Journey to the Ironman: Becoming an Olympian…Sort of

Written by Jonathan Mackintosh

Rubberband GunAnticipation has become a burr in my breaches. I’m itching to jump the gun. Here is a bad analogy I am going to share anyways: I feel like there is a rubber band gun pointed at me. It probably won’t hurt, but you still flinch from the uncertainty of when/where/how it will strike. We are coming up on the home stretch before the endurance training kicks into gear. I have 4 weeks to get to where I am going before the 13 week countdown begins. However, I am constrained by the need to take an excruciatingly slow approach to continued healing in my right tendon leg, with no guarantee that it will make a difference. I can just see myself running down the road for the first time in months, having worked daily on strengthening, stretching, massaging and icing my leg, only to feel the first bite of pain as the leg flares up again. Hence the flinchiness with the rubber band. It can drive you bonkers to think about all of the what ifs.

I am reminded of a Summer Olympics I watched a few years back. During the 100 meter dash, I watched a runner jump the gun twice in a row resulting in a disqualification. I was devastated for the person who likely had sacrificed years of their life for the opportunity to compete, only to lose on a technicality. I could not, and still cannot, imagine the thoughts assailing the runner pre and post disqualification. You have trained for years to the point in which the difference between last and first is a second. Talk about being drawn taught. Yet, what really blows my mind is that you will see an Olympic athlete lose spectacularly, only to fight on for four more years and return to the next Olympics. How do they bear the potential for failure and justify the sacrifice?

Beyond enjoying the sport itself, I like to believe they have developed a passion for pursuit, no matter the prize. Sure winning the gold is wonderful, but when possible, that same athlete is back the next time around even after being declared the best in the world. Their personality and passion isn’t often changed by achieving success, or more to the point, failing. They are in the race to be in the race.

My point is that I am in a constant state of having to remind myself that the race at the end of my Ironman journey, does not define the journey itself. This is about the Journey TO the Ironman, not even about the Ironman itself. That all sounds cheesy, and maybe I am just blowing smoke, but it honestly is a struggle for me to anticipate the tragedy of the potential that I may not succeed. So I must retrain my mind to pursue the race, not the result.

Nutrition

Highland CowThere is an absolute ton of research, blog opinions and propaganda out there on the best path forward for healthy eating. My wife and I have been saturated lately with wading through all of this info, trying to develop plans for when I am at the peak of training. Here is what we have learned so far: most generic milk is disgusting, high fructose corn syrup with kill me, but only after soda claims my soul. Eye opening stuff. Needless to say my wife is now a vegan and I am well on my way (except for the meat and dairy part).

Actually we are very interested in the Paleo way of eating, though we believe in good grains and healthy dairy. I like to think of it as the Paleo Plus Diet. Coined.

Still loving and rocking the Nussentials products. Currently using Alert, Core, Less, Run and may start Restore soon. That, combined with our adventures in healthy eating, has made a huge difference in my recovery time and overall feeling healthy. Still figuring out the optimum profile balance for products, but maybe my journey can help jumpstart Nussentials to create persona product packages. Like a product package for athletes, similar to the weight loss focused, Gold Pack. You heard it here first.

Exercise

This has been a tough Colorado Winter experience. There are so many days that I have been forced to adapt to deal with snow on the ground and ice on the roads. I think most endurance athletes can attest that there is very little enjoyment in being regulated to off-season training, when your mind is rearing to hit the trail. I don’t mean to sound bitter, but Colorado has long Winters. This is coming from a boy born and raised in California, where I spent almost 2 years straight in the same pair of Rainbow® sandals. So I am regulated to foam rolling (and sometime wooden roller pinning) the tears out of me and my sore muscles. If I can’t enjoy the outdoors, might as well be in pain, right?

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Journey to the Ironman: Turning Roadblocks to Rest Stops

Written by Jonathan Mackintosh

We have all heard the feel-good stories of those that overcame significant odds to become champions. While those are incredible inspirations, it usually only takes a small circumstance to sideline the rest of us.

My situation falls into the “small circumstance” category for most, but it provided me a necessary lesson for continuing to endure within my bubble.

I have been bothered by a tendon in my right leg (above the heel but below the calf), which is likely my Soleus muscle or my Achilles tendon (Courtesy of  Google). I had taken a long break (around 6 weeks) and stopped running altogether in hopes that healing would occur, but this past week when I was out for my victory run in sunny San Diego, I began to feel the pain return.

road-blockNow many thoughts assailed me in the first moments of feeling the pain and amongst those thoughts was the crushing premonition that my Ironman adventure was at an end. It is difficult to run a marathon when you can’t run (weird how that works). I came back to Colorado feeling, to be honest, a bit defeated by the giant boulder of injury sitting smack dab in the middle of my journey.

Then I was reminded of something that has been a driver for me throughout this process:

Don’t turn a rest stop into a roadblock.

I am working to stop looking at the injury as the end all and start exploring how I can work within the limitations of where I am at physically. I can swim, I can ride, I can pretend I am good at dancing and I can certainly manage my nutrition.

And, it turns out, I am fairly ignorant when it comes to understanding the human body. Mind blown. The injury could be short-term recoverable and with caution, I could be back up and running in a couple of weeks. Even if it is a long-term healing process the end goal is worth the struggle (or hobble) to get there.

Injuries, work, family dynamics, these can all create pauses in the pursuit. There have been many times throughout this process that I have needlessly benched myself because I thought I was incapable of taking the necessary steps forward. I was turning a momentary disruption into a permanent decision. Naughty naughty (my finger is waggling)!

I am training not just my body to endure, but there is a mental training component as well. I am establishing my own understanding of what I am capable of. As I accomplish the little things, overcoming the little roadblocks, I pick up speed and momentum. From what I can gather, Ironman athletes don’t rely on their body to not become exhausted during the race, because it will. Instead, they rely on the belief that they can outlast the exhaustion (although the less training, the more faith necessary).

Perseverance builds the character necessary to endure (borrowed a bit from the Bible there).

I am still learning and relearning how to work on, through, around this injury, but I am also working to look outside of my extremely limited mental perspective. All I see is the boulder, because that is where I am at, but I have a family, a community and a Google that will help me overcome my roadblocks.

I choose to continue to run the race as if to obtain the prize (thank you again Bible).

Training

Jonathan Mackintosh Frozen BeardWe are coming to the end of our pre-training training and I am attempting to gear up quickly for the real meat of my training adding some two-a-days to the plans for time efficiency. I continue to bike in the freezing cold and I had my first frozen beard experience which made me feel tough for a bit. Swimming is going well, though I almost drowned myself in a 4 foot pool trying to learn how to do flip turns. Evidently you’re supposed to breathe before or after the flip, not during.  I believe this to be a key life lesson.

Nutrition

On top of my daily supplements (Nussentials’ Core, Less and Alert) I am adding Nussential’s Run and some fish oil to my nutrition to see if it helps at all with the healing process in my leg. I will keep you posted.

Recipe

My current favorite breakfast is a protein rich take on a classic: Egg McMuffin

I substitute the English muffin with whole wheat toast, add avocado and spinach. To make it quickly, I cook my eggs in a ramekin in the microwave at 60% power for 2 ½ minutes (cover with seran wrap).

Ends up looking just like McDonald’s but on steroids and far more delicious.