Good morning, friends! While I’m en route for my weekend get away to Miami, I thought it would be fun to have a guest post for you. Have you ever done an endurance race or triathlon/Ironman? I’ve contemplated doing a sprint triathlon, but since biking isn’t something I enjoy or something that I’m good at, I’ve always found a reason to not sign up. Since I am no expert in this area of fitness, I reached out to my friend and YMCA instructor, Tony, to share his story of how he got into endurance racing and ways for you to start getting into it if it’s something you’re interested in. I hope you enjoy Tony’s post on this topic- he’s a huge inspiration to push past unnecessary boundaries and to prove the “I can’t” in me wrong.
Hello vino and fitness fans. I’m Tony, a guest blogger for Burpees to Bubbly. My friend and fellow Oak Square Y group instructor, Monique, asked me to guest blog, and how could I pass up writing a spot for my favorite blog! Ah yes, fitness and wine, two things I never, ever go without.
I’m a marathoner, Masters swim coach, swim instructor, triathlete and triathlon coach. That’s right, I’m that breed of fitness enthusiasts that swims, bikes and runs… typically across distances that people wouldn’t even want to drive. More broadly I like the term endurance enthusiast, but most of the time people just call me crazy!
I started a little over 11 years ago. After running my first marathon I decided to set my sights on a little something called the Ironman, a triathlon requiring you to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and then run a marathon (26.2 miles). You’re probably saying to yourself why would anyone want to sign up for that torture? (And pay lots of money to do it I might add.) Triathlon is a great sport and it’s actually the fastest growing sport in the nation, causing people to increasingly used it as their means of staying in shape. I like “long course” events (Ironman and half Ironman). But it’s not universally super human type A personalities that complete these races; most triathlons are actually completed by everyday people doing what they call Sprints (½ mile swim, 10 mile bike, and 5k run). There’s also the Olympic distance (0.93 mile, 25 mile bike, 10k run) and of course relays (3 people do a different leg). These are much more manageable to the average human, and your social and wallet/purse will thank you. I teach Indoor Triathlon at the Oak Square Y. It’s 30 minutes swimming, 30 minutes in the cycling studio and 25 minutes running. It’s very popular and attracts new and experienced triathletes.
Back when I started, I didn’t know how to swim. Yup that’s right. Believe it or not, I learned how to swim as an adult. I remember signing up for a swim class at the Oak Square Y. The class was called intermediate stroke. I told the instructor that I took the class because I wanted to prepare for an Ironman. “Let me see you swim” she says. I got in and “tried” to swim one length of the pool and basically put together a series of movements that did not remotely resemble any known swim stroke. The instructor probably had to restrain her laughter, and then she basically expressed derision because I signed up for a class I clearly was not ready for. The irony in the whole thing is that I now teach that same class and people do the same thing to me.
Well, needless to say I learned how to swim, and very well. I caught fire with what I call, self-propelled motion fitness. Today I’m a 4x Ironman distance triathlon finisher. I’ve finished over 100 long course endurance events over 11 years including numerous half Ironman races, century bike rides, over 40 marathons of which, 12 are consecutive Boston Marathon finishes. I started my own coaching business and team several years ago. The formidable EventHorizon endurance sport where I help train people for endurance sports with the science of self-propelled motion. I’m sure Monique won’t mind that I threw in that shameless plug. 🙂
One of the biggest challenges with newer triathletes is the “stuff” you have to get. Almost every month I get an email from someone saying “Tony, how much of this stuff do I really need?” Wetsuit, triathlon racing kit, cap, goggles, and probably the biggest expense of the triathlete- the bike and everything you have to get for the bike (clipless pedals, bike shoes, apparel…etc). Thankfully the biggest costs is for stuff you only have to get once. Here’s a photo of me with my first triathlon bike that I ride to this day. I call him Dark Matter. Of course if you’re a cool triathlete you have to name your bike.
