IRONMAN Texas 2017 Race Report

Well the muscles have healed, I’ve had some sleep so it’s time to write-up my race report for the 2017 IRONMAN Texas which was on 22nd April 2017. This is my third straight year doing Texas and it was awesome. The course was great, the other participants were all great and friendly, the IRONMAN team were great, the volunteers amazing and the spectators awesome!

I went into this IRONMAN feeling optimistic about setting a new Personal Record (PR). My previous best was 14 hours 30 minutes for 2016 Chattanooga (I don’t count the time for 2016 Texas as the bike course was shortened). I had changed a few things:

  • I had focused more on running. Completed a number of marathons. Did more running post my long bike ride on Saturday. More hill running (on treadmill)
  • I changed my drink from water with Nuun to Gatorade. When combined with the Gu and waffle this raised my hourly calories from about 230 to 400 an hour. I think previously I was not consuming enough during the bike leaving me  short on energy for the run
  • The temperature was to be between 70 and 75. Much cooler than the 95 all three of my other IRONMANs had been

I still did all my training on the treadmill and spin bike but had put in more mileage. The only time I trained outside was the few marathons I did and a 10 minute bike test I did following the new tires I had put on my bike the week before the IRONMAN (this turned out to be a huge disaster that I’ll talk more about later) as part of a tune-up I had done by a travelling bike service.

In terms of timing, the onsite registration is 2 days prior to the event while the bike and run bag/bike bag drop-off is 1 day prior. I live near Dallas which meant the Woodlands (the location for the IRONMAN) was about a four hour drive. I got up early Thursday, went to the gym for some light cardio and weight training then drove down to the Woodlands. I went straight to the IRONMAN village which has the registration tent, store and partner tents.

Registration is fast. You give your state ID and they write down your bib number on a card. You then go into the registration tent, go to the waiver desk where they give you two forms. You check the details, enter some contact information then give them back in. You then pick up the transition bags, grab your bib numbers, get your IRONMAN bracelet put on which has your number on it and will stay on you until after the event and your timing chip which will attach round your left ankle (grab a safety pin as well to help really secure it on the morning). You will also grab your fancy backpack (or whatever the style is that year) and a few other goodies. You exit registration to the store which does not have the finisher gear yet but will the evening of the event and the next day.

I then popped over to TriBike Transport to make sure my name and bib number was on the valet list. Normally I ship with TriBike but for Dallas I just drive the bike down with me but the valet service is $40 and simply gets them to pick up your bike and run/bike transition bags the night of the event and bring it back to the IRONMAN village for the next day. This means you don’t have to worry about it after finishing the IRONMAN and worth every penny to me!

Then off to Macaroni Grill for my ritual pre-IRONMAN diet of marinara pasta with grilled chicken breast on the side for lunch with water. I will have the same for dinner, the same for lunch the next day finishing off with a cheese pizza from Grimaldi’s for dinner the night before the IRONMAN.

I checked into my hotel (which I had the bad luck of a room that had a door to adjoining room which had a young family containing a toddler that screamed and shouted all 3 nights I was there till midnight which because of the door seemed like was in the room with me meaning I didn’t sleep till the kid did) and laid all my gear out in 3 piles on the floor: clothes for the morning, bike transition bag content and run transition bag content. When I think about the content I need I run through in my mind getting dressed from feet up to head to make sure I’m not missing anything. The 2016 Texas athlete guide had a great checklist:

athletechecklist2016

Remember if you are not wearing a trisuit you also need to pack things like bike shorts/shirt, run shorts/shirt etc. I packed the bags and set them aside for drop off tomorrow. I don’t use the special needs bags (these are available on the course for things like extra nutrition, spare inner tubes etc but you don’t get these back at the end so put in nothing of value). I then proceeded to veg out and just watch reruns of The Office.

On Friday I had a bagel for breakfast and some fruit then went to the transition point with my bike, run and bike transition bags. Everyone is super helpful and will direct you. Find your row for the bike (don’t have the tires fully inflated, you pump them up the morning of), hang it up by the saddle then drop off the bags. Then off for pasta, pizza and more The Office reruns.

Friday night I only got a few hours sleep because of nerves and the loud kid next door but at 3 I got up, had some apple sauce, a power cake, packed my morning bag and just hung around. At 4:30 I headed out. I park at a garage by the IRONMAN village then walk to the transition area which officially opens at 5:30 but they normally open earlier. Here you go pump up your tires to race pressure (100 for me) and there are technicians up at the front to do it for you but also people bring their own who always share. This is where my bike nightmare begun. I pumped up to 100 PSI and my front tire no longer spun. The new tires they put on were bigger and when pumped fully were hitting the frame. I’m not a bike expert at all. This was stupid on my part to change tires the weekend before and even though I did a quick test I hadn’t pumped to 100 and the company that did it never thought of it either. My solution was to lower the wheel slightly which seemed to fix it however I suspected gravity would be my enemy over time when I started riding but nothing I could do at this point.

I then walked to the swim start where they do the body marking and you can drop off your morning (white) clothes bag which will be moved to the finish line available when you finish. You also drop off the special needs bags if you have them and then wait.

The water temperature was wetsuit optional which means you can wear a wetsuit but you start after the people who don’t wear them and you are not eligible for age group awards. Not a concern for me 🙂 so I opted to wear a wetsuit since I’d injured my shoulder in training and my entire swim training consisted of 2 half mile swims and 1 one mile swim! Everyone is super friendly and generally happy to chat. The lines for the restrooms were super long so make sure you give yourself enough time. It was a rolling start with athletes self-seeding which means people are constantly entering the water and you choose when you enter. If you are slower don’t try and get in first as people will be swimming over you so put yourself in the right place. I entered the water about 6:50 and the water was great temperature but solid brown. You could not see ANYTHING in there at all. I settled into a very easy pace and I tend to stay on the outside as I don’t want to get kicked in the face and an extra few minutes is not going to significantly impact my 14 hour time. It was a straight up and down course and then a right turn into the canal. The canal portion was disgusting. I was constantly getting long strings of something in my hands and on my face (last year the swim course was changed as the canal was too polluted to swim in) but was still swimming easy and felt good. Then at the end its a sharp left just before getting out where everyone funneled together and got knocked around a bit. People were on hand to help you get out the water and undo the wetsuit. 1:28:15 for the swim which for me is good and I got out feeling great with very little energy expended.

