BeginnerTriathlete members don’t just imagine what it would be like to go to the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii this October 17, 2012.
They don’t just spend that Saturday huddled around a computer, watching streaming online coverage of a race that lasts 17 hours and isn’t televised live as I do each fall.
Some BT members actually travel to Kona to participate and race!
We’ve spoken with some of our members who are among the chosen few at Kona this year, to see what it takes to be ready for the Big Race, and how they have fit that commitment into their regular lives. As with most BT members, these triathletes are not professional athletes who are able to train and race without requiring a regular salary and benefits. Most are juggling jobs and families.
Bethany Rutledge, of Atlanta, (BT member ATLrunr), qualified for Kona at Ironman Florida 2011. She completed the 140.6 in 10 hours and 32 minutes.
It will be her first time at Kona, and her fifth Ironman.
Rutledge trains between 13 and 18 hours per week, depending on the training cycle. “This has been my toughest training cycle,” she says. “I often have to remind myself that there is no such thing as perfection, and the only certainty is that there will always be varied challenges and obstacles as part of the journey.”
Rutledge certainly has other time pressures in life, including a full-time sales job that is mentally demanding. She and her husband just opened a power-based spin studio in Atlanta called Energy Lab, and she is also the coaching director of the Atlanta Tri Club, a growing club where Rutledge is assisting with new initiatives.
“As far as family life, I am married and fortunately, my husband and I are involved in these projects and activities together,” she says. “He favors mostly short races although we have done two Ironman races together.”
Rutledge says she and her husband have two dogs, who often accompany them on runs.
This will be the first Kona race for Colin Cook of Pepperell, Mass., as well. Cook's BT username is PeakTriCoaching.
Cook qualified at the Ironman U.S. Championships in New York City in August. He was 25th overall among age groupers at that race.
This will be the third Ironman this year for Cook, so he has been conservative in his training for the race.
I qualified at the Ironman US Championships (NYC) in August. I was the 25th overall age grouper.
“My fitness is there and I felt no need to do 100+ mile rides every weekend. My "long run" was also a bit shorter than it has been for previous IM's this year and in general. I focused more on quality over quantity,” Cook said.
“I was also made sure I gave my body enough time to recovery between NYC and Kona. There are only two months in between, but I spent the 3-4 weeks following NYC really focusing on recovery, and I really listened to my body, which did mean shortening some of my training sessions.”
“My power was a bit low when I got back on the bike at the beginning, but its come right back around and I should be great shape on race day.”
Because of having a great deal of volume early in the season, Cook says his training has been “terrific.”
That’s not to say it doesn’t take time.
“My wife and I have had to make a lot of sacrifices to achieve this dream. As a part-time triathlon coach and having a full time job, I pretty much am training or working from around 5am to 9pm Monday through Friday and that's not an exaggeration,” Cook says. “I typically maintain pretty much the same schedule on the weekend, but it can vary a bit.”
“I have not spent nearly as much time with my wife as I should. She has scored a trip to Hawaii out of the deal, but I do feel guilty quite often because I haven't been able to spend much time with her,” says Cook. “However, after Kona, I will be taking some time off from training so I can spend more time with her as we prepare to have our first child at the beginning of December.”
David Morris of Plymouth Meeting, PA, is making his Kona debut. He took first place overall among age groupers at Ironman Lake Placid in 2012 with a time of 9:18:21. He claimed his Kona slot the next day. Morris appears on BT as 03djmorris.
“Training has been good but tough,” says Morris. “This is the first time I've attempted to do two Ironman races in one year, and the transition from recovery from the first Ironman to training for the second has proved challenging.”
Morris says his hours of training fit into his schedule fairly well.
“I'm lucky to have a job that doesn't require much more than 40 hours per week, and I can fit my training in before or (more likely) after work,” Morris says. “At home, I have a very supportive wife!”
Mike Gadzinski of Cedarbrook, NJ, is competing for the first time in Kona (BT user Gadzooks). In fact, this will be his first Ironman, his first marathon, and his first trip to Hawaii. Gadzinski says he has qualified before at half-distance races, but wasn’t interested in “slaughtering myself for 140 miles,” he says.
For Kona 2012, Gadzinski qualified at Eagleman 70.3 in Cambridge.
Gadzinski says his training has gone quite well. He credits not only his own discipline but also the people he has assembled around him throughout the years, and his coach, a new addition this year.
“One of the best changes I've made this year is working with Jeff Devlin of Devlin Coaching specifically for this race,” says Gadzinski. “Jeff has plenty of great experience in Kona and is a local resource that's made my final few months/weeks of prep very easy and stress free.”
He also credits the Greater Philadelphia Aquatic Club’s master swim team and Keswick Cycle shop in Cherry Hill, NJ.
“I think a lot of times we as athletes overlook the fact that there are many people who help us get ready for these races all season long,” Gadzinski says. “We do not do it alone!”
Gadzinski has done a lot of thinking about whether Ironman training is a sacrifice.
“I've recently learned that it's not as much about sacrifice as it is about doing what you love. If you love the "work" that's involved in training for these events then it's easy to overlook some of the things that others consider sacrifices,” he says. “I mean lets face it, at the end of the day we are swimming, biking and running. Things most of us adults did when as children. If you don't love doing those things now, then you need to look in the mirror and consider if this sport or the combination of these sports is even right for you.”
