Sunday, November 13, 2011

ARIZONA IRONMAN - by Go the Distance athlete Gina Anixter

I can’t believe it’s a week away; it’s been quite a journey! I thought I would share what it has taken me to prepare for Ironman. Just a little history before I dive in… I did my first triathlon 8 years ago. I will never forget it, it was a sprint triathlon and when I got to the water’s edge I looked over to my best friend, and I said “did you see how long it looks, I don’t know if I can do this!” tears started streaming down my face. I finished the race and thought to myself, I could not have gone any faster or longer if I wanted. A few years later I did my first half marathon and I brought twenty dollars just in case I needed to take a taxi home. After my first marathon I told my family “I will NEVER” do that again.

So, here we are today…I have been training for 32 weeks, a total of 430 hours, 135 miles of swimming, 3,900 miles on the bike, and 800 miles of running. My peak training week was 22 hours; it included 3 hours of swimming, 13 hours of biking and 6 hours of running. My longest bike ride was 120 miles and my longest run was the SF Nike Women’s Marathon (26.2 miles). My longest day of training was 8 hours spread over 13 hours; this training day is called “the Big Day”. The Big Day of training is planned twice during the 33 week plan; once at 8 weeks from race day and once at 4 weeks from race day. The Big Day consists of a 90 minute swim, followed by 90 minutes of rest, followed by a 5 hour bike ride, followed by a 90 minute rest, followed by a 13.1 mile run. The point of this training is for your body to experience what it’s like to be moving over 13 hours (the average length of time it takes to finish Ironman). During my last Big Day training, I crashed on my bike; I bent my wheel, cracked my helmet, and suffered minor scrapes and bruises. Thankfully, everything including my bike and my body recovered.

People ask me how I find the time to train because I work full time and I do a fair amount of volunteer work. The truth is, I love planning and having a full schedule! Since going back to work in 2005, I have been waking up early to work out. To prepare for Ironman, I added an evening workout three days a week, usually while my kids are at their sports practices. In addition, I have longer training days over the weekend. I wake up most mornings at 4:30 and get to sleep by 10pm. I am lucky to have a supportive husband who last year became a “stay at home Dad”. When I first started training for triathlons I think he thought it was a phase and it would pass. Today he’s come to accept triathlon because he knows how passionate I am about it and how much joy it brings me. Nevertheless, he and the girls are ready for Mom to be home when they wake up in the morning.

Registration for Ironman Arizona opened on November 22, the race filled in less than four hours, so it’s a scramble to register. The cost to register for the race was $600, this sport is not cheap!! Of course, this is only the beginning of the cost for Ironman. When I registered for Ironman, I was dealing with an injury called Proximal Hamstring Tendonopathy, microfiber tears in the tendon which attaches to the ischial tuberosity; it’s literally a pain in the butt! I had stopped running and biking for 4 ½ months to heal my injury before training for Ironman. Unfortunately, the injury was not completely healed when I began my training in April, so I have had weekly deep tissue massage and acupuncture, to the tune of $2,500!! Did I mention this sport is not cheap?

It takes along time to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run a marathon. Setting a race goal is something I do for every race. Since I’ve never done Ironman distance, it’s hard to predict how I will perform. I would be satisfied to finish the race in13 hours, but I would be ecstatic if I break 12 hours! The pro women race Ironman between 8:30 – 11 hours. There should be close to 2,000 athletes and about 100 women in my age group. The race starts at 7 a.m. and I hope to be off the course by 7:30 p.m. The race starts with a deep water mass start; this is a little sketchy because you are swimming next to big men with boney elbows. I will be happy to get out of the water and onto my bike. The bike is a triple loop course and the run is a four loop course which can be tough mentally.

Why do I want to do Ironman? Years ago, we huddled around the computer to watch two of my friends cross the finish line at Ironman Louisville; my stomach turned with excitement. The pride and admiration I had as I watched my friends raise their arms as they crossed the finish line was intense. The draw of accomplishing something most can only imagine is powerful. I am driven by setting goals which require extreme dedication, commitment, and focus.

Until I joined Greg Bomhoff, his wife Sherri, and their family at Badwater, I could only imagine what we’re truly capable of accomplishing. Go the Distance has made a better athlete of me without a doubt. I’ve never known an athlete like Greg, he’s a true inspiration! I would not have comprehended endurance racing without seeing it first hand. We are truly capable of so much more than we know or can imagine. Badwater was a gift, an experience I will never forget, an opportunity of a lifetime! When I am down during a training run or in a race, I focus on Badwater and not on the pain. My mind is in a good place, my body is well trained, and I am ready, ready to Go the Distance, to challenge the impossible.

I am grateful for my family and their support, for my training buddies who inspire me and have been by my side during this journey, and to my friends who tolerate my craziness.