A good lesson to keep in mind (and periodically remind yourself of): plans will always change. You cannot avoid it; things come up or fall through. But you CAN learn to be flexible. I'm back after spending two days near Surf City and I did not do any running either of those days. The acupunture never happened, but I did stay active and got to do some surfing; in hurricane Earl nonetheless. Then today it has been in the 90's if not 100's, so running was not an option. Instead, I went for a training session with a local endurance trainer who just finished his second Ironman this past weekend. So the running fell through, but I surfed, I picked up a number of good exercises for core training, and got some good insight into racing an Ironman.
The guy I trained with is Brian Bohrer and we worked out at Urban Fitness in Wilmington, NC. He used to own a shop that annually sponsored a local triathlon. Each year, they offered him a free entry into the race for sponsoring and after two years of turning it down, he decided to do it. He now works as an trainer and has completed two Ironman's, countless sprints, half a dozen half-Ironman's, and multiple marathons. He very much shares my feelings on the image of crossing that finish line; an incredible rush.
But anyways, I asked him what the hardest part of the triathlon is for him. At the Ironman distance, he said the bike. To me, the bike, while quite difficult to complete at a competitive pace (as any of the three portions are), I always think if I get incredibly tired, I can always coast for a bit. In the swim, if you want to take a breather, you've still got to tread water. On the run, you've got to keep standing (hopefully). What Brian pointed out was that the bike is the longest part of the race and due to the rules regarding drafting & passing zones, it is also the most solitary. It is roughly 6 hours of riding a bike at a competitive pace with no one to talk to but yourself; he says it gets very easy to convince yourself that you are ready to quit at that point. I had never thought of that aspect of the race. You can't talk on the swim, but it is the shortest portion (2.4 miles; 1-2 hours) of the race and also you are at your most energetic state. On the run (112 miles; 5+ hours), you have people you can talk to or at least run alongside. On the bike (26.2 miles; 5+ hours) , you are on your own.
Therefore, my take home message for today is that while group training is great for motivation, solitary training may be a more necessary component of the mental aspect of this race than I had previously realized.
One more evening of vacation. As far as when I get back, I would like to manage 3-4 morning runs a week along with 2-3 good core workouts (I'd like to focus on core workouts for this fall and really set a foundation for where I branch out to next), and 1 good weekend bike. I will let you know how ideal vs. realistic that goal is when I get there.