Ironman Training Update – 12/8/2017

Even with winter upon us here in western North Carolina, and over seven inches of snow on the ground right now, my training continues as I journey to complete a full Ironman in 2019.IMG_20171208_170213

My training regimen is a little different than it was leading up to some of my last races, but it’s still intense, nevertheless. Over the past month, instead of mostly running, I have added much more weight training and cross training to change it up and build strength. I have also joined some intense spin classes and a class that included TRX, a body-weight suspension system. I was so sore after that workout.

I have been able to get in the pool a few times too, something that I really enjoy. When I’m in the water, I feel so relaxed and calm. The water drowns out all noises and distractions and allows me to just be to myself for an hour or so.IMG_20171207_134650

Yesterday, I had an intense swim workout. Previously, I would just get in the pool and swim laps for 30 to 45 minutes, eyeing the clock on the wall every time I made a turn on the wall. Yesterday, though, I completed a good session that focused, not just on the distance, but my technique. For the first time this year, I used all the swim accessories, like the pull buoy, hand paddles, fins and the kick board. These accessories make me focus on having proper mechanics, helping me to be more efficient with my stroke. If I am going to swim over two miles in open water, I must be as efficient as possible, not only to finish the swim, but to have the energy left for the bike and the run legs of the race.

Last weekend, my sister Lacy and her husband Walker, invited me on a trail run with them. They are training for a marathon in February and wanted to run part of the course. Only once this year, have I run over ten miles; Lacy wanted to run twelve to fifteen, on a trail, and mostly up hill the first half of the out and back route.

I kept trying to find excuses not to go. When I would think about the run Lacy was describing, I feared the elevation change. As you all may have noticed from previous posts or my Instagram feed, I love running at the lake and my routes there are mostly flat as a board.

Mid-afternoon last Friday though, I thought why not, I can give it a shot. I am so glad I did. It was the best run I have done all year and motivated me to find more trails to explore, even if they are uphill

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Last Saturday’s run was my first trail run. It was tough, increasing in elevation by about 1,800 feet, but it was over six and a half miles up, meaning it was a “gradual” incline. After we turned around, I found it more difficult coming down. While I could go a little faster, I had to control my descent, focusing on where my feet were landing. It would be so easy to twist an ankle, or worse, trip on a rock and face plant into the rocks and roots that made up this trail.

I am so glad Lacy and Walker encouraged me to run with them last Saturday. We ended up running over 13 miles and I found a new love for trail running. I look forward to the next trail run in my future. In fact, Lacy has invited me to run with them tomorrow, but I believe I have a pretty good excuse not too as there is seven inches of snow on the ground.

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I feel my training is going well and I am feeling very confident where I am on my way to the half Ironman in 2018 and the full Ironman in 2019.

Have a great weekend everyone. If you’re in the path of the winter storm that is hovering over us right now, enjoy the snow and stay warm.

Time, please stop.

Dear time, please stop and let me enjoy this moment!

That’s exactly what I was thinking as I was sitting in church on Sunday, halfway through our pastor’s sermon. The church service was great. The pews were full of people, mostly in red, on this first Sunday of Advent. The music was incredible, as always, and the sermon was a good one, titled “Light in the Darkness.”

The service, the music, nor the sermon, all great, but none having anything to do with my desire to ask time to stop.

During the past year, being separated from my wife, I have struggled with many emotions, but none more so than worrying about the kids and how their little minds and hearts are handling it all. I worry about how divorce will impact their future, and selfishly, how it is affecting their relationship with me as their dad.

As their father, I want my children to know that I am always there for them, that I am strong, dependable and that my love for them is unwavering and that they should never, ever, doubt my love for them. I want them to know that while the relationship between their mom and dad has changed, the relationship between them and their parents has not changed one bit.

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Going through separation and divorce, however, has made it difficult for me to remain confident that my children know that I am still their rock, that I am still there for them no matter what is going on in their lives.

I believe it has been difficult for me to remain confident in that because I can’t be with them, physically, all the time, anymore. I can’t always be there for them when they get hurt, or if they just want to hop up in my lap and snuggle like they previously could do.

The separation from my kids, when they aren’t with me, seems to allow doubt to creep into my mind, making me believe that their confidence in me, as their dad, has diminished for some reason. My mind goes into overdrive wondering, do they know that I will always be there for them, that I will always be the rock that they can lean on when they need me.

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Sitting in the pew at church on Sunday, those doubts disappeared. Halfway through the sermon, Christopher laid his head in my lap and Hannah, my teenage daughter, gently laid her head on my shoulder.

For ten minutes, I could not think about anything else, other than the overwhelming feeling of affirmation that my kids knew their daddy was there for them, that I was their rock to lean on and they knew I would always be there for them!

We can’t stop time, but we can forever hold on to, and cherish, those special moments that make us wish we could.

