Dirtbag team members and friends, have I got a gift for you!
This past weekend was the Ford Ironman World Championships, held right here in Hawaii. Well, not right here. Just to the south, on the Big Island. Known as one of the most brutal Ironman courses due to the high island winds and killer tropical temperatures, Kona is spoken of with respect among crazy people who think spending all day breaking their bodies into tiny little pieces in the hot sun is a fun day out. The pro results were exciting, with Australian Craig "Crowie" Alexander setting a new course record while destroying the men's field and Great Britain's Queen of Ironman, Chrissie Wellington, overcoming a late training crash to conquer Kona for the fourth time.
But we aren't pros here at Dirtbag Fitness. Every triathlon magazine and website in the world is talking about Wellington and Crowie. What about the amateur? The age grouper who isn't sponsored by Powerbar, Trek, and Your Mom's Secret Energy Drink? Dirtbag Fitness wants to know about those people and their Kona experience. Lucky for me, I know just such a triathlete. This dirtbag's name is Sean Price. I met Sean through this very website. He's the guy who let me tag along on my first over-60 mile bike ride while I was training for the century. He was lucky (?) enough to participate in the Kona Ironman over the weekend, and we are lucky that he's cool enough to let me pester him with an email full of questions about his triathlon history and his Kona experience.
Because of the length, I have split the interview into two parts.
Dirtbag Fitness: How many Iron-distance races does this make for you?
Sean Price: This was my second full IM.
DF: How old are you? How tall are you? What is your race-day weight?
SP: 48 and 5-10. They weighed my at race start and I was 174 pounds. Oddly enough, they did not weigh me at the finish so no idea if I lost weight due to fluid loss.
DF: What is your favorite event or course to compete in, at any distance or sport? Why?
SP: For triathlon, the 1/2 IM (70.3). It's long enough that you have to take it seriously but short enough that you don't have to spend all your time training.
DF: What is your normal training like when you're preparing for a race like this? How many hours and miles per week?
SP: I don't track/log my training--I know, crazy right?--but I basically swim and run 3x a week and bike 2x. This is not to say that I won't do more (or less) in a given week, but those are the minimum targets I try to hit. The hours/distance increase the closer I get to race day and weekends--for obvious reasons--are for long rides and runs. I try to do two disciplines (bricks) in a given day and I'm a fan of switching up the order of the bricks. A standard brick is a swim/bike or a bike/run, as that follows the race day order but I like to run to the pool, do my swim workout and then run back. Biking to the beach, going for a swim and then continuing on with the bike is another fun brick. I find that swimming when I'm "full body tired" forces me to dig deeper on the workouts. I will of couse do standard bricks but I find switching things seems to be an effective method of getting continual improvements. I actually learned this from talking to weight lifters. They'll all tell you that you hit a plateau if you do the same workouts over and over, but if you continually change your routine your body has to adapt. It seems to work for me.
I try to focus more on training by time--as opposed to distance--as I find it much easier to schedule my life around. For me, saying I need to "run 90 minutes" is far easier to schedule than saying I need to "run 10 miles". I've found that if you focus on distance you tend to turn into a "mileage junkie". If I train by time I find it much easier to target a good workout and focus on my HR and how I feel, rather then saying that I "must get X more miles in".
DF: Do you or have you worked with a triathlon team or coach or do you research and train on your own?
SP: I think tri groups are effective...but just not for me. For a variety of reasons really. I see them mostly as "forced training" so they're helpful if you're the type of person that needs motivation to do a workout. That's not me. I do fine on my own. (most times. lol) I also think the workouts are a bit too generic although admittedly I'm going on hearsay for that one. Tri groups also have set times for workouts--and those times never seem to coincide with my real life schedule. I do think they're a great way to meet other people in the sport, so thats real helpful if you're new to the sport and/or are looking for training partners.
DF: Do you enjoy training or racing more?
SP: This is a tough one. I'd have to say it would be training because if I did not race--I'd still train. I certainly would not train as "hard" or as long, but I train for health and fitness and the races are really just a way for me to test myself and give me motivation to get out on the days that I'd rather just kick back and drink a beer. And seriously, who would not rather drink a beer after work rather than hop on the bike/trainer and ride for 2 hours? Maybe just crazy people. :)
I've never worked with a coach for the simple reason that coaches cost money. Quite a bit of money if you look at it long term--and when you're training for a long distance tri--it's definitely long term. I think coaches can be extremly effective as they take all the guess work out of your workouts (you do what they tell you!), but it's equally important to find a coach that tailors a workout to YOU. Following a generic workout is--in my opinion--destined to fail becasue quite simply, everyone is different. I see too many people doing workout X becasue they read that pro/elite athelete Y does it. Guess what? You're not them. They're not you. Your age/physiology/fitness is complety different so you need your own workout. A good coach can supply you with that, but again...it costs. And for me, this is a hobby--one that is expensive enough just with equipment and entry fees--so I don't find it cost effective to pay someone to make me faster if there is no payback at the end. Other than a faster finish time.
DF: How did you find your way into triathlon and Ironman? What is your sports background?
SP: I was a X-county runner back in HS days (so long ago...) and ran on/off (mostly off) throughout the years. I hit my early 40's and realized I was the stereotypical couch potato. I was 20 pounds overweight, had chronic back issues and was in total denial about my fitness. I decided that it was time to change. I started road running again and realized that pounding on the pavement hurt a lot more at 40 than it did at age 16. I got into trail running which led me to start doing ultra marathons. It was lots of fun (still is) but I found that when you're over 40 and you run 100 miles a week....things break. So I eased up on the running, started swimming again, discovered I was reasonably good at it, realized that if I had a bike...I could do a triathlon. 8 years later I still run ultra's but focus mostly on tri's as the multi-sport is soooo much easier on your body.
|I left it here somewhere...|
DF: Do you look at Ironman events as "races" or as "events?" I mean, are you chasing other athletes and trying to make passes to improve your finishing position, or are you more focused on finishing and having a good race personally?
SP: Events. No question. I'd be lying if I said I didn't race them but I'm ultimately racing ME and no one else. I have finished every triathlon, at every distance, faster than my previous attempt at that distance. I don't expect this trend to continue forever as age is starting to be a factor, but my fitness and my experience level have both increased. I'm happy with that. I definitely try to improve my finishing position within a race...but I race the pace that I feel is appropriate for the race that I am in. I get passed lot of times but watching someone go by me is not an incentive for me to run/bike/swim harder. I'm generally going as hard/fast as I feel appropiate at a given time in the race. I've never finished a race with too much gas left in the tank. Basically if I could have passed someone...I would have. :)
DF: It seems to me that 90% of the people who do an Ironman are focused on getting it done, surviving to the finish line. Do you think that's true?
SP: I think that everyone, whether you are an age grouper or pro, young or old(er), has doubts during the race. You never know what race day will bring. Injury, bike crash/mechanical, weather conditions or just having a bad day, sometimes it can just become survival mode.
For Part 2 click here