMAN 70.3 events are spectator-friendly and offer lots of pre race & race-day fun.
  • Great volunteers and spectators!! The volunteers help ensure a smooth race and keep you hydrated while spectators cheer you on and offer words of support and encouragement along the way to help keep you motivated and moving forward.
  • The race is often completed in about 5-7 hours, leaving the afternoon and evening open for celebration and unwinding.
  • As a destination race, it’s a great way to sightsee and explore new cities!
  • There are a huge variety of races to choose from and most are easily accessible.

YOU CAN DO ANYTHING, YOU NEED TO JUST BELIEVE:

I had a great race and a lot of fun. I even exceeded my own expectations of myself. Being new at this and not sure how I was going to feel, my goal was to finish around 6:30 and I finished in 6:19. I’m super happy about that. It was great and I got to learn a lot about myself. I had a lot of thinking to do over the course of 6 hours with no music and no one to talk to- Probably the quietest I have ever been lol (well actually 2nd to the time I had laryngitis for weeks). I learned that I really don’t need music to swim/bike/run and I was happy with my own thoughts and really got to live in the moment. I also learned that we should never doubt ourselves because we can truly do anything we put our minds to, I’m proof of that. Imagine, I started training for triathlons a few years ago as a way to force myself to learn how to swim and now almost 3 years later, I not only can swim, but I can swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and run 13.1 miles after. I can’t wait to do it again. Most people think I’m crazy, but I’m a dreamer and a doer and I refuse to let anything get in my way. Never stop goal setting & goal crushing!

Now onto my next 70.3, Eagleman in June and 140.6 Lake Placid in July! Let the training begin 🙂

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