A Triathlete’s Road to Ironman

A Triathlete’s Road to Ironman

Rebecca Adams started her day at 4:00 am. After a quick breakfast, a shot of Organic Life Vitamins® and a packet of Energy 28™, she quickly gathered her things and loaded her bicycle and was off to the race start. At the race she got busy preparing her race area, setting up her bike, body marking and double checking everything.  She was among hundreds of other athletes, doing a similar routine. 

Rebecca AdamsRebecca has chosen the road less traveled: the triathlon, the multi-sport event that involves completing three continuous endurance events one after another, each with its own unique set of rules and regulations. Athletes swim, cycle (without drafting another cyclist) and run in immediate succession over a variety of distances for the fastest overall course completion time, including timed “transitions” in which they change gear between each event.

Rebecca has competed in two sprint distance triathlons, an Olympic distance triathlon, four Half Ironman triathlons and numerous half marathons and full marathons with a goal in mind of competing in a full Ironman triathlon race by 2012.

At 6:40 am this morning she plunged headlong into the cold water of the Pacific off the California coast to swim 1.2 miles at the start of a five-hour-plus ordeal that kicked off “The California 70.3,” her fifth career Half Ironman event.

The promotional brochure for this event reads like a tourist attraction: “Athletes will enjoy the calm waters of the 1.2-mile swim course in Oceanside Harbor, the tough one-loop, 56-mile bike course that includes the coastal beauty of San Clemente State Park and the challenging inland hills of Camp Pendleton and a 13.1-mile run through the scenic coastal neighborhoods of Oceanside.” Ahh, sounds like a veritable paradise vacation spa retreat—not!

What does it take to keep yourself from smashing an alarm clock against a wall or burying it under a pillow every morning as it goes off at 5:30 am to signal the start of another day of training, with a run or bike or swim for an hour or more, to be repeated once again at the end of the day? What does it take to keep going when you feel burned out, tired or lacking motivation to train?

Rebecca feels, “It’s really the friends I have made, my club mates from The Pasadena Tri Club, and the thought of being outside training with a group. This is what I really enjoy and helping myself and others reach their goals and continue to challenge ourselves. That’s what gets me up and going in the morning.

“I like the challenge of training for a triathlon, the unknowns of race day and crossing the finish line knowing you gave everything you had and discovering a lot about yourself in the process.”

Before competing in triathlons, Rebecca concentrated on running only, gradually building up to a half marathon and then a full marathon distance. But it wasn’t smooth sailing all the way. Her first full marathon turned out to be a nightmare. At about the halfway point a recent IT band injury came back and caused so much pain in her knee that she walked the rest of the marathon and finished it in seven and a half hours.

By trial and error she built herself back up and learned and listened to what her body could take along the way. She readied herself for a comeback at the full marathon distance in 2008. As the day of the race approached, brushfires broke out in Los Angeles, creating very poor air quality along the race route – eventually forcing organizers to cancel the race on the morning of the event.

Undaunted, Rebecca continued to train and finally got her shot at a full marathon attempt once again. Rebecca said: “I was finally able to complete my first injury-free marathon in four and a half hours, a big improvement over my first one. And then I started to dabble in the shorter-distance triathlons just to see how I would do. After doing two sprint triathlons on my mountain bike and with coaxing from a friend who was in a triathlon club, I decided to get a road bike and really go for it. With the help and direction of Pasadena Tri Club members, I was able to amp up my fitness and experience on the bike through regular training rides and advice from more experienced riders. I also started to ‘learn’ how to swim. Having no swim background, this has been the most difficult discipline, but I continue to work at it.”

Now Rebecca trains five to six days a week, with an hour to an hour and a half in the mornings and another session in the evenings. She mixes swimming, biking and running, both distance and speed work on a track along with longer rides and runs on the weekends. This has brought her speed and endurance up to a point where she is usually in the top 10–20 competitors in her age group. In fact, she recently ran a personal-best half marathon in 1:38, which is close to a very respectable 3:30 marathon pace.

In the recent “California 70.3 – Half Ironman” event that Rebecca competed in, she recounts, “Athletes had to swim out to the start, which gave me a chance to get my face in the water a few times and get over the cold and tightness in my chest, so when we did start the swim I was not panicked. The swim started and I took a few moments to find my way in the mess; as I neared the turnaround, the water was getting rough and choppy. I made the turn and I actually felt good, and thought to myself that I’ll have a faster swim than last year. I got out of the water not feeling like absolute death. I thought, this is good, I must have had a good swim time–on to the bike I go!

“I had two packs of Energy 28 in both of my water bottles on the bike mixed with my powdered calorie mixtures. This combination of nutrition treated me fantastically and carried me through to have a great run off the bike. I also took my liquid vitamins daily (Organic Life Vitamins) leading up to this event and used the Natural Calm® Sports Bath and Natural Calm for recovery after hard training days.

“I made a smooth transition from swim to bike. I aimed to take it easy on the first half of the course, knowing the second half was harder. At about the time I turned into the backside of Camp Pendleton, the U.S. Marine Corp base that the bike course went through, the headwinds started up. Ugh! Going up that first hill at 5 mph was no pleasure ride, but I was happy about the downhill coming up. I was aiming for a 2:45 time on the bike, but at the final right turn back to the harbor with six miles left I knew I wouldn’t make that time. Oh well, at this point my body was feeling tight from the bike, but still good. As it turned out, my bike time was 2:52:25 (two seconds slower than last year).

“Into the bike-to-run transition, I racked the bike and slipped on my running shoes, grabbed my hat and watch, and out I went.

“Needing to pee for the last 10 miles of the bike portion of the event didn’t help. I finally saw my chance in the run, as I spotted the first Porta-Potty available, and miraculously there was no line. I ran in and it took me at least two minutes. Oh well, back out I went. For the first two miles my shins were burning and on fire. Lactic acid hadn’t had a chance to clear out. I told my shins to put up and shut up because we were going to do this run, and they did. After a few miles my legs loosened up and I got into my rhythm. The great thing about this two-loop course is that you can see all the other runners. I saw friends and club members a couple of times. Each time we yelled encouragements back and forth. For the first few miles I aimed at around an eight-minute mile pace but, feeling good, I picked it up. On the second loop I picked it up even more, and my goal was to hold on to this faster pace until the end, which I did. I finished strong but felt spent, and at the same time it felt good. My run time was 1:43:20.

“At the end of the day I was happy. I managed to put it all together in one smart race package, and I think it was a successful early-season event, a good stepping stone to a full Ironman.”

With her 11th place age-group finish and personal-record improvement of two minutes, we agree.