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Now a run up, grab the bike bag and into the changing tent. I get changed into my bike gear and this took a while. My next IRONMAN (Santa Rosa) I’m going to try a trisuit to avoid the changes from swim to bike to run. I then run up to the bike and its very muddy. I grab the bike and walk it to the mounting line. I got on the bike and my shoes would not snap in to the peddles. The mud had clogged everything up. I pulled over and stomped my feet to get the mud off then my feet clipped in and off I went. The first 20ish miles were on normal roads before going onto the closed off highway on which I would ride two loops.

About 60 minutes in I started to hear a very loud screeching noise and could not work out what it was and I noticed my legs were getting tired. Noise went and came back louder than ever. I pulled over and sure enough my front tire would barely move. I had been fighting the tire as it had slipped up again so was rubbing on the frame. Damn. I loosened it again, pulled it down a few millimeters and tightened. It spun and off I went again. About 30 minutes later the massive screeching again and I saw one of the mobile mechanics on the side of the road (there is great on course support with motor bikes roaming helping cyclists if you have a problem). He basically told me what I was doing was not going to work (as I had found) and the only solution was to let air out the tire. He let out a lot of air until it no longer rubbed on the frame. So now I’m on a tire without enough air pressure but better than it was and off I went no longer worrying about the tire. Lesson learned here is to not make changes just before an event and test in the same circumstances as the actual event. Stupid but not a mistake I’ll make again.

The part on the highway (80 miles of the 112) was basically 20 miles South in a straight line, 20 miles North back and then turn and repeat once more. There were a few small rolling hills but nothing bad and as soon as you went up you would go down straight after it. After completing the first Southbound 20 miles, turning and going North and with about 10 miles until I was going to turn to go South again a strong wind started that was blowing almost directly South which means straight against you which slowed down and was getting stronger but in my mind I was thinking in 10 miles it would be behind and then yay! I turned and with the good tailwind I was going about 23-24 mph for bits and the wind was only getting stronger. As I neared the turning point I was filled with dread and sure enough a massive headwind slowing me to about 15 mph for the remaining 20 miles of the highway. I saw people by the side of the road bloodied and heard the wind had blown people off of bikes. For once being heavy worked in my favor 🙂

Once you left the highway there was about 12 miles left which was all still going North which meant all still had the massive headwind and sucked and was so happy to see the transition area. Bike was 6:10:15 which was slower than I had hoped (6 was my goal) but with the tire problems and the massive headwind I was fine. In my head I was thinking I had to do 5:30 for the marathon to hit 13:30 which was my hopeful goal.

My nutrition went well on the bike though. On the course they have stations every 10 miles giving out 750ml bottles of water and orange Gatorade in addition to bananas etc. There are also restrooms as the stations and amazing volunteers. I took Gatorade at every stop and occasionally a water. Every hour I ate a Gu (that I took with me) and at 20 minutes and 40 minutes I ate half of a waffle (which I also took with me). About 400 calories an hour.

At the transition they take your bike and re-rack for you and I went and grabbed my run bag, went to change tent and changed into my running gear. Then out I went (after quickly getting another round of sunscreen from the volunteers outside the change tent). On me I had 5 Gus and 5 waffles along with two small bottles that I planned to fill one with water and one with lime Gatorade (that they have on course). I ate a Gu quick and while I initially planned to walk at first I felt pretty good so decided to just easily jog and looking at my old running watch was going about 6mph. At the water stops (which are every mile with water, Gatorade, red bull, coke and then every few miles have Gus, blocks etc) I would ask them to fill up my bottles as needed which they always did.

The run is 3 loops of a roughly 9 mile loop which is super flat with great spectator support throughout. You run through some park areas, some nice housing areas and the canal area. The run was feeling good so I decided to just run non-stop for the first loop. The temperature was probably around 70 (the high was 75 for the day) which was amazing and I was breathing great. I got round loop 1 without having to walk and decided to keep going into loop 2. At around mile 13 my times were great and I constantly do math to work out “if I walked now at 4mph what time would I finish in” and I had worked out I could now walk and still finish in 5:30 as I was at about 2 hours 10 minutes for the half and my breathing was getting more labored. I decided to walk for a bit to recover. I guess I walked for about half a mile then started running again. In my head I was now thinking to break 5 hours for the marathon which was very doable but I knew I was slowing down. I ran for another 3-4 miles then walked again a little for about 5 minutes but then ran again. I was also getting mild tingling in my lips.

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I had planned a Gu an hour and a waffle at the same intervals as the bike but was unable to eat the waffle at all as my body made it clear to me I would be sorry if I even tried. This meant I was just having 1 Gu an hour and the Gatorade meaning I was way short on my calories for the run. I also was licking base salts every couple of miles. I didn’t want to take banana, pretzels, broth or anything else as I had not trained with that.

I was at about mile 22 and was at about 4 hours and 5 minutes. I knew if I wanted to break 5 hours I would have to run the next 4.2 miles with no walk break so off I went. I don’t have a tri watch so had no clue of my overall time. I knew I was at about 8 hours after the bike with the swim and two transitions but not an exact idea. I really wish I had as if I had known I probably would have pushed just a tiny bit harder. At your final loop you split off right to the finish line which is a few hundred yards left. You down a slight decline with people cheering your on and you just find more energy and speed up (no one will ever know you walked/crawled bits earlier on). You take a U-turn and run up the final slight incline to the finish line. People high-five you as you run and you cross the line and those words you have been waiting for “John Savill, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”.

