The Life of an Ironman-in-Training

Triathlete Erika Myers crosses the finish line of her first 70.3 (half Ironman distance) in Lake Stevens, Wash., in June 2011. Myers will compete in her first full Ironman this Sunday.

Ever wonder what it’s like to train for a full Ironman? Maybe I’m weird, but I do. And I’ve been following the progress of Erika Myers for a while now.

A few weeks ago, she completed a six-hour bike ride on her indoor trainer. Six hours…pedaling and not going anywhere. If that’s not tough, I don’t know what is. Well, except maybe the actual race that takes triathletes, on average, about 12 to 13 hours to complete.

In less than a week, Erika Myers will compete in her first full Ironman in Tempe, Arizona. (And, for those of you aren’t familiar with a full Ironman, that’s a 2.4-mile open water swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run.) The 36-year-old wife, mother to a three-year-old daughter and full-time project manager has devoted the last year of her life to training for this event.

Myers, who moved from Michigan to a suburb of Seattle during Ironman training, has completed 20 triathlons and four marathons in her life. She was kind enough to answer some questions about triathlete life for me, a complete triathlon noob.

Q: Everyone has a different reason for wanting to race in an Ironman event. What’s behind your desire to complete an Ironman?

Myers: When I first started triathlons, I had no idea I would enjoy them as much as I did. As I continued to compete and improve, I got the competitive “bug,” and wanted to continue to get better. I am constantly striving to reach the next level and, to me, Ironman is the pinnacle. It became a dream of mine that I wasn’t sure I could pull off. However, with the support of my family and coach, I was able to devote a year of my life to training and hopefully completing the race on November 18th.

Q: How many triathlons have you completed? When was your first one?

Myers: My first triathlon was in 2001 in Vail, Colorado. I have completed 20 triathlons of varying distances and about to embark on No. 21—my first full Ironman. I’ve also completed four marathons along the way.

Q: Describe your most challenging triathlon thus far? And your most successful/rewarding triathlon?

Myers: My most challenging was a sprint triathlon in the summer of 2011 when the temperature at race time was 101 degrees. My most successful/rewarding so far was completing my first 70.3 (half Ironman) distance in June 2011. I trained so hard, and felt so accomplished as I crossed the finish line well under my goal time.

Q: How long is your Ironman training plan?

Myers: I signed up for the race on November 19, 2011, so the training clock started then. However, my official training plan started February 1, 2012, for a total of about 45 weeks.

Q: What has been the most challenging and/or surprising thing about Ironman training thus far?

Myers: The overall time commitment to training has been an incredible challenge. Finding the time every day to do long workouts or double training sessions all while taking care of my 3-year-old, working full time, a cross-country move in April and juggling everyday life was difficult and tiring. I’m surprised that I’ve been able to stick to my training plan almost to the mile, and I have had no injuries or real difficulties thus far. Also surprising is how hungry I am all the time!

Q: Do you have any advice for new triathletes?

Myers: Start out small and find a local sprint race to do first. They are fun and less competitive and intimidating for “newbies.” Do your best to enjoy the time you’re out there don’t worry about your time or how fast you go. Triathlon is a very tight knit community and you’ll meet some great people along the way who are supportive and will be your biggest cheerleader.

You can read more about Myers’s training and racing adventures on her blog, This Spartan Will, named to show what she describes as a “deep love” for Michigan State University. You can follow her during Sunday’s race, which begins at 7 a.m. (MST), by going to the Ironman Arizona web page and clicking on the information for Ironman Live-Arizona. She is bib No. 696.