Friday, December 01, 2023

Road to Ironman with DEREK GARCIA Dec. 10, 2010

| December 10, 2010 8:00 PM

In the months leading up to the ninth running of Ironman Coeur d'Alene on June 26, 2011, Derek Garcia will be writing a monthly column keeping the community updated on his journey as well as what the hundreds of athletes from the Inland Northwest are doing in preparation for the race.

Remember when your mom used to say, "You are what you eat?"

Well, there is a similar saying for those training for an endurance event that says: "Don't train to eat, eat to train." I mentioned last month that I was trying to avoid eating my body weight in pumpkin pie during the weeks surrounding Thanksgiving. Obviously if going back to what my mom warned me of as a child to be true, I realize that doing a triathlon as a pumpkin would be quite difficult.

Unfortunately, as an endurance athlete my mind plays games with me especially when there is such a large portion of baked goods everywhere I look. It says things like: "You worked out so hard this week, you deserve that WHOLE pie."

Or, "you burned off enough calories today to drink 32 ounces of eggnog." Logically, I know that this is unreasonable.

IT IS likely that in an hour of a moderate intensity workout, I will burn 600 calories. Not only will it be easy to eat more after I workout than if I had not, consuming 8 ounces of eggnog is around 400 calories. I not only voided the calories burned in my workout, but I also made the next day's workout that much harder because I am now going to have to fuel my muscles with my nutritionally empty calories that I ate the day prior.

So during these mind games are the true moments where I have to remind myself of the mantra above. I have seen too many people that I know who start training for something - a marathon, a triathlon, or just start playing pickup basketball again - and fall victim to the train to eat mentality.

All I have to do is remind myself what an 8-mile run feels like the day after consuming too many snowball cookies at my work Christmas party to realize that it is not optimum fuel for a productive workout.

I tell those that I train that if you want to perform like a Ferrari you can’t consume leaded fuel. On the other hand if I eat one piece of fudge, but most of my calories come from good fats and lean protein, my next workout will be much more productive.

For those training for Ironman it doesn’t mean that you can’t indulge in some homemade apple pie this holiday season — it just means like anything else there needs to be moderation. Hopefully this will lead to a much more manageable New Year’s Resolution of only needing to shed five pounds rather than 15.

Through December athletes will continue base building or their single-sport focus. The idea is that they are building a pyramid of fitness and right now the wider the foundation built this winter, the higher the peak will be this spring.

Hours will not make a significant jump just yet, but many miles are going to start to rack up on the indoor equipment. I will shortly be moving into a swim focus after spending most of November working on my run.

I continue the other sports focusing mostly on maintaining the skill set and/or using them as recovery workouts. Some local tri and running groups will continue to brave the cold on a weekly basis, so keep your eyes peeled for runners on the roads in this season of little daylight and low visibility.

This is also a good time for athletes to do some baseline testing to measure progress. Repeatable workouts done in the pool, on the treadmill and the bike trainer are great ways to see improvement in the future.

Now that some structure has been established for most of us doing Ironman, it is a good time to do a test such as a 1,000-yard time trial in the pool, recording the time, and then repeating every six weeks to measure progress.

Then in the future you can determine whether training has been effective. I often kick myself for not recording more of my times, feelings, etc., in the first few years of triathlon. One of the biggest mistakes I see with triathletes is that they don’t measure progress.

Talk to a runner and they know their pace per mile within the second for different routes and effort levels. Ask a triathlete their pace in the pool and they often will look at you with a blank stare. Measuring progress is not only useful to assess if training is effective, but it provides a huge boost of confidence to see the results.

Needless to say there are a lot of things to be concerned with this month, whether or not you are a triathlete. Attending numerous parties, buying the perfect gift, getting faster in the pool, are all possible things on the to-do list this month.

They are definitely on mine. In the midst of the holiday chaos I was reminded of what is truly important. As I was bundling up to leave my house for a run a few days back, my 3-year-old son looked up at me and said, “Daddy, can’t we just play tinker toys?”

In that moment I realized, the fitness gained from my run was no longer a priority. I was humbled at the fact that I was caught up in MY routine and my son just wanted to play with his dad.

I hope that this month as things get increasingly busy and stressful, we all will be able to look around and realize what is truly important in our lives and maybe slow down enough to sit by the fire with loved ones, or even play with some tinker toys.

Derek Garcia is a multisport coach at the Salvation Army Kroc Center, owns his own personal coaching business, Derek Garcia Multisports, and will also be on the start line at next year’s Ironman event. Contact Derek at

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