“Why Ironman?”

Simone asked the question “Why Ironman?” and it got me thinking about why I want to do another Ironman…and then I experience race day (whether as a volunteer, spectator or athlete) and see videos like this and I know why I will do Ironman Wisconsin in 2014…

“Ironman is a metaphor for life.  As with everything else, work comes before success.  It pays to set goals, be disciplined, work on one’s weaknesses, overcome setbacks, and avoid being diverted from one’s charted course.”                                                                                      ~Mathias Muller

My top 10 reasons for why I want to do another Ironman…

10. I want to experience the extreme highs and lows…both while training and racing.

9.  I want to experience the constant mental battle during training and racing that helps make me a stronger, much more well-rounded individual…the little negative Nelly sitting on my left shoulder vs. the much larger positive Patty sitting on my right shoulder.

8.  I want to improve my weaknesses…cycling and mental fortitude.

7.  I want to develop my strengths…swimming and running.

6.  I love the feeling of overcoming challenges…both during training and racing.  I enjoy challenging myself and pushing myself to find new limits.

5.  I enjoy the feeling of overcoming the pain that comes with racing long and hard.

4.  I LOVE the triathlon community!!  Even though I have not met many of the people involved, I feel like many of the athletes, volunteers and spectators are like family…the triathlon community makes the race day experience TOP NOTCH at Ironman Wisconsin!!

3.  I want to finish my next Ironman in a time faster than 16:15:00.

2.  I want to have fun, doing what I LOVE…swimming, biking and running 🙂

1.  I want to actually remember crossing the finish line this time and hearing Mike Reilly say, “You are an Ironman!!”

Ironman Wisconsin Weekend 2013
Ironman Wisconsin Weekend 2013
Ironman Wisconsin Weekend 2013
Ironman Wisconsin Weekend 2013
Registration morning for Ironman Wisconsin 2014.  We got in line at 4:15 am and waited until the line opened at 7:33 am (the line wasn't suppose to open until 9 am).  We were pleasantly surprised when the doors opened early!!
Registration morning for Ironman Wisconsin 2014. We got in line at 4:15 am and waited until the line opened at 7:33 am (the line wasn’t suppose to open until 9 am). We were pleasantly surprised when the doors opened early!!

Customized Coaching

While writing a recent post thanking my coach, it got me thinking about customized coaching and why I highly recommend it for any athlete.

There are a variety of training plans available for people to use or refer to while training for races of many different distances.  When I first started training, I used a variety of these training plans, pulling bits and pieces from each, to help me reach my goals.  After doing this for about 6 years, I felt like my training and racing had plateaued.  I decided it was time to take my training and racing to the next level…so I hired Coach Julie with Zoom Performance Endurance Coaching to help me.

Zoom Orb

I have found many advantages to have a customized coach:

  1. My customized training plan is designed for my physiology, my goals, my schedule and where I am at mentally.  If changes need to be made due to schedule conflicts or injuries (on those rare occasions), it happens seamlessly.
  2. My workouts are designed with a purpose in mind…I’m not just doing a workout for the sake of completing it.  Instead, I am trying to achieve a certain goal/purpose to help better prepare me for my race day.
  3. I am held accountable to someone instead of to a training plan that has been designed for the average athlete.  Without someone holding me accountable, it is much easier to skip a workout with little guilt.
  4. I am paying Coach Julie.  Some people would see this as a disadvantage, but for me it is a definite advantage…by paying for her coaching services and knowledge, I am often reminded of the need to complete my workouts to the best of my abilities so that I truly get what I am paying for.
  5. It requires me to be dedicated and complete my workouts as prescribed.
  6. My training zones have been established for me to use during my training workouts.  Power output can also easily be established (now if I just had some extra money laying around for a power meter on my bike…hmmm).
  7. Coach Julie has helped me develop my strengths…swimming and running
  8. She has also helped me improve my weaknesses…cycling and mental toughness
  9. She has helped me find my limits and push past them to become a stronger, faster athlete.  As a result, I have passed through that plateau and I am seeing improvements in my training and racing 🙂
  10. Having a customized coach is the right thing to do.  When it comes to race day execution, the customized coaching has never let me down.

