When I made the decision that I wanted to train for an Ironman I decided that I should get a coach. I trained for the half-Ironman using a plan I found online. While I managed to get through the race, the training wasn’t specific to me or the race I was going to do. And aside from having my friend Jesse teach me how to swim a few years ago, I have never anyone actually look at my swim, bike or run technique. I had my swim evaluation yesterday and my bike and run evaluations this morning. I spent a 1/2-hour being video taped in the pool yesterday and an hour being videoed on the bike, treadmill and doing some range of motion exercises this morning. We will meet next week to review the videos and talk about what I can change to become a better swimmer, biker and runner. While I am not looking forward to actually having to watch myself on film I know it will be beneficial. (And I will remember that no one else needs to see these videos) 🙂 I do have a video of my first swim lesson which is always good for a few laughs, but it’s also nice to remind myself that I’ve already made some progress too. I hope that by the end of August next year I’ll be able to look back at these videos and see even more progress.
I can already tell that finding a coach was a good idea for this training. Even without going back and watching the videos, Zeus has been able to identify some things that I can change about my technique in all three disciplines that will help me to be more efficient. It was also comforting to hear that my technique is not completely dreadful despite doing most of my training without any formal instruction (except for the swim lessons a few years ago and strength training from my friend Jesse before I started the half-Ironman training). Zeus and I also talked a bit about gearing my training toward which race I decide to do; my training plan will be different depending on the type of course on which I choose to race. This is not something that you can get from a generic online training plan. Yay for coaches!
And that brings me to the actual point of this post – The Decision of The Decade… I decided a few months ago that I was going to race Ironman Arizona instead of Ironman Wisconsin (which literally takes place in my backyard). I even signed up to volunteer in AZ from my phone in a Subway restaurant as soon as volunteer registration opened (so that I could have priority registration for next year’s race). Since making the decision, I have probably made the same decision about ten more times! Every time I tell someone I’m going to start training for Ironman they assume I mean WI and then are surprised when I tell them I’m actually doing AZ.
It’s assumed that when you tell people in Madison you’re training for Ironman that you’re training for the one that takes place in Madison. It’s the logical choice for most people. There are no travel expenses, you are able to train on the course and it’s convenient for friends and family who want to spectate. Even before I fully committed to the Ironman distance I had looked at all the Ironman races offered and weighed the pros and cons of each instead of automatically assuming I would do WI. The first big con of WI is that I’m not a fan of the bike course. I’ve biked it a number of times now and it seems that I never have a good ride out there. I also looked at the time of year that each race would be held. You never know what the weather will be like in WI at the beginning of September. It’s usually still pretty hot and humid. I do not thrive in these conditions. I would choose to run in the middle of a WI winter instead of a WI summer. I considered Ironman Texas, held in May, because I would be doing most of my training during the winter. I would, however, be racing in TX in May and I was down there for the race in 2011. It was too hot for me even as a spectator.
I carefully weighed the pros and cons of every single U.S. Ironman and decided on AZ. The average temperature in AZ in November is 75. The elevation on the bike course is much less than WI. The water will be freezing (it’s in a reservoir) so I know there will be no game day decisions about wearing a wetsuit to avoid the risk of overheating in the water. I have actually never done a major race on a course which I previously ridden or run so unlike a lot of people, I’m not so concerned about having familiarity with the course. I actually think I do a bit better when I don’t know what to expect and I just deal with what’s out there. I feel like I did a lot of research when considering which venue to race and I felt really confident with my decision… until I started telling people 🙂
When I started telling my friends that I was going to train for an Ironman they all mention that they can’t wait to come out and watch. They are all surprised I don’t want to take advantage of the ability to train all summer on the course. They are concerned about the travel and prepping in a hotel instead of from the comfort of my own place. And then I start to wonder if I should do WI instead. I think my biggest concern with not doing WI is that I won’t have as many friends out on the course cheering and giving me the encouragement I know I will need by the time I hit the run. But then I think back to the all of my previous races and I’ve never done any of my major races locally so I’ve never had a huge cheering section. I’ve survived all of those races. And I’ve already had a few friends mention that they may try and get to AZ to watch (and Zeus even said he would be out there for the race). My parents have to travel from NY either way, so from their perspective it doesn’t matter which race I choose. As far as having “home court advantage” and training on the course I always come back to the fact that I don’t like training on this course! I talked it over with my friend Cindy this afternoon and I think I decided AGAIN that there were a number of factors that went into my decision to go with AZ. I’d rather do a race that I will hopefully enjoy instead of choosing a course that I already know I’m not thrilled with just to have more spectators at the race.
I’m going out to ride “the loop” tomorrow morning one last time before this year’s race (and registration for next year opens) just to make sure the bike gods haven’t changed the course on me and made it super enjoyable! I’m glad I was able to talk over everything with Cindy and to everyone else… Stop trying to change my mind and just come to AZ next November – I hear it’s nice that time of year 🙂