Ironman for dummies

The race I’ve signed up for is the Great Floridian Triathlon  ( It is located  in Clermont , Florida which is a forty minute drive from Orlando.  From what people tell me about Clermont, it is very scenic with several lakes and nice rides.  However, a friend of mine from the area also calls it the hilliest part of the whole state.  Lucky for me, it is one of the only parts of Florida that isn’t completely flat.  Awesome. 

A colleague of mine who strangely enough lived in Clermont for close to ten years said, ” “Every lake has its gator…but don’t worry, they won’t bother as much as the water moccasins will.”  What the heck is a water moccasin?  Equally awesome. 

The basic Ironman format is a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike, finished off by a marathon.  The race starts at 7:30 am and one has until 10:00 am to finish the swimming part (if you take longer, you are automatically disqualified). 

Once finishing the swimming, one must have rode 56 miles on the bike by 2:30pm, otherwise you are also disqualified.  The remaining 56 miles must be finished by 6:30pm, or, you guessed it, are disqualified.

Finally, one has until 1:00AM to finish the run.  A maximum of 17 1/2 hours to complete the entire ironman.

My original plan was to wear my $5 speedo goggles and my Hawaiian bathing suit for the swim.  For the bike, I had a pair of red Cornell soccer shorts and an Under-Armour tank top for the bike with my Adidas Bounce sneakers.  I had an extra-shirt I  had in mind that I could change into for the run.  How those plans have changed!

My ignorance really hit me when I was calling local bike shops asking to rent a bike.  Here’s a snippet from a conversation I had with a local bike-shop worker from Clermont:

October 4th, 2010

Me: Hi, I need to rent a bike for a triathlon in 3 weeks times

Bike-shop worker: Sure, what kind of bike are you looking for?

Me: Umm, well what kind do you have?

Bike-shop worker: Well we have a large selection of tri-bikes and road bikes that would probably suit.  What kind of bike do you currently use?

Me:  Hmm, well to be completely honest, I’ve been borrowing my roommates’ father’s bike from the 70’s.   That puppy has never let me down.

Bike-shop worker: Wow. Ok.  You’ll probably want a road bike, since it’ll be easier to adapt to.  What size is your bike?

Me: Hmm, yeaa,  I don’t really know to be honest.  But I’m about 5 foot 10. 

Bike-shop worker:  Ok, sure.  you’ll likely need a 54cm bike then.

Me:  I couldn’t agree more . 

Bike-shop worker: What kind of pedals do you use when you bike? 

Me: Oh well, you know, the standard kind. 

Bike-shop worker:  I don’t actually, since there are two main types of pedals, SPD and ATB.  What is the design on the bottom of your shoes that you clip in with?

Me (ignoring the clip in part): Well I either ride with my Adidas Bounce running shoes or my Asics.    I don’t think my bike has these SPD or ATB pedals that you speak of.

Bike-shop worker:  Okay.  If you’re not used to clipping in I suggest you use a bike that has cages where you could wear your sneakers with.  We have a Trek 2.1 you could use which is probably the easiest to get accustomed to with little time.

Me: Excellent, I agree.  What are cages?

Bike-shop worker (becoming irritated) : How long is the biking part of the triathlon ?

Me: 112 miles

Bike-shop worker: Listen, I think you need to think what you are doing here.  This is a extremely long event that you seem utterly unprepared for.

Me (after a couple second pause): Thought about it.   I’ll take the Trek.  You can deliver and pick it up, right?

October 5th, 2010

 I had no idea what I have gotten myself into.  I told a couple teammates of mine what I signed myself up for and they barraged me with questions with a common underlying theme, ” ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?”  HAVE YOU EVER SAT ON A BIKE FOR 6 HOURS?  HAVE YOU EVER SWAM FOR 2 HOURS STRAIGHT?  Followed by  the usual, “you’re an idiot.”

The buzz is growing and the feedback has been fantastic.  It’s hard to believe it is Wednesday already and the ironman is this Saturday!  I hate to admit it, but the balance between nervousness and excitement is slowly moving towards the nervous side.

Keep checking in for more updates on my story and how I’m hoping to prove to people that this is possible , all the while raising awareness and funds for breast cancer research.

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5 Responses to Ironman for dummies

  1. Christian Kennel says:

    Brian – You are a nut! I agree with your argument that soccer players are good all-around athletes BUT using an Ironman to prove it is not the first thing I would have thought of. As someone who has spent a lot of time in the cycling and running here is my $.02:

    1) Endurance – Aerobically you can totally do this but your body is not used to the pounding and it will be the sore knees, butt, neck, and joints that will be insisting that you quit. When I was about 25 I decided to just go run for 5 hours with no long distance training other than 6 mile runs. I felt fine until the last hour where my knees were dying. There was no way I could have then road 110 miles before hand. I was sore for days. Your body is going to hate you. You should buy a first class seat back now because you will need it.

    2) Take your time at every point. Take lots of rests even when you don’t need them. Don’t even think about trying to “Race” at any stage. Conserve your energy because you will need it sooner than you realize.

    3) Food and Hydration – I don’t care how fit someone is, if you bonk you are done. Eat and drink all the time. All the time. All the time. If you ever get thirsty it’s too late.

    4) Saddle sores – Your butt is going to hate you and if you haven’t ridden at all you are going to be in a lot of pain. Wear cycling shorts with good pads and use some chamois creme (generous amount). I would imagine your butt will be done about 1 hour in to the race.

    5) Clipless pedals – I personally think they are very easy to use and your are much more efficient when clipped in that when just using sneakers on standard pedals. Standard Mtn Shimano SPD pedals are dual sided and easy to get in and out of. If you don’t do clipless pedals then use bike cages like the shop suggested. Don’t forget the sunscreen in Florida.

    6) Transitions – Take your time in the transitions to make sure your gear is on properly and that you have the proper gear for each discipline.

    7) Wear a wetsuit – They give you added buoyancy and are more streamlined through the water. You need all the help you can get. It’s not too late to rent one if you need to.

    I personally don’t see how you will be able to do this without hurting yourself in the process but best of luck!

  2. Hi Christian. Thank you for your advice. I truly appreciate it. I have been doing plenty of research and rest assured I am not “in it to win it.” I am doing this to complete it and more generally to prove it is possible (without injury). I ran the NYC Marathon 2 years ago on 2 weeks notice and actually played a soccer game the Thursday before. Of course this is another level but I do think having the proper mentality and educating oneself will go a long way. Like you say, eating, drinking, resting when needed, all of these things are what will eventually determine my success. I thank you again and I guess we shall see.

  3. Interested in know if you finished… how’d it go?????

  4. Interesting in knowing if you finished? How’d it go?

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