There are probably many other reasons that I have forgotten to mention, but the most important point…EVERY ATHLETE should hire a knowledgable and reputable coach to customize their training plan and help them meet their goals!!

Two States Bike Ride

This last weekend, the Iron Hippie and I went to Okoboji to visit my parents.  We had an AMAZING run on Saturday and followed it up with an AWESOME bike ride on Sunday.  The Iron Hippie was scheduled to ride for 60 miles and I was scheduled to ride for 2-3 hours.  I knew that I would not be able to ride 60 miles in that 2-3 hour time window, but figured I would come close, so we mapped out a route.

70 mile bike route surrounding the Iowa Great Lakes area, including Iowa and Minnesota saddle time.
70 mile bike route surrounding the Iowa Great Lakes area, including Iowa and Minnesota saddle time.

Living in central Iowa, we rarely get the opportunity to ride in two states in one day, but since Okoboji is only about 15 miles from the Minnesota border, we decided to map a ride that would take us into Minnesota.  We have also never had the opportunity to completely circle the Iowa Great Lakes region by bike, so we decided that we would accomplish this goal on this bike ride!!  In order to completely circle the Iowa Great Lakes area AND bike in Iowa and Minnesota (safely), we had to make our route a little longer than 60 miles…it ended up being 70.5 miles.  We definitely could have made the route shorter, but we would have had to ride our bikes on some roads with really heavy traffic and decided to opt out of that option.

We donned our bikes at 6 am and headed out in perfect weather…low 60s, less than 5 mph winds, full sun…couldn’t be better for cycling!!  The 6 am start time would allow us to get most of our ride done before the Iowa Great Lakes region woke up 🙂

On the north edge of the Iowa Great Lakes area, there is a stretch of road that is right on the Iowa/Minnesota border.  Since we were the only ones on the road, we decided to take a picture of us riding down the road…my husband was in Iowa, while I was in Minnesota!!  Not everyday you can zig zag across the road and switch the state you are in so quickly 🙂

My husband is in Iowa on the left and I am in Minnesota on the right.
The Iron Hippie is in Iowa on the left and I am in Minnesota on the right.

During this ride, I could definitely tell that I had raced hard the week before.  My legs were a bit sluggish, but I just kept pushing forward!!  We finished our 70.5 mile route in 3:55:00…giving us an average speed of 18.0 mph…I have become stronger and gotten faster on the bike and I am super stoked about it!!

We LOVED this route, the smooth surfaces and the little vehicle traffic that we encountered!!  This is definitely a ride we will be doing again in the future!!

The Journey

Every destination is different, but they all start the same...with the first step.
Every destination is different, but they all start the same…with the first step.

Q:  Why do you participate in races?

A:  When I sign up for each race, I am at the beginning of a new journey.

I am currently on a long-term journey to Ironman Wisconsin 2014 that will include a few short-term journeys along the way.  While I have finished Ironman Wisconsin before, I started it with the goal of “just to finish”…and finish I did…though I was hyponatremic and don’t actually remember the last 8 hours of the event.  For this reason, it is time to go back and do what I am capable of with proper race execution!!

I sign up for races to take me on another journey.  My Ironman journey will include multiple journeys (races) between now and September 7, 2014.  The first of which is coming up in just 2 weeks…Ironman Kansas 70.3 on June 9, 2013.  I have been mentally focused and my training has probably been the best it has ever been!!  I have been VERY happy with both my physical and mental training lately!! I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that my current momentum will continue to carry me forward through Ironman Wisconsin 2014!! Ironman KansasWith Ironman Kansas 70.3 only 2 weeks away, this short-term journey is nearing the taper.  I have created many posts about various workouts I have completed on this journey that you can find at pushmylimits.wordpress.com.  With only a few more “big” workouts left before the taper, I am finding myself more ready than ever to properly execute my race and PR!!  I am in the best shape, both physically and mentally, that I have ever been before…Let’s do this thing!!

I decided to ask Coach Julie where she thinks I can and should be for Ironman Kansas 70.3 in 2 weeks…Here is her response:

“Swim: You had a great swim at Chisago last year – that time would really please me again, maybe a minute or two faster (if the races have properly measured swim courses). GOAL: 42-43 min.