Gadzinski does still have concern about balancing the sport with family.
“My wife and kids certainly come first and I discuss all triathlon decisions with them before we jump into the deep end of the pool. Family support is something that is a must if you want to entertain ideas of being successful at this sport,” he says. “Of course there are times when I'm out on five- to seven-hour training session and thinking about being with my wife and kids, but as I see it, once you make a commitment to something like this it's important to follow through. No one twisted my arm to sign up for these events. I think that also sends a great positive message to my family.”
During his peak weeks close to Kona, Gadzinksi has been putting in 20 hours of training per week, consistently.
Prior to that, he was doing between 17 and 19 hours per week, very slowly ramping up his running volume for his first marathon without risking injury.
His 2012 training totals are 245 hours of cycling (5,257 miles), 170 hours of running (1,400 miles), and 132 hours of swimming (540,802 yards).
Kevin Brown of Nashville (username kevinlbrown), did not qualify for Kona, but won a lottery spot. The stories of Ironman lottery winners are just as interesting.
It could be argued that triathletes who are fast enough to qualify for Kona either have an innate athletic gift, or started out with fewer demands on their time allowing them to train enough to become great, or both. Either way, it certainly takes them less time to run 20 miles than it takes me or some of the age groupers who won spots via the lottery.
Brown completed his first and only Ironman at Louisville in 2009.
For Brown, training has been tough but has been more enjoyable than in 2009.
“It’s much easier the second time around. You know what to expect and can enjoy the process more,” he says. “The first time, I was just looking forward to crossing the finish line and missed the opportunities to soak up the experience of training. Even just the training aspect is an amazing experience for folks like me who don’t do Ironmans regularly. So I’ve cherished the training – digging deep emotionally and spiritually while you build yourself physically and mentally.”
Brown says he has also been aided by the fact that it’s not his first Ironman training experience and the fact that his professional life took a hit and he hasn’t had a full-time job since April.
“It has given me much-appreciated flexibility in training. It has still been very tough on my family, as it is for everyone training for an IM,” Brown says. “But having this flexibility is a blessing – my sleep schedule has been somewhat regular and healthy, and getting to choose times in the day has allowed me to work around unpredictable weather. In fact, it has allowed me to train in the heat of the day, which is great preparation. I still marvel at folks with full-time jobs plus kids. How they fit this into their days is heroic.”
Jennifer DiCarlo, a member of the U.S. Air Force living in Abilene, Texas, also won her spot at Kona by chance, not performance.
DiCarlo’s story is directly tied to her relationship with the BT website.
“Getting in via the lottery was actually a rather crazy story,” says DiCarlo, BT screenname jldicarlo. “I actually forgot to apply because I was very busy moving from Florida to Texas on a military move.”
DiCarlo wasn’t going to sign up anyway because of surgeries and injuries.
“But then...there was this post...shortly after I got to Texas. A BTer posted a total rant against World Triathlon Corporation. His complaint was that the lottery entry was supposed to end on a certain date, and WTC decided to extend that date by a week because some people said they didn't know about the deadline or whatnot. He was upset that they were letting so-called "lazy" people enter...effectively taking chances away from him, a person that entered on time!”
“I didn't know it was past the deadline already, but that thread reminded me. Even though I was actually hurt at the time, I decided to go ahead and enter, to give me an extra chance for next year really.”
DiCarlo knew the lottery results would be posted April 15, but somehow forgot about it that morning.
“I had my phone with me and it beeped through with a Facebook message,” said DiCarlo. “I looked at the message and it was from Marcy (dodgersmom on BT). It was very short. 'You need to check ironman.com NOW.’ ”
“And I knew. I knew instantly. I shot up off the couch and grabbed my laptop. My hands were literally shaking as I tried to log into my computer and navigate to the ironman.com site. And there it was...my name...Jennifer DiCarlo, 33-year-old from Texas.”
DiCarlo says her training has been great. Knowing she is going to Kona has caused her to redouble her efforts to address her injuries and prevent future ones.
“It's pretty hot and windy in Abilene so I think that's great training for Kona. And I live in West Texas so that means chip-seal roads. I think the thing I am most looking forward to at Kona is how smooth the roads supposedly are. I think that will be a HUGE emotional boost at Kona since I'm so used to really, really rough roads.”
DiCarlo’s work-training balance would have been good, except that the Air Force almost wouldn’t let her miss a training exercise the week of Kona. She waited a week to hear the verdict, but ultimately was allowed to race. She says maintaining her home has certainly taken a backseat to training.
“My yard turned into a jungle and eventually got so bad that I had to hire someone to do it,” she says, adding that she’s looking forward to cleaning house well again once the race is over.
DiCarlo has been serious about injury treatment and prevention. In addition to her 186 hours of cycling this year, she's done 20 hours of strength, 25 hours of massage, 16 hours of physical therapy and 15 hours of stretching. Oh yes, and seven hours of yard work.
You can follow these athletes and others the week leading up the event with our official Kona discussion thread.
Read more Ironman World Championship race reports
Editor at Beginner Triathlete, web marketing consultant at SiteInSight, writer, entrepreneur, advocate for unstructured nature play for kids.