Absorbing an Ironman

People often ask me howI can like college football so much more than the NFL. Last Saturday (and Friday) West Virginia, Oklahoma, Rutgers, Florida and Texas were all undefeated top ten teams that lost. If that Oregon receiver had not fumbled the ball for a touchback we might have added Cal to the list.

The NFL will never be able to offer the same kind of action_during_the_regular_season.

South Florida (6) and Kentucky(8) are in the AP Top Ten.




Ok now to talk about real sports. (My passive stab at American Sports Journalists).

My buddy asked me the other day if I thought that an athlete can absorb fitness from an Ironman. Plenty of other athletes use shorter races as training events so why not apply the same concept to an Ironman.

I used to automatically write it off as I could not imagine how any athlete could benefit from such damage. I really think that it depends on the athlete and simply extrapolating my own experiences with IMs won't cut it. However, I cannot say that an athlete benefits more from the race they just did so much as they benefitted from the rest they placed before and after the event itseld. Some people taper as much as four weeks for a key Ironman, but I have_rarely_met anyone that doesn't taper for at least 10-14 days out. Following the event, even the most OCD of folks take a few easy days.

My own personal experience has been that Ironmans beat me up pretty badly and any post race training needs to be approached with caution. If my post-race discomfort was limited to muscle soreness then I might concede that the I could absorb any fitness from this event quickly. The problem is that my discomfort extends to my joints (especially knees) and I feel as though I am acutally nursing a "minor injury."

I lack deep development in any other three disciplines that make up triathlon. Therefore, my progression in each sport has grown alongside the other. I don't know if it applies to others, but this has allowed me to run closer to my open run fitness when racing triathlons than some of my colleagues. As a result, I think I end up beating myself up quite a bit.

My buddies that grew up running seem to bounce back much more quickly because any Ironman running (not the same with short course) does not even come close to what their ligaments, tendons and muscles can handle. I have suffered from dehydration/overheating in some triathlons and I end up running slower than I do in training. As a result I walk away with very little (or no) muscle soreness. This is the best I can do to parallel what they experience after an ultra race like an IM.

Its similar to the swim start for athletes that grew up as swimmer kids. They can handle an aggressive start without compromising the rest of their swim and/or race. Once again, even the fastest of swim starts (in an Ironman) probably doesn't compare to the hardest of hard main sets they did growing up.

Alright, I'm running around a bit with this so let me redirect you back.

Can an Ironman be absorbed for fitness?

I seriously doubt that your fitness can gain more from such a day than it would have gained from two-to-four weeks of solid training (instead of your taper). If you could actually go into the event on short rest and bounce back then I think it would certainly work. Heather Gollnick was getting ready for IM Arizona this spring when she decided she was so fit that she should race Ironman NZ (five weeks prior to AZ). She placed second there and found herself to be recovered within a few days. She went on to win IMAZ. I cannot say that IMNZ helped her win IMAZ, but it certainly didn't compromise her goals.

I see people successfully race IMs back-to-back (and beyond), but I find no evidence to suggest that their second or third race was not compromised by the previous one (even if they win like Heather). Sometimes an athlete is so good that he or she does not need to be their best to win or achieve their goals, but making a living in such a sport does not always require you to be your best. You just need to be better than everyone else.

Keep figuring it out,