As you cross the finish line there are volunteers to basically catch you as once that adrenalin wears off you tend to collapse a little. They wrap the metal blanket thing round you and walk you to get your medal, hat and finisher t-shirt and then get your picture taken.

My marathon time was 4:55:45 which I was delighted about. Sub-5 was amazing for me as part of the IRONMAN. I still don’t know my final time though. I know its around 13 hours but not sure if over or under. You then walk to the food and I grabbed some pizza (which was stone cold) and a can of coke. I then found a chair and sat down. At this point I get a terrible tingling in my face and lips. This happens to me every time. I’ve tried to research and its either lack of sugar or lack of water. Not sure which. I just sat in the chair trying to eat but couldn’t really and had a few sips of coke and water. I sat for about 10 minutes. The tingling didn’t really go away but it does not panic me anymore. I went and picked up my morning clothes bag to get my car key and made my way to the car park where I grabbed my phone to text my wife and look at look at my final time. Sadly the tracking site still had not updated to show me finishing the run nor would it the entire night! It was not until next morning the site updated my times so I could see my final time!

Drove to the hotel while chatting to my wife on the phone. I knew it was around 13 hours which was still awesome and I was delighted. Made my way to the room, drank a protein shake, half a milky way but couldn’t really eat still. Jumped in the shower then went to bed and didn’t sleep a wink of sleep all night. I just could not sleep. Not sure because I was buzzed about the time. Maybe the amount of Gatorade I had consumed during the day. But zero sleep but that was fine. I just did an awesome IRONMAN.

About 3am I just gave up even trying and tried to check my time again which had now updated!!! 13 hours, 1 minute and 54 seconds. I just missed 13 hours but I crushed my previous best by nearly 90 minutes. I suspect the extra running training and the cooler temperatures coupled with the additional calories thanks to Gatorade was the reason but no idea what the bigger impact was. If it had not been for the bike problems I would easily have broken 13 hours but oh well. I’m happy with that.

At 6 am I got up and drove to the IRONMAN village. I got breakfast at the Westin (where I’m staying next year to avoid having to drive on the day and stress about my car key getting lost in the morning clothes bag 🙂 ) then off to the store to buy an awesome finisher jacket and t-shirt. I then picked up my bike and bags from TriBike, put in my car then drove home which I arrived at about 11:00am. Pancakes for lunch then it was III forks for dinner and a tasty steak 🙂

Next up is Santa Rosa in 3 months time. It will be warmer and the bike hillier. What will I do differently? I need to focus on my swimming, carry on improving my bike times and run times but I’ve just bought the Fenix 5 tri-watch so I’ll better know my times and will buy a tri-suit to cut my transition times. I need new running glasses as I lost them at the finish line. I also need to think about 2 Gus an hour on the run as clearly waffles don’t work at that point. I’ll be taking my bike to the bike store and getting the front wheel replaced with a smaller one!

Completely opposite to what makes sense for the IRONMAN I’m trying to gain muscle wanting to get to about 205 from my current 195 but that will probably take about a year as its slow to gain with all the IRONMAN training. I’m happy to have lots of goals and believe I can still improve all round.

In summary an amazing experience. I love the IRONMAN events. I love the volunteers and the spectators and the IRONMAN team. They are always well organized even when factors beyond their control get in the way.

Most I love my wife and my family without whose support I would be unable to train and participate in these events.

See you at the next one!

 

 

 

Motivating Yourself for Training

For most people actually working out is not the problem. The problem is getting to the gym, the problem is finding time, the problem is there is always something else that needs doing. The reality is if you really want to do something you’ll find a way, if you don’t you’ll find an excuse (the Rock said that!). It’s very true. When I don’t want to do something I’ll find a million reasons why I can’t. If I want to do something I’ll always find a way. You need to motivate yourself to want to train and that motivation will be different for everyone.

What does not work is someone else’s motivation. Someone else wants you to lose weight, someone else wants to run a marathon so you need to run with them. Sure you may get bullied into training for a while but someone else’s motivation is destined to fail. They may lose their own motivation which means you both quit or you get fed up with them so quit to “show them you don’t have to”. You need to find a motivation for you.

Now, that motivation could very well be something that will impact someone else. You want to get fitter so you can play more with your kids. Great! You want to lose weight to look better for your partner (without them pestering you to). Great! You want to get healthier to improve your overall quality of life and set a good example for your kids. Perfect. You want your wife to look at you the way she looks at Stephen Amell on TV. Make it happen! It’s still your choice and something you want to do. If others benefit as well that’s just extra goodness.

Motivation has to kick in at different times during training. There need to be long term and short term motivations.