One of the biggest benefits of triathlon is you get into incredible shape. People think of triathlon as a sport only having cardiovascular benefits, but self-propelled motion activities build a tremendous amount of strength. You’ll start seeing your body composition take a shape that would make a fitness model jealous. Here’s some advice for you: get your significant other into triathlon and I guarantee that you’ll both reap the benefits. I’ve trained several clients for long course events, and when I see their significant others, they ask me “so Tony when are you going to start training “insert name” for another Ironman.” Hmmm I say, I think you’re asking me this for a reason that might be slightly self-serving.
The time commitment is considerable for long course triathlons but my advice for people interested is to start with a short course event, a good program or consider talking to a coach for help. I actually know of a pretty good one. 😉
Last year my big event was the Indoor Ironman Guinness World Record attempt at the Oak Square YMCA. We attempted to break the Guinness World Record for the fastest time to complete an Ironman all Indoors! I actually applied to get this accepted as a record and won. That was the first battle. To complete the indoor Ironman, I had to swim 2.4 miles in the pool (169 lengths), bike 2.4 miles on an indoor bike, and run a marathon on a treadmill! I know you’ve probably thought I’d lost my mind attempting this. But, it was all to benefit the Y’s Annual Fund to help families in need of health & wellness services and after school programs. The record was 8 hours and for comparison that’s a speed only seen by professional triathletes on outdoor Ironman courses.
So many people came out to support the event. People swam along side me, biked and ran with me throughout the entire day. We had to document and record everything just in case we broke the record. I trained for this harder than any event and I was in the best shape that I had ever been. My times in training were faster than ever and my body composition was as lean and strong as ever.
It was a crazy day that included a fire alarm in the middle of the event (I kept going). It was overcast for the entire day, but as soon as I got on the treadmill, the sun came out. As you can see from the pics I was in the atrium which was like a glass fish bowl. A greenhouse effect caused a spike in temperature. This surely doomed my chances at the record. I felt horrible by the last hour and had to interval the last few miles on the treadmill.
My finishing times were about 1 hour and 13 minutes on the swim about 3 hrs and 25 minutes on the bike and about 3 hours and 50 minutes on the marathon.
I ended up at a total of 8 hours and 30 minutes, about 30 minutes shy of the record. Do I want another swing at it? Hell yeah! I had a lot of fun and raised nearly $6,000 for charity. I guess it’s not bad for a guy who, in the very same facility, once upon a time, couldn’t swim one length of the pool.
So what’s going on with me now? This year I finished the Boston Marathon again for the 12th consecutive time. I always look forward running Boston and will keep the streak alive for as long as I can. What a historic outcome with Meb Keflezighi being the first American to win Boston in decades. Here’s a shot of Meb and I outside of the World Trade Center.
I’m still considering what races that I will do. Having completed so many events I spend more time helping other people achieve their race goals and my race schedule is much more pulled back these days. But before you know it, I’ll be back on another crusade for sure. 🙂
Well, I enjoyed writing this, but it’s time for me to hand this back to Monique. Burpees and Bubbly fans, I have an assignment for you: I need all of you to encourage Monique to do her first triathlon. If you think it would be AWESOME for Monique to do her first triathlon and chronicle her experience on Burpees to Bubbly, place a very enthusiastic comment below! Let’s see how many people will comment and convince her! 🙂 See you folks.
Wow! How’s that for an incredible story?! The fact that Tony has completed so many endurance races is mind-boggling to me! I actually remember going into the Y to teach on the day that Tony was doing his indoor Ironman and thinking to myself: I’m dead after teaching a 1 hour class… he’s been at this for 3 hours at this point- that’s insane!
I’d love to hear from all of you! Have you ever completed a triathlon (of any distance) or other endurance race? What was it like? Hardest part? Does this post make you want to do one? I’m now really interested in doing a sprint triathlon… maybe I’ll look for a race in the fall!
Again, big thanks to Tony for sharing his story and hopefully inspiring all of you like he did me!