As a footnote…. I wrote this draft sitting in the Barnes and Noble Sunday afternoon when tears started rolling down my cheek. A guy across the way noticed. At one point in my life I would have “manned up” and held in those tears…”men don’t cry.” But, Im not that man and I didn’t care what he thought may be going on in my life. I’m a dad and dads can cry.

What really is an Ironman?

What really is an Ironman?

Is an Ironman that superhero that uses his suit and special powers to protect the world and conquer evil? Is an Ironman what I want to be called when I complete the most challenging endurance race in the world, pushing my strength and endurance to their limits for over 140 miles?

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The answer is yes, both descriptions fit the definition of being an Ironman. Recently though, I was struck by the question, “Matthew, what truly is an Ironman?”

That question got me thinking about being an Ironman in the context as a man, a dad, a son, or a friend. It got me thinking that an Ironman means being something much more than being a fictional superhero or an extremely fit endurance athlete?

Being a true Ironman really doesn’t require swimming, biking or running over 140 miles as fast as you can, or having fictional superhero super powers. Being a true Ironman means having the strength to stand up for and to fight for those you love. It means having the endurance to live each day with integrity and honor.

A true Ironman is strong, confident, and fully committed to protecting those who put their faith and trust in me. It means being the rock that those around me can rely on always being there. It’s having the strength, determination and courage to do what is right, even when it’s hard.

Being an Ironman is being patient when patience is being asked of me. It’s respecting the needs of someone else, even when it may mean having faith and letting go.

An Ironman is not the saying, but the doing.

It doesn’t sound like it would be all that hard to be this kind of Ironman, but it is. As parents, as adults, as human beings, we face challenges every day that test our abilities to be an Ironman for our children or those we love. We get impatient or we let pride and selfishness get in the way, keeping us from being what our loved ones need, or causing us to make choices that may hurt them.

Like in training for the ultimate endurance race, being a real Ironman takes determination and commitment. It’s learning from past mistakes and doing the next right thing that will allow me to be an Ironman and be a better dad and a better man.

Yes, I am going to continue to train to complete the world’s most challenging endurance race, but more importantly, I’m going to focus harder on giving everything I can to be a true Ironman each day for the ones I love.

I would rather my children call me an Ironman by the way I live my life each day, than as an Ironman who crosses a finish line at a race.

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Hilton Head Island Bridge Run 10k

So, I have some news to share: I won my age group at the 10k race that I ran in Hilton Head this past Saturday. Sorry for the late post about it, but it’s been quite the week; a busy week, an emotional week, but a good week. My goal in the race, my first stand-alone 10k, was to place, meaning first, second or third in my age group. Not only did I accomplish my goal of placing, but I won my age group. I am so excited about how I ran, averaging seven minutes and twenty-six seconds per mile for the race.

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During the first mile, my pace was a quick seven minutes and ten seconds per mile. I pulled back a little as I didn’t believe that I could sustain that pace for the entire race. As I settled into a pace just under seven minutes and thirty seconds per mile, I started to feel very comfortable, that is, until I approached the bridge. The bridge wasn’t a very long or steep incline, especially compared to lots of the hills I run here in Western North Carolina, but there was a thirty mile per hour wind in my face during the climb. The wind, along with the incline, caused my pace to slow down to eight minutes and thirty seconds per mile. Fortunately, on the way back across the bridge, during the last mile and a half of the race, the wind was at my back. That’s when I increased my pace, allowing me to finish 13th overall in the Hilton Head 10k Bridge run.

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It was a rather short weekend in Hilton Head going down on Friday and back on Saturday, after the race, but it was such a great weekend. The restaurants we tried were delicious, the race was fun and even conversation time driving in the car was special. I really enjoyed the quick trip to Hilton Head and can’t wait to return to spend more time there.

Since returning on Saturday, I have begun my off-season training to prepare physically and mentally for next year’s triathlon racing season. Right now, I feel like I do need to decrease the amount of days I train from six days a week to four or five days a week. I have learned that listening to my body is very important with triathlon training. Doing so, allows muscles to rest and to avoid injuries from overuse. For me, cutting back on the volume of exercise, for a few weeks, is the right thing to do to allow my body to get a little more rest.

I have enjoyed a good week of training, though. I had a great session in the pool, I joined an excellent spin class and I have pounded the pavement a couple times too, even in the cold, frosty mornings. Since I have spent the past couple of months focused mostly on running, it has felt nice to mix it up with some training sessions in all three triathlon disciplines again.

This week, my training has also been more of a mental escape than it has in the past too. My training has always kept me mentally and emotionally focused, but this week, much more so and much needed. You know, it’s just been one of those weeks, with a lot going on in the life of Matthew these days.

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Next week is Thanksgiving and I am looking forward to it. I have so much to be thankful for and I love reflecting on those blessings in my life. While I am sad that I won’t be able to spend Thanksgiving with the kids, I hope to enjoy a nice hike or two and help to prepare and partake in a nice traditional Thanksgiving meal.