  • There is the motivation to decide and maintain training. This is a long term motivation. I like to train to be healthy, so I can protect my family, to set an example for my family and to allow me to eat complete crap occasionally! Work out what yours is. A mission statement for you.
  • While training there is the motivation to push yourself. To run that extra 5 minutes. To go for the extra set. To do some abdominals. Here you may ask yourself “why are you here?” and you’ll answer with your long term motivation. You have a goal. You are here to achieve it so work and achieve it! There may also be short term motivations. “Hey, if I run 10 more minutes that’s 150 extra calories I’ll burn. I can totally have a red velvet buntini after dinner” (I love those things). OR “hey 150 more calories burnt, that’s nearly a 1/20th of a pound of fat burnt, woo hoo!”. Beating your personal best! I ran at 6.7mph last week, I’m going to run at 6.8mph this week.
    I have Arnold Schwarzenegger in my head a lot when I train (or Arnie as he likes me to call him… in my mind). “Come on John, you can do it <with an accent>, push it harder, my grandmother in Austria lifted more than that, don’t be a girly man”. Arnie is my life long idle 🙂 Pick someone you look up to and let them motivate you during training! Train with someone where possible and motivate each other during training. It’s also great so you can spot each other!
  • When you want to give up there is the motivation not to. You are tired and still have 20 minutes left of cardio and an easy exit is right there. How not to take it. Once again there is the long term goal but this is where you need a mind shift a little. As long as its not some sharp pain indicating injury but rather just muscle aching from working out then we need to push through. You need to say to yourself “this is uncomfortable and it kinda sucks but you know what, its OK to feel this way. I’m getting stronger”. It’s a mind shift but its vital. I struggled with running long distances until I had this mind shift. You’re going to be uncomfortable but you’ll get through it and next time you’ll be able to push a bit harder. That much closer to a goal.
    I’ll say movie quotes to myself when I’m tired to get myself fired up. I’ll play the scene from Rocky Balboa in my mind when he talks to his son about its how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward (go buy the movie but if you are cheap search for Rocky Balboa Inspirational Speech). I’ll remind myself what a fantastic, easy life I have that this is the hardest thing in it and others have it far worse to survive and am I really going to give up. There was a news video of a little 8-year old boy with Cerebral Palsy completing a triathlon. At the finish line he pushed aside his walking aid and just ran. He fell, got up, ran, fell down, got up, ran and he finished. Seriously the tiredness I fell, do I truly believe I have it worse than that brave little 8-year old boy. Hell no. He motivates me more than anything else and I think of him often when I want to give up. Go watch it at https://youtu.be/bEWO9JljMCY . When you want to quit remind yourself of that brave little boy and ask do you have some excuse better than him?
  • When there is some tasty food I really want but know I shouldn’t. I’ll remind myself of my long term motivations. I’ll remind myself really its just a short term fix and I’ll just want more and to instead eat something healthier however at the same time I believe occasionally have a treat. Just watch the portion and frequency but it’s OK to treat yourself now and then.

In my bedroom closet I have a set of pictures I look at the start of every day. You can see it below. Maybe you have a mirror you can place some pictures on, or notes, or anything you want. Some people get a little tattoo but I wouldn’t get “lose 10lbs” written on your body anywhere important and there are less permanent options. You just want something to keep you going.

closetmotivation

Everyone is different. There is no one motivation for everyone but I strongly urge you before embarking on a training regime to work out your motivation (and see a doctor to make sure there are no problems) as it will help you keep training rather than aggressively embarking on a super training goal and then fading out within a month. Look inside yourself for why you want to train and think of ways to remind yourself of it. And I’m focusing on training but really this applies to anything in life. Education, stopping a bad habit, starting a good habit. Motivate!

Getting Started Gym Workouts

My wife recently commented that I spend all this time in the gym yet never train with her and that she really has no idea what she should be doing at the gym if she wants to start using weights. While training together is not practical I thought a good middle ground would be for me to create a series of “Wifey Workouts” and these are not specific to my wife but rather suited for anyone starting out (I have many people I know following the workouts both men and women).

For each workout I walk through the exercises and point out key points. If there is ever an exercise that you can’t do or hurts that’s fine, try something else that works for you. For example in the second set of chest I do pushups with feet on a bench, you don’t have to do that! If you can’t do all the sets, don’t worry! We are just starting out.

I have two different workouts for each of the body-part combinations and I’ve arranged them into an initial 6 week program which sees you at the gym 3 days a week. Feel free to add in extra days but those would be cardio (e.g. running, bike, walking, elliptical) only. We want gaps between weight days. It’s also important to make sure you get enough sleep and are consuming enough calories (we’ll talk about that in another blog post). We’ll work abdominals all the training days. With each day look to increase the intensity of your cardio as well but don’t worry if at first you can’t do the full time or simply walk. Anything is great! Make sure you have at least one rest day of any kind of training.

Below is the initial 6 week program. When doing these pick a weight that you can just finish the final set and look to increase the weight over the weeks. Ideally train with someone so you can spot (help with the weight when needed) each other so increase the safety of the training. If its an exercise where the weight may land on you then ask someone to spot you!

Make sure you stretch after all cardio – https://youtu.be/1FcJfZhHhXU.

So here goes!

Day Muscle Groups Link to video
Week 1 – Monday Chest and Triceps https://youtu.be/CMo_SQDXJsw
(this is the first video and didn’t do separate voice over, I do in
future!)
Week 1 – Wednesday Back and Biceps https://youtu.be/LSxs6GsgFl4
Week 1 – Friday Shoulders and Legs https://youtu.be/P905_USxgVo
Week 2 – Monday Chest and Triceps https://youtu.be/CMo_SQDXJsw
Week 2 – Wednesday Back and Biceps https://youtu.be/LSxs6GsgFl4
Week 2 – Friday Shoulders and Legs https://youtu.be/P905_USxgVo
Week 3 – Monday Chest and Triceps https://youtu.be/IyUImHFgpSg
Week 3 – Wednesday Back and Biceps https://youtu.be/g_t08BrrISk
Week 3 – Friday Shoulders and Legs https://youtu.be/i2Yh86AsGsc
Week 4 – Monday Chest and Triceps https://youtu.be/IyUImHFgpSg
Week 4 – Wednesday Back and Biceps https://youtu.be/g_t08BrrISk
Week 4 – Friday Shoulders and Legs https://youtu.be/i2Yh86AsGsc
Week 5 – Monday Chest and Triceps https://youtu.be/CMo_SQDXJsw
Week 5 – Wednesday Back and Biceps https://youtu.be/LSxs6GsgFl4
Week 5 – Friday Shoulders and Legs https://youtu.be/P905_USxgVo
Week 6 – Monday Chest and Triceps https://youtu.be/IyUImHFgpSg
Week 6 – Wednesday Back and Biceps https://youtu.be/g_t08BrrISk
Week 6 – Friday Shoulders and Legs https://youtu.be/i2Yh86AsGsc

As a sneak peek here are some future more advanced workouts!

