Even for runners, experienced triathletes, and those who have completed their training “perfectly”, too many factors come into play after 5-10 ½ hours of swimming and biking.
Whether it’s fatigued legs, tired heart, overworked brain, or lack of digesting the calories, electrolytes, and nutrients you are feeding yourself, I have seen the best endurance triathletes in the world reduced to a walk (or something resembling a walk, shuffle, wog, drag) by the end of the marathon.
I completed my first Ironman distance tri in August 2001 and immediately signed up for another then another then another. I added in some shorter distance tris and runs for training, but always focused on the long distance.
I typically finished in the 30%-ish of my age group but I was determined to get faster and train more and maybe on the off chance when the planets were aligned with the sun on the 1st Wednesday after the full moon I could MAYBE qualify for the “elusive” Kona World Championships.
But I kept training and getting similar results. I was really hard on myself telling myself I needed to eat less, train more, blah blah blah. I continued to disappoint myself so in 2008 I decided to take a year off to get my HEAD in the right spot. A year turned into two. And in 2010 I was ready to come back.
It was a harder process of getting in shape because I had gained 20 pounds and no longer taught regular fitness classes. I struggled through an early season ironman distance race and then started to focus on my nutrition and recovery more. By the end of that year I had one of my “easiest” races ever!
But even in my easiest race, the marathon at the end of the ironman distance was always pretty ugly.
Even after I had done hundreds of 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon races, I still couldn’t nail it! I typically had bad GI distress coupled with achy joints and tired muscles. If I was going to improve on my run, I would HAVE to make some changes.
The reason I just shared a bit of my background with you is so you can understand that I am an average runner and athlete. I am not a natural cyclist or runner and it’s taken me years to learn about my body and fine tune my training so that I get the best result I can get.
I have read my share of tri stories and training programs and bios and although they are SUPER inspiring, there aren’t many that have helped me in a practical way. They are either written by amazing athletes or people who have had tragic accidents or illnesses and have overcome and conquered.
My story has neither…I am a boring, average girl wanting to continue to set PRs and possibly hit some good luck at a super cold, hilly, high altitude race where such a high percentage of people didn’t finish that I could finally grab that Kona slot!
So I want you to know that you don’t need to be a naturally gifted runner, you don’t need to have a compelling “why”, and you don’t need to do anything super crazy to feel great during the marathon portion of an ironman distance triathlon. I made 5 simple changes to my training that I want to share with you.
In my 10th Iron distance triathlon over a span of 13 years, I finally had an awesome marathon. I attribute it to these 5 things…
1. I ran more overall, total mileage, frequency, and distance
2. I cleaned up my eating
3. I was on my bike more, mostly on my trainer
4. I swam longer sets with more drills, fins, recovery
5. I visualized my race every single night before bed
Now I know you may be looking at these 5 “secrets” to my success and be thinking “DUH” but there are a lot of reasons we don’t do any or all of these, and I hadn’t for 9 other races, so I couldn’t be the ONLY one.
The reasons I hadn’t done all 5 of these before is…
1. I was addicted to junk food
2. I worked long hours
3. I was too tired off the bike to run
4. I wasn’t motivated to get on the bike
5. I was always sore/fatigued
6. I had reoccurring overuse injuries when I added more running
7. I didn’t have the energy for long workouts
8. I thought I had to do my long workouts back to back
9. I was following a strict training program that didn’t allow me to listen to my body
10. I wasn’t in a place in my life to take the time to allow my mind to focus on me
In 2013 when I PRd the marathon, I had FINALLY found a way to get around all 10 of these obstacles and I share them in my book “Train Smarter for Better Results” which you can get here (www.KirstenMcCay.com) for only $2.99.
I hope this gives you hope that you too can conquer the 26.2 mile run after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112.
HAVE FUN!! And see you next week!!