The Decision {Steven’s Ironman Experience}

I know this was a little long, but bear with me. After this “catch up,” I will post updates weekly on my training progress, workouts, and how I am feeling about the entire process through the actual race.

I have always been a multisport athlete, even all the way through college. It really taught me how to manage my time to make sure I was able to complete everything I needed to get done. However, a decision I made a little over 1 year ago has completely changed what I ever thought I knew about time management.

Back in June of 2010, World Triathlon Corporation announced a new Ironman Triathlon that would take place in The Woodlands, TX (just north of Houston) in May 2011. I had completed several shorter triathlons as well as a few adventure races and had wanted to take on the challenge of the toughest endurance race in the world. For those who are unfamiliar with Ironman races, it comprises a 2.4 mile open water swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and finishes with a full 26.2 mile marathon. Everything is completed back-to-back-to-back with a cut-off time of 17 hours. With Houston being so close (for someone who grew up in west Texas and became accustomed to 4-7 hour drives for sporting events), I knew this was the race I wanted to do. Being the inaugural race, it sold out relatively quickly and I was unable to get registered so I set my sights on 2012.

Fast forward to May 22, 2011, I sit on my computer waiting for registration to open at noon to make sure I get one of the 2000+ entries into the race. After an entirely way too long registration process, I was in. Now comes the hard part, I HAVE TO TRAIN FOR THIS THING!!! I have never considered myself a swimmer, cyclist, or runner. With this one decision, I am suddenly all three. I immediately began looking for training plans that would fit around my schedule. As it turned out what I needed was a schedule that would fit around my training plan. At the time I registered for the race, I was playing in several adult sports leagues (2 soccer, basketball, and volleyball) which kept me in decent shape throughout the year. I decided that I would not be able to train the way I needed to while playing so I was forced to take a break. I told all of my teammates that I would not be playing after the end of the season in August so I could focus on training and avoid any injuries. Then, in the final basketball game of the year, I roll my ankle and I immediately know it’s bad. I end up having to be in physical therapy until the end of December until I can finally run without any pain.

At this point I am 5 months out and about 3 months behind on my training. Not a good start! I find a different training plan that is more condensed that I think will still help me reach my ultimate goal, finish in under 13 hours. I spend January just trying to get a solid fitness base back after almost 4 months of very little activity. It is during this time that my wife really starts to get worried that I am not going to be able to finish, or that I will be so miserable the whole time that I will never really enjoy the accomplishment. To help ease her mind, I find and register for a half-Ironman distance race on March 25th. My “official” training started in the middle of February. A typical week consists of anywhere from 5-9 workouts and a total of 6-18 hours of training time. My long workouts so far have me at a 2 mile swim, 50 miles on the bike, and 12.5 miles running. So far, the training has not been too demanding but I can tell it’s getting to me as I am feeling a little tired this week. Next week will be much easier as I rest up for the race on the 25th. Then it will be right back into it as I continue to go longer and longer distances.

My family has been a great support system for me so far. They realize that I will have to make certain sacrifices with my time in order for me to reach my goal. I really think that no matter what your goal is, if you let those around you in on the process, they will be more than willing to help you along the way. My family has been very understanding when I had to miss a family breakfast to get a 2 hour run in or when I had to leave early from my sister’s birthday lunch to get to the pool before they closed. For this to work out how I want, there are just times I have to put myself first. I have to have that 1-2 hours a day during the week and 5-6 hours on the weekend to get my fitness level where it needs to be.

Steven is a Recreation Programmer for fitness activities at Wylie Recreation Center. He contracts fitness instructors and manages a fantastic fitness area staff. Steven has been with the City of Wylie since 2010.

Steven Harben
Recreation Programmer
City of Wylie