“Bike: Kansas and Chisago have different bike courses, and I think the times you put up there were great for where you were then. We’ve worked a lot on cycling this season, and you’ve really improved. With the right mental approach (and staying focused throughout the bike leg – plus nutrition, etc), you should be able to average 16.5-16.7mph for the Kansas bike and closer to 17+ on a less challenging course. GOAL: 3:20-3:25 (for Kansas). 3:12-3:20 for other courses.

“Run: There is no reason that you can’t run a 2 hour run split. You’ve become a much more mentally strong runner in the past two years (all that experience is starting to pay off!). If you can keep that mental focus going throughout the bike AND through the run, you’ll be golden. GOAL: 2 hours

“If you do the math, that will set you up for that elusive sub-6 hour half IM – I know you’ve been shooting for that, and I’ve been shooting for that for you. Kansas may/may not be where it happens, BUT the mental training from that tough of a half is going to be what sets you up to make it happen this year. You’ve already overcome some hurdles in your training (many of them mental), but you’re finally on the right track. Let’s keep that going for the next three weeks!”

I am focusing my training (both physically and mentally) on doing my absolute best and pushing myself to a PR!!  I am very excited to see the results of the journey I am on and shattering my previous PR (6:32:44)!!  I am anxiously awaiting my new PR of 5:59:59…or faster!!

Numbers DON’T Lie!!

Yesterday I had my VO2 Max Test done for 2013.  Unfortunately, numbers don’t lie.  Last year wasn’t my most successful year in terms of training and racing.  I definitely had a lull in completing my workouts and racing after crossing the finish line at Ironman Wisconsin in 2011.

What is a VO2 Max test???  From an athlete’s perspective it is complete torture!!  As the athlete, you are put on either the treadmill or the bicycle trainer and pushed beyond your limit.  You wear a mask that is hooked up to a sensor which measures the amount of oxygen you inhale compared to the carbon dioxide you exhale.  Yesterday I was on the bicycle.  Every minute, the watts (power output) was increased by 20 watts and I was to maintain the same speed/rpms as close as possible for the entire test.  I got to the point where my mind was saying, “I CAN do 2 more minutes!!”  Unfortunately my body was not able to tap into what my mind was saying.  My legs physically shut down.  They just quit turning over 😦

Another Zoom Performance Athlete completing his VO2 Max test.
Another Zoom Performance Athlete completing his VO2 Max test.

From a coach’s perspective, there is some very useful information that can be used for the athlete to get stronger, faster and more efficient in both training and racing.  The VO2 Max test gives an athlete and their coach the following pieces of information:  Aerobic Threshold (AT), Lactate Threshold (LT), VO2 Max and heart rate (HR) zones.  At aerobic threshold (AT), the athlete is competing at an intensity where the muscles are recruiting the slow-twitch muscle fibers.  This is the optimal intensity for endurance training.  Athletes who train and race at their aerobic threshold will be much more efficient, enabling increased training volume as well as greater frequency and better quality speed workouts.

Lactate threshold (LT) is when the athlete is working at their highest intensity where the body can recycle lactic acid as quickly as it is produced.  If the athlete speeds up just above LT, the athlete can no longer recycle the lactic acid as quickly as it is produced.  This is when lactic acid accumulates and starts to cause muscle fatigue and damage.

VO2 Max is the volume of oxygen that an athlete uses during one minute of maximal exercise.

While all of the above information is very useful and important, the heart rate (HR) zones and power zones on the bicycle will help the athlete train and race at an intensity that allows the athlete to become more efficient.  In other words, “when it is time to ramp up the training and when to back off.”

Here are my heart rate (HR) zone numbers for the bicycle:

HR Zone

Lower HR Number

Upper HR Number

Zone 1 106 bpm 134 bpm
Zone 2 134 bpm 146 bpm
Zone 3 146 bpm 154 bpm
Zone 4 154 bpm 164 bpm
Zone 5 164 bpm 178 bpm

My HR numbers have not changed much from last year, but there were definite changes in my max power output, power output at LT and VO2 at AT from years past to this year.


Power Output at LT (Watts)

Max Power Output (Watts)

VO2 at AT (L/min)

















My 2013 numbers were directly related to my run focus lately and not as much on my cycling.  This test is proof that I have some work to do on the bike before Ironman Wisconsin 2014!!