Journey to the Ironman: Expanding My Palate

By Jonathan Mackintosh

Ouray And we’re off! I just finished my third week of the 13-week Ironman training program, the tension has lifted, the birds are singing and I can honestly picture myself crossing the finish line.

Fear of the unknown can draw you into so many dark places where insecurity and failure thrive. For me, it goes back to the feelings I’ve had in the past, like a rubber band drawn tight, waiting to be snapped.

Three weeks ago, I felt the release of tension as I finally tackled the uncertainty of injury. I ran. The tightness in my legs, tightness I had been feeling for months, released and I finally felt like the roadblock that was barring my path to completion was eliminated. The narrative has changed from “will I be successful” to “how successful will I be”.

The first three weeks have been my proving ground. I have trained hard over the past few months, I have stayed diligent and now I am sitting back (figuratively of course) and reaping the benefits.

The workouts have become longer and more frequent, but I am enjoying them far more than at any other point in my journey. Point in fact, I got the chance a couple weeks ago to change the scenery a bit in my training and headed into the mountains for the weekend with my family at a beautiful Bed & Breakfast called Black Bear Manor in Ouray, CO (Full disclosure, my in-laws own and operate the place, but that changes nothing about how amazing the place is). I brought my bike up and had a 2 hour ride in the mountains that blew my mind. I was grinning like a fool the whole time as I wound along rivers, scared a few deer and challenged myself not to accidently ride off the cliff.

It was a taste of the possibilities that have opened up to me. My poor decisions of my past had taken my freedom of decision down a bad road that had severely limited my options. I can’t do that because it makes me feel uncomfortable. I can’t do that because I am exhausted.Peanut Butter and Jam - Feb 10 (40/365)

Today, I am pushing my body and my mindset to new limits and it has made me realize that I have been an ignorant fool. I don’t want to spend my life eating a boring PB&J on white bread with the crusts cut off (WARNING: Symbolism at play). I have now tasted grilled cheese and it has shattered my preconceived notions of “normal”. Borrowing a phrase from the Bible again, I have tasted and know that it is good.

Now I am pushing for Creme Brulee.

Exercise

Here is what my first two weeks looked like:

  • Swimming Total: 14.88 miles
  • Biking Total: 210 Miles
  • Running Total: 56.85 Miles

Total Time Spent: 31 hours and 30 minutes.

Loved every minute of it. Except for the hours of running on the treadmill due to Spring snow storms. I got in some good episodes of Community on my phone though.

Nutrition

I am at the point where calorie exchange is critical. I need energy to fuel my efforts, so I am not as focused on weight reduction as I am on building lean muscle. The NuChallenge products have helped me bring in those extra few calories I need for my big endurance days and I have stayed steady on my overall weight. I have also been starting to use Alert in place of coffee as my “before” pick me up prior to training. Love it!

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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?

Journey to the Ironman: A “Big-boned” Kids Dream

This summer, I will be heading out to Coeur d’Alene, ID to participate in my first Ironman Competition. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what that is, I am fairly certain it is the craziest thing I may ever do. The Ironman is a triathlon but the distances are increased, 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run. Back-to-back-to-back. I may be an idiot.

That being said, this represents more to me than simply a test of my physical abilities; it is the culmination of a 2 year effort to change my life.

To give some background, I have been overweight most of my life. Not severely, but enough to develop the burden of insecurity that turns self-perception so ugly. I am still a young gun (just shy of 30) but a childhood of dealing with the issue is a hard thing to shake. I have had my ups and down, losing enough weight to feel temporarily thin, but life (and dessert) sneaks up on you and I gained it back with a vengeance.

Before

Before

Two years ago it came to a head. My wife and I had just had our first baby (a girl). We were 6 months in and I was smitten with her, playing, laughing and loving life with my beautiful girl (and her mother). But the creeping burden of obesity continued to play a role. I didn’t want to look at pictures of me holding her, I had constant back pain and I was consistently out of breath from playing with my baby. These were becoming road blocks to me being the dad I desired to become.

I wanted a change.

I didn’t want to simply lose weight, only to gain it back again, I wanted to change the way I looked at health for the rest of my life. I wanted to change the way my family looked at health, I wanted to be physically able to engage with my family and most importantly I wanted to represent a healthy confidence to my daughter and my wife.

The need for support cannot be overstated. I approached my wife, who clearly (though always lovingly) saw the effects of my insecurity, and asked her and my daughter to join me in change. With a grace that far exceeds my comprehension, my family committed to stand beside me. Step one complete.

Now fast forward 1 1/2 years. I have lost 70lbs, competed in an Olympic distance Triathlon and completed a marathon. I am still not quite to my target weight (gained a couple back due to injury and baby number 2), but I am certainly in the best shape of my life.

In short, I have done it by changing my perceptions, my behaviors and finding a passion. I have done it by moving out of isolation and into a support network.

After

After

My journey is not over yet. I have set out to do something that I never imagined I would be able to do. I assumed I was locked into obese obscurity, destined to trend heavier as time went on. That feeling of predestination has changed but the challenge is still there.

Over the next several months I will be sharing my Journey towards the Ironman with you, including the good, the bad and the ugly. Within that journey, I will be reflecting back on the past 2 years and the lessons learned in sweat and fire.

I have chosen to partner with Nussentials and the NuChallenge, not just because I believe in the products, but because it represents the community support that was, and continues to be, essential for me to reach my goals.

I am proud to join in the NuChallenge as one story among many.