Relax on the swim, be patient on the bike, and rock the run – My journey to the Ironman
How do you write a blog about the last nine plus months of your life? Where do you even start? Where do you finish? Well, I know that part. The finish was crossing the finish line as Mike Reilly announced, “Jeff Dawson, you are an IRONMAN.”
Let’s try to remember the journey. It all started about a year ago as I followed friends of my wife on the Ironman tracker as they completed the 2015 Ironman Wisconsin. The next day, I signed up even though five years ago (the last time I had done a Half Ironman) I swore that I would never do a full. I started what I thought was base training for the next few months but it never felt right. I needed something more detailed. I needed a plan. I started googling “free ironman plans.” Found a bunch of junk. Found a few plans that I could buy and follow but nothing seemed right. Heck, I didn’t even understand some of the acronyms in the training plan examples.
I knew of Experience Triathlon (ET) from doing the ET Batavia Triathlon. One day I was reviewing the ET webpage and ran across a blog from a parent of one of my son’s classmates. I remember this parent telling me about his coach and how he would receive daily workout plans and if things came up, he would just let his coach know and they would work in a new plan. This convinced me to give Coach Joe a call. He walked me through what ET offered and it sounded ideal. I meet with Coach Joe a few days later and started officially working with Coach Joe in mid-February.
Then the real training started. A day didn’t go by that I didn’t have something to do. Sounds crazy but I loved it. And Coach Joe knew exactly how much I could handle. I had a slight injury one night doing hills on the treadmill. If I was using a generic training plan, I would have just fought through the pain and probably done some serious damage. But Coach Joe knew what to do and gave me the confidence that I could take some days off from running to recover and still get to the finish line with no problems.
The hardest part of training in February and March was the biking in the basement all by myself on the trainer. I think I watched every movie on Netflix. Thank goodness the weather started to get warmer and I headed outside for the rides. And that meant I could start enjoying the ET group bike rides. I can still remember the first group ride. I was a deer in headlights. Had no clue who anyone was. Never rode in a group before. But over the next several months, the ET bike ride members became my second family. We trained together. We pushed each other. We shared stories. I especially loved hearing from the members who had done the Ironman in the past.
Over the next several months, training became my second job (not to scare anyone but it was a lot of work). I could tell that I was getting stronger. I was getting faster. And my endurance was through the roof. Then all of a sudden it was taper time. I couldn’t believe I reached this point. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to taper. After so many months to training so hard, how could I take it easy for a couple of weeks? But once again, I listened to Coach Joe and did what he told me.
Now it’s race time. Even though Coach Joe preached that my focus should not be on my time, but my experience at the Ironman, I estimated my finish time about 100 times. What if I ran a little faster? What if I had my best swim ever? So many what ifs. Then Coach Joe and I had our pre-race discussion and it finally hit me. I need to make sure I enjoy the day. It would be a shame to go through the entire race without taking it in. Go hug my family when I see them on the course. What’s a few minutes in an all-day race. We came up with an awesome game plan for the race as well. I knew running is my strong point. So the game plan became … relax on the swim, be patient on the bike, and rock the run.
That’s exactly what I did. The race was amazing. I found myself smiling throughout the day. I didn’t race anyone. Just stuck to the game plan. And it paid off as I passed person after person after person on the run. Now, the run was harder than I was thinking but I still rocked it.
And that brings this part of my journey to that most famous of finish lines where I heard, “Jeff Dawson, you are an IRONMAN.”