"Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology...We can make him better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster." Opening line from "The Six Million Dollar Man."
When I first committed to the "Wild and Crazy" venture of a full ironman, buddy Wayne Crayton kept saying: "You guys are going to be in the best shape of your life." Let me say that until recently, I had my doubts. I've trained for many marathons and shorter distance triathlons. I kind of felt that my body had reached a fitness plateau. If anything, having turned 50 in January, I kind of thought that I had probably gotten as far up the fitness plane as I was going to get. I figured I'd be lucky to simply maintain what fitness gains I had achieved over the years.
Well, I think Wayne might be right. The increased workload seems to be making a difference. I went from struggling at the 45 to 60 mile bike ride range to feeling pretty fresh after last weeks 70 mile ride. Yes, the 10 mile run the next morning got a little difficult at the end, but I chalk that up to heading out too late in the August heat and getting behind the hydration curve. On Monday, I was able to swim 2 miles in an hour and 5 minutes, something that was clearly beyond my capabilities not too long ago.
I'm sure improved technique has something to do with all this, but I think the overall fitness level does improve with the increased workload required for a full ironman. It just that until it actually starts happening to you, you wonder if you can get better.
I also have to give some credit to my trainer, Penn. Penn comes from a body building background and is a former body building champion from Europe. What makes Penn different from most guys with his background is that he went on to become a pretty good cyclist. He got leaner over the years so that he could be aerobically fit as well as muscularly fit. He is also always analyzing what works and what doesn't in fitness training. He provides athlete specific workouts for different sports activities Not just that, but he modifies my personal workouts depending on where I am in my triathlon training and events. I only work out with Penn once a week, but I think those workouts are a key element in my overall progress. Check out this You Tube video of Penn showing proper pull-up technique. Even though I can only do a couple of these killer pull-ups unassisted, Penn is part of making me better than I was before.
Buddy John questions my doing weight training during the build up to an ironman event, but I have to refer him to what has become our bible: "Going Long" by Joe Friel & Grodon Byrn. John quotes these guys chapter and verse. Bilateral breathing, frequency of training, focusing on technique and your limiters; I never hear the end of it. Well, in Chapter 9, starting at page 187, Apostles Joe & Gordon recommend once a week weight training. So I don't want to hear any more questioning about my weight training.
In any event, I've got no doubts that John is getting more fit. On our Olympic brick this evening he was strong on the bike and strong on the run. I don't know if it was the Red Bull he drank before the workout, or if he was just "on" tonight. I expect the later. I wasn't as strong as John tonight, but I feel pretty good after what previously was a pretty taxing workout that would leave me pretty tired. Let's just hope the progress continues.