Good luck, stay safe. And I’ll post the next 6 weeks program soon.

Cheers!

Avoiding Sickness at the Gym!

I had an initial list of blog posts I wanted to write when creating this site and this was not one of them however after spending the last 3 days with cold shivers, vomiting, high fever (104.3 at one point) and the partner of vomiting (diarrhea :-(, never thought I’d use that in a blog post) I thought this is an important post for people new to gyms! Now I don’t know exactly what I had, it could have been food poisoning, could have been a bug picked up anywhere but made me think about good habits to have at the gym to avoid getting sick. My training partner picked up a staph infection from our old gym years ago, which is nasty to get!

Consider the gym a disgusting cesspool. Hopefully yours isn’t but it’s safer to consider it that way. I constantly see people use a restroom stall and walk straight out and touch everything. People may not cover up their own cuts. Gyms may not clean equipment often so may have mold. You can avoid most problems though:

  1. Use the gym wipes or disinfectant bottle/cloths. Wipe down before you use equipment and after (to be courteous to the next people). I often put a towel down on equipment
  2. Wear flip flops in the changing room, even when showering
  3. I avoid using the water fountains and prefer to bring water (make sure you clean that bottle frequently) but I will use the dedicated bottle filling stations many gyms have if I run out
  4. Don’t walk around with any open cuts etc. If you do cut yourself clean the wound and cover with a band-aid quickly
  5. Wash your hands before/after training if not showering straight away
  6. It’s really hard to do but try and avoid touching your face during training but if you hit all the other points should be OK!

Just make these habits and you won’t have to think about them or let them interfere with your awesome, germ-free training.

The History of The Iron Brit

Where it all began and today’s training.

A new year and I’ve decided to create a new blog (and twitter and for the first time an Instagram whatever that is for but I’ll work it out). I’ve had another blog and twitter handle for a long time over at http://www.savilltech.com and @NTFAQGuy that focuses on my computer related activities such as technical how-to videos and books I write but for this new blog I wanted to focus on my training related activities.

I’m currently training for three Ironman events this year:

  • Texas (end of April)
  • Santa Rosa (end of July)
  • Chattanooga (end of September)

These are not my first, I’ve done three previously (I’ll get to that) but for those that are not sure an Ironman is a triathlon event and the distances are:

  • 2.4-mile swim
  • 112-mile bike ride
  • 26.2-mile run (a full marathon)

At the end of this you get a shiny bit of metal, bragging rights and then you go get a tattoo of the M-Dot, you can see mine below.

m-dot-tattoo

Most Ironman athletes are lean, designed for speed and grace. I’m not. At all. Now over 3 months recently I dropped about 20 lbs of fat but I’m still at around 200 lbs. which is very big for an Ironman and definitely does not help but I have lots of conflicting goals, but that’s OK!

My goal for this blog is not 100% clear to me right now, I have a few thoughts but it may evolve over time:

  • Something to track my progress
  • A place to share guidance for people that ask for training/diet advice however I want to be very clear. I’M NOT TRAINED TO GIVE TRAINING OR NUTRITIONAL ADVICE. I’ve found some things that work for me and happy to share but everyone is different
  • My wife wants me to set her some programs for her training so I’ll share those here as “Wifey Workouts” but many beyond women could use them to get started
  • Random thoughts

For this first post I want to set some background to who I am, my goals, what I’ve done so far to establish some trust and then what training I did today.

I’m British. Born and raised in London and have been in Texas for about 13 years. I love it in Texas. People are friendly, it’s a great standard of living, loads to do although it can get a bit warm 🙂.

When I was very young my father and I did various martial arts. I started out with Karate (various forms) which I enjoyed.

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But then I stopped and I have a very sweet tooth. I don’t eat salad. Or vegetables (except potatoes when served with a steak or cut up into little fingers with a burger or hot dog). I like pizza, pasta, burgers, hot dogs, cakes, sweets. You get the idea. People think because I train a lot I like nothing more than to eat salad. I don’t and won’t. Part of the reason I train is so I can eat tasty things but we’ll get to that as well. I put on weight and this picture sums it up pretty well. I guess I was about 10 (this was a joke picture taken at Disney World).

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I remember at a school event one of the teachers said to me in front of my Dad (who was very fit, rode the bike to work every day) “John, looks like you’re eating too many packets of crisps” (crisps = chips). Well that next day an exercise bike appeared in my bedroom and each night I would go on it. There was no malice here by my Dad. There was no meanness. It was to help me and it did. I would watch TV or listen to radio programs (the original BBC Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy was a favorite of mine) as I peddled my little butt off. Now today I think people would frown on this type of “body shaming”, I don’t know. It came from concern for my health and love and it gave me the awareness of my body that at least kept me training. I lost weight and we started doing martial arts again. I remember one Saturday going to piano lesson and this little Asian lady who I saw every week said “You’ve lost weight, you used to have face like apple”. Thanks!

My Dad and I did Tae Kwon Do, Kempo Jujitsu, Aikido, Thai Boxing. There were nights I did 4 hours of martial arts. Two hours of Tae Kwon Do then straight after 2 hours of Kempo Jujitsu. It was awesome. I did this 6 days a week. We never cared about belts. We learnt what we could from different systems and found things that worked for us. To this day, I practice combinations from all the different martial arts. I was never good at many things but I was good at that.

