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  • Writer's pictureNick Allen

Post-Ironman Q&A

Thank you all for making this year’s fundraiser a great success! We depend on your support to continue serving communities through our projects, and we’re immensely grateful for all of your contributions. As is tradition, this year’s fundraiser was accompanied by a grueling physical challenge — the Ironman triathlon. We completed the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile marathon run this past Sunday, and wanted to take this opportunity to field some of the many questions we’ve been receiving about this experience. For any lingering questions or feedback, feel free to contact us via our website and social media channels!


Q: What was your training program like?


A: We started from a place of fairly strong overall fitness, but minimal experience with endurance training of this type. Our program was 16 weeks long, and rapidly ramped up from about 2 hours of training per day at the start to 6-7 training hours per day at the peak, about 3 weeks prior to the actual event. To accommodate our work schedules, the training hours were skewed towards the weekends where our longest training day was around 12 hours. Here’s what a typical training week would look like during the middle of our program:


Figure 1: A sample Ironman training week in our 16-week program.


Q: Did your nutrition change for training? What about during the event?


A: As a type 1 diabetic, Ryan had to take a unique approach to nutrition that he’ll certainly discuss in the future. I had it a lot easier, as my primary focus was just to keep up with the calorie expenditure brought on by such a demanding program. Simply put, I chose to loosen up on what I was eating to help accommodate how much I needed to eat. Whereas I normally would restrict things like rice and cereal, I temporarily allowed these things back into my diet to help compensate for the thousands of calories I was burning daily. Calorie-dense foods like avocados and olive oil became my best friend. Despite all my efforts, however, I still lost about 7 pounds from my pre-training baseline to race day.


When it came to nutrition during the Ironman, we pretty much stuck to liquids and easy-to-digest foods throughout the day. I was heavily reliant on bread and olive oil early on, but by the time we reached the marathon my body could no longer tolerate solid food. After 12 hours with minimal blood flow, your intestines have trouble absorbing just about anything. Even things like water and sports drinks were simply sloshing around in our stomachs after a certain point. Maintaining a proper balance of electrolytes is a science in itself, and our attempts to replace lost sodium and potassium came primarily from sports drinks. Finding one with the proper ratio of glucose : sodium : potassium is no easy task, however. Liquid IV and Gatorlyte were the two we utilized, and on top of this we each took a couple salt pills to make sure we weren’t falling behind in this regard.


Q: How’s the recovery process going?


A: Now about 4 days out from crossing the finish line, the pain has largely subsided. However, the night of the Ironman was absolutely brutal. Not only did every muscle in our legs suffer, but hands were blistered and torn from the bike handles and feet were cut from rocks at the lake. We both struggled to move at all, and our sleep was awful by almost all metrics. My sleeping heart rate, which normally sits in the mid-30s, couldn’t get below 64. Ryan’s Oura ring data showed similar changes, with heart rate variability (HRV) plummeting and resting heart rate (RHR) going through the roof (both opposite directions of what you’d like to see).


Figure 2: Ryan's Oura ring data from the night following our Ironman triathlon. His RHR was substantially elevated from normal, while his HRV was only a fraction of normal. These changes are a signature of physiologic stress.


Q: Would you ever consider doing this again?


A: After working so hard to get into Ironman shape, I can understand why some people choose to keep doing these races. Nevertheless, I think we’re pretty content with being one-and-done. Our priority is always overall health and happiness, and I’d actually argue that an event of this magnitude can be detrimental to this overarching focus. While this training was great for boosting my VO2 max (which we know is a key predictor of longevity), it forced me to sacrifice things like sleep, socialization, strength training, mindfulness practices, and more. Like cardiorespiratory fitness, these are also critical components of longevity and wellness that I can’t wait to place more emphasis on in the coming months. Though I certainly will continue swimming, biking, and running in the future, I don’t think I will ever again train these activities to Ironman-level competency. For me, doing so simply took too much time away from the other things I value so much.


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