Training Takes a Village

I’m training for Ironman Louisville in 2018, working to finish the race approximately 10 years after being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and getting off the couch. I started working toward this race in 2016 with the support of family and friends (even when they think I’m crazy). But outside of that, I’ve assembled a team of professionals who are helping me get to the start line in October.

In 2015, I told my run coach that I wanted to do an Ironman in 2016, when I turned 40. He had the chutzpah to tell me that I had a math problem — I couldn’t make the time cutoffs along the way. After a brief temper tantrum, I refocused and decided to pursue 2018, the 10th anniversary of my diabetes diagnosis.

An Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run. You must finish within a 16 or 17 hour timeline depending on the race. Those who finish in the top few slots in their age group qualify to register for the World Championships in Hawaii. I’m going for a finish, not qualification! To do that, I have a team of people that will help me get to the start of the Ironman Louisville.

Here’s Team Anise and how it has evolved over time:

Head Coach/Master Yoda — my run coach turned into my triathlon coach. He has coached other triathletes, including World Championship qualifiers, and his wife, who is a multi-time Ironman finisher. He is the lead consultant/planner of Team Anise and schedules my run and bike workouts in Training Peaks. He also gets the brunt of my training psychosis. He is a critical partner and this relationship is key to my success. There has to be trust; goals need to be shared. I have that with him.

Swim Coach — Master Yoda admits he’s not a great swim coach, so I turned elsewhere for that. This is one area where there has been change in the past two years. After 18 months working and improving with my swim coach, I stopped making progress and I wasn’t getting the communication I needed. So I went through an interview process for a new coach, asking a lot of questions about philosophy, communication and relationships with athletes. I decided to work with the coach of a group I open water swim with. Since this change about three months ago, which included a change in philosophy/approach, I’m again seeing progress in swim pace and form. I swim three days a week, usually at a YMCA.

Sport Dietitian(s) — I started working with a sport dietitian in 2010 after a few DNFs where my blood sugar wasn’t well-manged. As if race day nutrition isn’t hard enough, try throwing diabetes into the mix! I needed help approaching nutrition for endurance sports. I have continued the relationship as the length of races increased and the type of races changed. In 2016, I started working with my sport dietitian on weight management/loss, trying to work toward “race weight.” Currently, I’m also working with another dietitian on food sensitivity testing (at the recommendation of my regular dietitian). Stay tuned!

Personal Trainer(s) — I am good at being accountable on my own with cardio, but I am ridiculously bad at lifting or doing strength work on my own. For me, a personal trainer is a MUST. One of my running teammates is a personal trainer and I started working with her once a week. For a while, I also did group classes like TRX for a second strength session each week. Now, I’m working with a second personal trainer on core and stability. Trainer 2 is at my Y and is a fellow triathlete. He’s working with me on tri-specific core, stability/balance and flexibility.

Sports Psychologist — This August, I added another member to the team, a well-regarded sports psychologist. I experience a lot of negative self-talk and judgement from others about being obese and relatively slow. To make it to the Ironman finish line, I need to believe that I can. Shoring up my mental game is an ongoing process, and I meet with the sports psychologist about once a month. Between sessions, I journal, do guided relaxation before bed and read lots of books on the topic.

Yoga Instructor — Here I’m a little more loose with my commitment. I mostly practices at one studio, but I choose classes based on my schedule and the class type more than who is teaching. Right now I’m mostly doing Yin or Heated Vinyasa Flow.

Husband/Spouse/Partner — This is the one everyone says, and I don’t want to sound trite. But when you’re talking about training for an Ironman, it’s a part-time job. I am super fortunate that Mr. Anise does the cooking and dishes, the grocery shopping, the laundry (and pays WAY more attention to care tags than I do), and minimizes the eye rolling and commentary on my spending related to training, coaching, racing and travel. It helps that he cycles a few times a week and practices yoga several times a week…and bowls in a league. My extended family also humors me with purchases from my Amazon wishlist even when they have no idea what the thing is used for.

There are also some people on Team Anise with supporting roles that are less frequent and as needed:

  • Physical Therapist — When I notice a niggle, I work with my PT to get on top of it before it becomes an injury. And when I am injured, my PT gets me back in gear quickly.
  • Massage Therapist — I love my massage therapist. So much. I schedule massages after big/key races and periodically for maintenance.
  • Chiropractor — I learned several years ago that having a chiro who gets athletes is important. My first one kept telling her to stop training. Um, no. Then I went to a running teammate for several years but his office location wasn’t convenient, so I recently made a change. Both have been great and keep my SI joint where it belongs.
  • Podiatrist — I have some ongoing foot issues and with the diabetes, I have to be mindful of neuropathy. I see my podiatrist (who is a runner) as needed to address issues and I get a regular checkup.
  • Endocrinologist — Because of the diabetes, I work with my endo to be sure my medication is working with — and not against — my training and blood sugar management goals. He receives copies of my training logs as well as blood sugar logs to be able to identify issues. Diabetes also changes over time, so even when something was working, it may not continue working.

Who are the professionals in your village? How do they help you get to your goals?

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  1. This is SO brilliant! Thank you for sharing. I’ve long believed that to chase BHAG, we all need a team behind us but so many “recreational” runners are reluctant to take themselves seriously enough to think they are worth it. I’m sure everyone’s team will look a bit different, but it’s really helpful to get an inside glimpse at one person’s team. And 1000x yes to the role of spouse/partner/husband. I’m so excited to follow your journey to Ironman status!

  2. I remember when Darla Torres was training again for Olympics and she had her own entourage to help her body on a daily basis. While at the time it seemed excessive it makes so much sense. My key for running (and especially working with some long-standing hamstring issues) is my Gyrotonics instructor; massage therapist; sometimes acupuncturist; and a spouse who is runner/bicyclist and keeps us up to date on nutrition and diet…and says “why no?” when I question whether I can do something. I’ve used running coach in the past but seem my goal distances are the same (although still trying for PRs even as I get older) I primarily use books and my training programs from other races.
    Good luck on the Ironman: very impressive goal!