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Well at 18 I had to get a job and at night I would study for a degree in computer science which I got. I rode my bike to work each day as at first I could not afford the train fare. Rain or shine I would ride 15 miles from Welling to London then 15 miles back in the evening. In the morning after riding my bike to work I would go to the gym and do weights, punch bag etc. As my career progressed I could afford the train and you get soft and riding my bike in the freezing rain became less attractive so I became a “fair weather rider” then eventually I stopped riding altogether but I would still get up at the crack of dawn and go to the gym before work. I was fit and strong but I loved my bad food so no matter how much you train if you consume more calories than you eat you will put on weight and I did. Some people I trained with bet I couldn’t lose 2 stone (about 30 pounds) in 3 months but if I did they would buy me a big steak dinner so I went on a diet for 3 months and lost 2 stone. This is important as it’s the same diet I used again recently to trim down. The diet? Actually simple:

  • No wheat based products (so no bread or pasta which killed me)
  • Nothing fried
  • No fast food
  • No dairy (milk, cheese, butter)
  • No candy, cakes
  • No soda

I basically lived on chicken, beef (lean), potatoes, rice, tomato and onion. Oh, and delicious water. Now if you like salad great. If you like fish, great. If you like vegetables, great. You can eat that but I didn’t. I would have the odd bit of fruit but honestly didn’t and don’t like that much either. Just watch the quantities! Portion control is key. I don’t know if this is any “fad” diet today but it worked. It probably worked because I hated every bite so you would not overeat but it worked and I kept the weight off and then added tasty food back but with a bit more control. It’s interesting when you do this type of diet as when you come off it you can’t eat burgers. It tastes terrible as its so greasy but I got them back 🙂

Time carries on and I moved to America. I carried on training before work every day at 24 hour fitness initially and now Lifetime Fitness. I also got back into martial arts taking up Krav Maga and quickly they asked me to become an instructor so I would go out to LA every few months to go through instructor training and certified at Brown Belt Krav Maga Worldwide instructor level and completed the Black belt training but at this point I had got bored with teaching. It was supposed to be my hobby but I was the senior instructor at the school and just was not enjoying it so I stopped. Krav is not like a Karate where everyone is a black belt. It took me about 7 years to get to Brown Belt instructor level it took more to complete the black belt training. You go out to LA for each phase of instructor training (which is a full week) so you can teach that level. During this time I also completed things like the Gracie Survival Tactics (GST) which is a one week course given to police and army self-defense instructors and I was allowed to attend as I taught several police officers and that was great. I wanted a new challenge.

Running seemed like a good thing as in the past I had done the London marathon but never really liked running but Disneyworld were doing marathons and I LOVE Disneyworld so I decided to do that. They have something called the Dopey challenge (I’ve just signed up for the 2018). This is:

  • 5k run on Thursday
  • 10k run on Friday
  • Half marathon (13.1 miles) on Saturday
  • Full marathon (26.2 miles) on Sunday

I did the inaugural one and many other Disney runs and you get LOTS of bling! You get medals for each individual run, one for doing the half and full (the Goofy) and then another for doing all 4 (the Dopey).

Now I’m still doing lots of weights. I never wanted to be small. I was about 210 at this time. There is plenty of fat in there but also muscle 🙂 I did a lot of cardio but balanced to keep/gain muscle. Motivations are our own but being strong was always important to me. You may say “but you did martial arts and size does not matter”. That is a load of crap. Yes, with enough skill you can overcome a larger, stronger opponent but over 30 years of martial arts has taught me size and strength is huge, especially on the ground. I trained with Renner Gracie at the GST and he said the best thing related to size “for every 6 months of training it enables you to match someone 10 lbs heavier”. So if someone is 100 pounds heavier than you then about 5 years of training will help even things up assuming they have no training.

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I did every Disney run and wanted something new. At Disney I saw someone wearing an Ironman finisher jacket. Now I had heard of the Ironman but never seriously considered doing one. I had never swam freestyle, I did breaststroke. I was pretty confident on the bike part and obviously could do a marathon but all those things together. Now this guy was pretty old so I decided that was next. I went home and signed up for the Texas 2015 Ironman in May. About 4 months of training time. I did an Olympic triathlon (about ¼ of the distances) once in England after I ran the London marathon but nothing since. I didn’t do a half Ironman first. I just went for it. I had friends who said I would fail that I was too big and would never do it. One even bet me to cook me BBQ dinner if I succeeded (that was a tasty meal).

So I learnt to swim front crawl (freestyle) started doing miles on the bike and running. Now ALL of my training was on a stationary bike at the gym and on a treadmill (which is how I did most marathon training). The weekend before the Ironman I went out on my old (14 years old) racing bike I bought in England for the triathlon I did there for 20 miles to get the feel of it but that was it. I didn’t use a coach. During this extra cardio I did extra weights to ensure I didn’t lose muscle and actually went up in weight to about 220 (some muscle and some fat as clearly since I was doing so much training I should eat everything I’ve ever wanted to right? 🙂 ).

I’ll do a separate, detailed blog post about my first Ironman experience for those considering but it was amazing. The support, the people are out of this world. My actual performance. Ugh! It was BRUTAL. In many ways. Now, before I go further I did not train enough, at all. A friend of mine says you have to pay the price. You pay in training or you pay on the day. Well, I paid on the day! The swim was hard and I wore a wetsuit but the bike! It was 100% humidity and about 95 degrees. I used a special sun tan lotion I bought at the triathlon store. Well, it was crap. On the bike ride I could feel my skin actually cooking. Now Ironman have their own lotion stations that smother you up and I used that for the run portion and always use now but the damage was done. I got off the bike totally dead. I found out the next day I had second degree burns on my legs and arms when I went to the Carenow where I got some silver cream stuff and bandages. Take a look. Also notice the chubbiness 🙂 This was taken the day after by my wife when I got home.

I still have tan lines on my arms from 2 years ago! Well I remember sitting in the transition tent thinking “there is no way I can run a marathon now” but then I realized I just had to. So I got up and basically walked 26.2 miles. You are not allowed headphones or music during an Ironman so it was just me and the crowds (who are awesome) but I was exhausted. I also get up very early so go to bed early so by 9pm I was mentally tired as well and the last few miles took forever but I finished. My final times were:

  • Swim – 1:37:31
  • Bike – 6:33:27
  • Run (walk) – 6:28:51

Overall time 15:09:50 with transitions (which were loonnnggggggg). BUT I FINISHED!