My favorite dish to eat at Thanksgiving is sweet potato soufflé, the kind with the crunchy buttery pecan crust on top. I plan on a few good training sessions between now and then so I can eat as much of it as my belly will hold. I feel like I deserve it.

Last race of the season

Later today, I will head out to my last race of this calendar year, a 10k in Hilton Head, South Carolina. I’ve had a goal all year to place in my age group in all of the races I have ran and this race is no different. I’ve come close to placing, but most importantly, I’ve gotten stronger and stronger each race and each month I have trained.

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During the last couple of months I have worked really hard at improving my speed and endurance on my runs.  Since The Nations Triathlon in September, I have had 28 runs for over 133 miles. I have improved my pace from 7’59” per mile in September to 7’47” per mile the past couple of weeks, with a couple of runs under 7’20” per mile. During those runs I’m averaging 4.75 miles per run.

I love looking back on my runs from this past June and see how far I’ve come.  Then I was averaging over 9’24” per mile. Now, my pace is well below 8′ per mile. Persistence and commitment has been key to that improvement.

I use the Nike Run app to track my runs and I love getting certain achievements for my screenshot_20171109-221140.pngfaster runs. Most recently, I “smashed” my 5k record by running a 5k in 22:27. If I can keep that pace for the entire 10k, I will certainly place, maybe even win the 40-45 age group.

No matter what happens on Saturday, I know I have put in the work and the effort to put me in a position to do very well. I’m going to go out there, relax and try to settle in to a nice pace from the beginning. If I feel like I have enough left in the tank during the last couple of miles, I’m going to increase my pace and fight hard to the finish. I know I have what it takes to accomplish my goal, especially if I can get my mind in the right place on Saturday morning.

Something I will probably write about on future posts is the mental aspect of race day. This year, during the triathlons especially, I realized how important a proper mental approach is to performing strong on race day.

Tomorrow, I hope to have a clear mind and a clear focus on my race strategies so I can perform well in the race.

As I continue my journey to be an Ironman, I look at this race as one to end the season on a positive note heading into winter training. I’m not much of a cold weather runner, so I will be spending most of the next few months indoors, focusing on technique and increasing my strength.

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I’m going to keep working hard, with you all by my side, to accomplish my goal of being an Ironman in 2019.

Thank you all for the positive comments from my last blog post. I feel so much love and support, not just heading into the race tomorrow, but my Ironman journey, as a whole. Your encouraging words and your small tokens for motivation are greatly appreciated.

Let’s do this.

I want to be an Ironman

“Matthew Wells, you are an Ironman.”  That’s what I want to hear in 2019 when I cross the finish line at my first Ironman Triathlon, a 140-mile endurance race, consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, followed by a 26.22-mile run. Over the next two years, I have decided to embark on a journey to complete the full Ironman and I’d love to take you all with me as I plan, train, and participate in the events that will lead to the destination I have in my sights.

It’s funny how five months ago, I never would’ve said I wanted to attempt the ultimate fitness challenge of completing a full Ironman triathlon. Swimming over two miles, biking 112-miles seems very daunting, but to have to run a full marathon after those two segments, just didn’t seem like something I’d ever want to do, until now.

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I know it sounds so crazy, but over the past five months, I have gained so much confidence from my training and in my abilities, I have decided that I want to be an Ironman.

Back in May, I was just getting into a consistent training plan for sprint triathlons. Now, after months of training and participating in a couple of short-distance triathlons, I get the twitches if I go more than a day without exercising. Running five miles now is easy. Five months ago, I was struggling to run two.

I am ready for this challenge. I am ready to be an Ironman.

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This journey is going to be tough, though. There will be lots of sweat, soreness and exhaustion as I strive to achieve this goal. I will have to make some sacrifices that are going to be difficult to make. There will probably even be times when I don’t want to train and thoughts of giving up may enter my mind. But, I’m going to give it everything I have to become an Ironman.

I want to share this journey because I feel my readers, along with the support of those close to me, will keep me accountable and keep encouraging me as I strive to accomplish this difficult goal. It’s not going to be easy. I realize that going into it.

Life as a working dad is hard enough on its own, but to add more training to the already packed calendar, will be tremendously challenging. My training plan will gradually increase to ten to fifteen hours a week. Currently, I’m spending about six hours a week running, preparing for a 10k race later this month. Once I get past this upcoming race, I’ll add more variety to my training over the winter with a regimen of weight training, swimming, biking and running.

With three very active kids, a demanding job and a very blessed life to live, a flexible training schedule is a necessity.  My training plan will have to include many early morning training sessions, as well as some late evening sessions, if I’m going to accomplish my goal of becoming an Ironman in 2019.

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I look forward to this challenge and to having you all join me on this journey. You’ll be able to follow me here on my blog and across my social media channels every step of the way.

It’s going to be raw, real and fun. Push me, pull me, motivate me and encourage me. Failure is not an option.

I know I have what it takes. In 2019, I will be an Ironman!