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As I crossed the finish line I kinda was falling and someone caught me. They stood me up long enough to take the picture then I collapsed, was put in a wheelchair where I spent an hour in the medical tent where I experienced the worse pain of my life. Now there was an IV shortage so if you were consious they made you hydrate by mouth so I had to drink chicken broth however they saw the sunburn and tried to help me by putting a cold wet cloth on my legs. Well to this day I don’t know what happened but that cold cloth hit my leg and a cramp surged up my body into my stomach and I just doubled over in intense pain. My stomach would not stop cramping and I was just clenched over growling trying hard not to cry 🙂 I was an Ironman after all and Ironman don’t cry. An hour later I was allowed out the tent (they were amazing in there) and drove myself to hotel where I phoned my wife (who stayed in Allen as we have young twins). Turns out the runner tracking didn’t update for a while during the run so my wife who was monitoring suddenly got no updates for about 90 minutes where it caught up. She told me she seriously wondered if I was dead when it stopped tracking as she knew I would never give up so that was the conclusion. I swore I was done. Bucket list checked. Went to sleep.

I woke up, went and collected my bike and bags (I used the tribiketransport valet service which for $40 they pick up your bags and bike even if you don’t ship with them so you can pickup next day which is AWESOME) and bought the finisher jacket, polo and anything else to show I had done an Ironman J A week later I went and got the tattoo. On the drive home (which sucked as I was hurting from muscle pain and burnt skin) I considered what I had achieved and really felt that had not been my best attempt. I was sure I could do better. By the time I got home 4 hours later I was going to sign up for next years as it had been freak weather, I had not trained enough and it was not my best.

So I did some more training but really was not much better than the year before in terms of preparation (but a little better, I bought a new fancy bike which I was sure would shave hours off my bike time, I was disappointed) but fate was not on my side. Now the good news is I never visited the medical tent this time however there was very bad flooding for the 2016 Texas Ironman. So much that chunks of the bike course were gone so it was reduced to only 96 miles (if I remember correctly) so not really a full Ironman any more. It was still hot but during the marathon there was a massive hail storm. I was between stations when it hit so basically I was out running (walking) during a painful hail storm. I remember that my face was hurting but honestly I was too beaten to care much. I finished. Times and finishing below. Now they are better but remember the bike was 16 miles shorter!

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So once again. Can’t really count this. I decided to do another Ironman that would be cooler weather so next day I signed up for Chattanooga (the only places left were Foundation which cost double but that extra goes to charity so I was OK with that). Chattanooga in September will be cool I said. That will give me a better shot I said as I don’t do well in the heat. We don’t have heat in England. I sweat. A lot (as we’ll discuss when I get to todays training).

I also decided I needed to shed some fat without losing muscle. I was confident I had about 20 lbs of fat I could lose that would help not having to carry it around on the course so I did my 3 month diet again I did in England about 15 years previous. Remember?

  • No wheat based products (so no bread or pasta which killed me)
  • Nothing fried
  • No fast food
  • No dairy (milk, cheese, butter)
  • No candy, cakes
  • No soda

Now. I made a few changes. Firstly I allowed myself a whole-wheat muffin in the mornings before training. Also on Tuesday night I would have cheesecake factory where I had large bowl of rigatoni pasta with marinara sauce with grilled chicken breast on the side and on Friday night I could have pizza. These were the nights before my big cardio days. I also think its good to give the body lots of carbs a couple of times a week to “trick” it. Also I have the occasional treat. When we go out for pizza we get ice cream after. If we go to movies I take some chocolate raisins with me (branchs are my favorite) and on Fridays I’ll have a couple of donuts for breakfast instead of a banana (one maple glaze and one vanilla sprinkle). I try to be good most of the time but like the 80:20 rule. 80% of the time be good but 20% of the time cheat a little. I enjoy Christmas day and eat what I want etc. On date night with my wife I’ll have tasty things. My typical training is:

  • Monday – 60 minutes hill running then hour chest and triceps
  • Tuesday – 60 minutes bike/swim/elliptical then hour back and biceps
  • Wednesday – 2 or more hours cardio then little shoulders
  • Thursday – 45 minutes elliptical and 1:15 chest and triceps
  • Friday – 60 minutes stair machine then hour back and biceps
  • Saturday – Hours and hours of cardio misery (bike then running but mostly bike)

Notice I don’t really do legs or abs but I’ve just started to add in 10 minutes of abs after every day as my wife fantasies about Jason Statham so that’s the goal 😀

I lost 20 lbs going from 220 to 200 and actually gained some muscle. I was eating a lot of protein powder (and still do). Also I’ve made this more of a lifestyle change. I still don’t drink any soda (in fact I don’t like it now even though Dr Pepper Ten used to be my favorite) and trying to just generally be better. After training I have 60 grams of protein and a banana. About 9:30 am have a 20 g protein shake, have lunch, at around 2 pm have 20 g protein shake, have dinner (at 5) then about 7:30 have 25g casein protein before bed (which is about 9pm, I get up at 4am most days). I’ve never drunk alcohol (except at Christmas, Baileys, yum), never smoked or tried any drugs so those things are not factors. My parents never drunk or did those things so were never exposed to them and with all the martial arts never liked the idea of them. Apart from eating complete crap my body was a temple 😀 I am a very happy, silly person (my wife will tell you). I’m pretty immature. I read comics still. I wear superhero under armor shirts when I train (in part to motivate me). I’ve never needed alcohol to have a good time.

So I was in better shape and done some better training so was ready.

Well guess what. Chattanooga had freak weather in 2016 and it was about 95 degrees. Unbelievable. Now the swim is AWESOME. It is downstream. There were pictures of plastic bags who made the cut off time :-). The bike course is 116 miles instead of 112 (I guess to make up for the easier swim) and it was hilly as was the run but I did it however my times really were not that great. Once again the heat sucked everything out of me but at least I didn’t burn or visit the medical tent.

2016chatironmanMy goal is to go to Kona, the ultimate Ironman and I’ll never qualify with my size/training so they have a legacy program. Do 12 Ironmans you can apply via a lottery so that’s my goal. That is why in 2017 I want to do three. That would get me half way there. I’ve also maintained training and focused more on running. I just did a couple of marathons and have up’d my Saturday training which brings me to today!!!

I don’t normally take pictures of weight or setup but wanted to share my setup a little and where I am now. Also because every villain in a movie is British I’m therefore untrustworthy so felt the need to backup what I say with a little evidence to build trust. My goal for today was more than last week which was:

  • 3:20 on the bike (about 70 miles)
  • 2:10ish running (13.1 miles)

Today I wanted to add 10 minutes of swimming first (1/4 mile) and 20 minutes to the bike ride. This is the first time I’ve swam since Chattanooga. This would be about 6 hours of cardio. So below was my planned nutrition.

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I have one extra waffle and gu as my routine is for drink I add Nuun to my water and for food :

  • On the hour a Gu
  • 20 minutes past hour half a waffle
  • 40 minutes past hour other half of waffle

This gets me about 250 calories an hour and I drink about a liter of water each hour (starts of less then increases). I thought I would take some baseline pictures based on the scale at the gym which are below.

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Now that bodyfat % is not right. I’m higher than that and I don’t care about BMI. Also you may think at even around 9% I have rippling abs. I don’t 🙂 There are numerous reasons for this

  1. Everyone carries weight differently. I carry it around my gut and hips. I have very little fat on my chest, arms, back, legs etc
  2. That is a percentage and I’m heavy. 9% of 197 is still nearly 18 pounds of fat. My twins were about 6 lbs each when they were born so I have 3 small newborns of fat on me 🙂
  3. I’ve never done much abdominal training so don’t have much under the fat except from working rest of body

But I’m getting there. That’s where I am right now.

So to the bike. 3:40 is the goal for today. Below is my bike setup. I take 3 bikes. One to ride on. One next to me to hang nutrition bag between and one in front to put ipad on. I’m here at 4am so will be in room till about 8am way before any classes start. I also put down towels everywhere as I’m disgusting and sweat huge amounts and even with these towels I have to get lots of wipes after to clean up for next people.

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Well did the 3:40. Had to take a potty break at 1:30 and the clock reset but below is the final 2:10 which taking those averages over 3:40 makes it just under 78 miles and 2800 calories. I watched the last 2 hours of Hateful Eight and the new Jake Reacher movie during the bike ride. I preferred the first Reacher film but was still pretty good. Last week I watched Iron Man and Hard Rain, the week before was the 80’s Flash movie (still awesome). I like watching films as it helps the time pass and makes me look up which is important when actually riding a bike! My first Ironman my neck was killing me from looking up as I wasn’t used to it.

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I had used up one of the 1.5 liter smart waters so in total had drunk 2.5 liters of water. I filled up my normal bottle from the tap (1 liter), put on my knee sleeves and did the run and did the 2:10, 13.1 miles. I don’t watch movies during the run and instead just listen to music as looking down is not ideal.

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I got through the 1 liter in my bottle and most of the final 1.5 liter smart water so nearly another 2.5 liters drunk putting me at 5 liters total drank over the 6 hours of cardio:

  • 10 minutes swim
  • 3:40 bike
  • 2:10 run

I also had eaten 6 waffles and 6 gus so had consumed about 1500 calories and burnt about 5000 (would have burnt some during the swim, maybe 100 ish) so 3500 difference (lb of fat, but of course you don’t just burn fat). I stretched a little and weighed myself again before having a shower (I had flip flops and towel on so maybe 1 lb added)

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So 191 from 197. 6 lbs less. Now that is not all water as we burn other stuff but maybe 5 lbs of water loss. 2.2lbs of water is 1 liter so I’m down just over 2 liters of water and I drank 5 during so my body has exhaled/sweated 7 lbs of water over the last 6 hours. Gross!

So now I’m home. Drank my 60 g of protein on drive home and just had egg white tacos with a few steak fries and low fat mac ‘n cheese in it which is awesome along with a little treat of punch to get my sugar up a bit. Dinner will be spaghetti bolognaise at Maggiano’s :-).

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A good days training. My goal is to increase the swim, bike and run next week a little. I want to be in a much better place for the Texas Ironman this year and with 3 months of training still to go and being where I am right now I feel pretty good. I need to really focus on swimming during the week and mid-week runs.

I feel like the ending of Shawshank Redemption. You’ve come this far maybe you’re willing to come a little further. This was a very long post. About 3 hours sitting here writing straight after the training but it was great writing it. Made me think about a lot of things. Going forward they will be much shorter. I’ll post progress, post workouts for the wife (and others) and just other thoughts.

I am no expert, this is just what I do and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but I’m always learning. This may motivate you. It may give you ideas. It may just be interesting or none of them.

I am lucky that I get to try many things and none of this would be possible without my amazing wife Julie who supports all the crazy things I want to do, always encourages me and takes the full burden of looking after everyone including me!

If you take one thing from this let it be that anyone can do anything. You don’t have to be super lean, you don’t have to make things a singular goal. I truly believe that anyone can do anything. You just have to have will power and a true desire. You may not always do what you wanted. You may not always finish but that’s OK. The only true failure in life is to not try. I believe that absolutely. Watch the final minutes of an Ironman. It brings tears to my eyes, the heart and soul of these people that do not give up. They may not finish but they will do their best. Amazing to me. I mentioned I read comics. There is one part that sums up my beliefs from Fantastic Four 604 about trying and what true failure is and I’ll end with that for today.

Thank you and never let someone tell you what you can’t do.

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