Ironman Florida 70.3 – How to Prepare?

The Ironman Florida 70.3, like all half-Ironman races, is awesome!

To answer the question of what it is like to compete in this race, I interviewed 3 participants who finished this Ironman Florida 70.3.

I was both inspired and humbled by their stories. Their words speak for themselves. I think you will enjoy them as well.

Ironman Florida 70.3 - Start Line
Ironman Florida 70.3 – Early Morning Starting Line

Lina’s Experience at the Ironman Florida 70.3

Lina Miller is a triathlete from the US. Every word of her interview could be posted on a personal wall of inspirational quotes.

She is such an encouragement to those of us who are triathletes. She is an inspiration to anyone who wants to get the most out of life. I am very grateful to have been able to interview her.

She was also one of the top finishers at Iroman Florida 70.3.

1. What drives me to compete in this race (Ironman Florida 70.3)?

Ironman Florida 70.3 - Lina's Ironman picture
She is an Ironman!

It’s a rest for me and I love the challenge. Pushing past your weaknesses.

Waking up and being excited to start the day with an attitude of gratitude that I can do this! Everyone needs a channel to turn to and this is mine.

It’s keeps me balanced, focused, and driven in a busy world. It’s my happy place.

2. How do you train for it? What mental preparation do you do?

I prepare mentally first and physically second. I wake up at 3:00/3:30 a.m. daily and train for 2-4 hours after first thinking about how I’m going to approach the workout to maximize the outcome. Everyday is different.

I choose daily to go the distance and I feel better because of it.

Training is the fun part, racing is the reward.

I get so much excitement from stating a race; telling myself “it’s no different than training”; visualize every aspect of the course; pray and believing the Lord’s going before me and then I begin in faith.

3. Did I meet any memorable people?

I have met so many memorable people. Those who have left a lasting impression are those I train with. They motivate, encourage, and uplift, placing no limits on what can be accomplished.

Some of them have been training, coaching, or racing for a long time and just to hear their journey is rewarding. Their hindsight becomes my foresight.

4. Did you learn something about yourself?

Ironman Florida 70.3 - Lina's Bike Picture

I learned that the only limitation is you.

Your body will keep going as long as your mind keeps cheering it on. You have to a start where you are and use what you have. You can handle more than you think.

5. If there was a moment you felt like giving up, what kept you going?

I asked myself during several races at one point, “why am I doing this?” And the answer was the same “because I can.” There’s something about leaving it all on the road and coming in refreshed!

6. What advice do I have for others who want to conquer this event?

Set your goals high. Stay committed. Do it because you love it and you’ll move from your heart…the rest of your body will follow.

Whit’s Experience at the Ironman Florida 70.3

The second story comes from Whit Anderson. She is a triathlete from the US. I absolutely love the answers to the questions I asked her. She is an inspiration to all us. And certainly a source of wonderful advice when it comes to Florida’s Ironman 70.3.

1. What drives you to compete at this type of race?

Ironman Florida 70.3 - Whit's Finisher Picture
She is an Ironman!

I started running about a decade ago and since then have also volunteered at a lot of races, tris, special olympic games, that type of stuff to essentially return the favor and still get in on the action and environment you find at these events.

I volunteered at the Raleigh 70.3 in 2015 and there was a guy there who was a firefighter trying to break a world record and raise money to provide assistance to hospitalized children and their families.

He completed the run portion in full gear which- if i remember right-was an additional 40 lbs of gear. And it was HOT. I remember watching him cross the finish line and was very inspired.

Fast forward a few years and my cousin begins getting into ironmans and tri coaching. He and his wife talked me into a olympic tri last august and of course, the next step could only be 70.3.

2. How do you train for the Ironman Florida 70.3?

I use a coach (Zach Hooker at @AlphaWhiskeyEndurance) which has been HUGE for accountability. I have run several marathons, an ultra, lots of shorter distance races all by my own training and I’m sure (I know) these things can all be done independently, however,

having a coach has been a complete game changer for me.

A very supportive family and friend base can be extra helpful too!!

3. What mental preparation, if any, do you do?

“Mind/Matter” “remember why you started” “trust the process”

….are my mantras that I use when those feelings of doubt creep in. Though I do firmly believe that physical preparation results in solid mental preparation. You put in the work and you’ve already hit the highs and lows (hopefully) during training.

4. Did you meet any memorable people at the Florida Ironman 70.3?

So many amazing spectators!! They were there for the heat, the RAIN, all of it.

The people of Haines City were so supportive and providing runners with nice cold hose water and sprinklers to run under.

That seemed to be GREATLY appreciated by all.

5. Did you learn something about yourself?

I was reminded to stay humble with new things no matter how prepared you think you are and how hard that work has been to put in. You can only simulate so much training and prepping for race day and sometimes, just like life, they don’t go to plan. But you keep on pushing forward.

6. If there was a moment that you felt like giving up, what kept you going?

The first couple miles of the run had me questioning if I was about to obtain my first DNF, have a meltdown or end up going for a nice 13.1 walk (sounds awful). Ended up walking up every hill – which I am sad to admit took a hit on my ego- but I quickly understood what needed to be done to ensure that my pride did not completely ruin this entire experience!

I will also mention that on the second lap of the run (after I had regrouped and told myself to quit being a baby) there was a gentleman on the course spectating and it was so bizarre what he said. Swear he was looking right at ME and told me that if I felt like giving up, to remember why I started. I’m sure that guy was a hero for a LOT of people that day.

7. What advice do you have for others who want to conquer this event?

To the people unsure if a 70.3 is for you…it is if you want it to be.

If you’re worried about the time it will take to achieve a goal like this -DON’T- The time will pass anyway. If there’s some goal or idea you have that you can’t ignore, it’s because you aren’t supposed to ignore it!! I am a completely ordinary person with no real athletic background, only some big ideas and a love for finish lines.

To this event specifically, I would point out that parking is street parking so if you set your sights on this race, arrive early. IM 70.3 Florida is also a great race for folks with families in tow and very close to Disney parks!

Sean’s Experience at the Ironman Florida 70.3

The second story comes from Sean Smith. He is a triathlete from Ireland who loves triathlons and pursuing excellence in all areas of his life. So, without further ado, here is Sean.

1. Sean, what drives you to compete at this type of race (Ironman Florida 70.3)?

 Sean Smith with his Medal
He is an Ironman!

I used to play soccer, training 3 times per week and a match every Saturday. I also ran a few times per month. This was regular for a number years but July 2010 I went water skiing and managed to badly tear my right ham string.

Injuries

I was 38 had already been thinking about retiring from soccer so that’s what I did, gave it up. Had I been younger I would have probably been asking for surgery to reattach it to allow me to continue playing. I actually gave sports up completely using my torn hamstring as my excuse.

Hamstring Nightmare

As well as my hamstring injury I also managed to injury my spine twice, the first being disc related S1 through S5 causing severe static nerve pain in my left leg for around 6 months, luckily I managed to avoid surgery and the second being a motorcycle crashing causing a compression fracture at T12 which only required a body brace.

At around the same time a good friend of mine, Simon Daly, was taking up triathlon, he’s now the chairman of Riada Triathlon Club, a local club from a town called Ballymoney here in Northern Ireland.

Next thing he has entered 2017 Copenhagen Ironman, an event I hadn’t even heard of.

The distances required amazed and intrigued me, I wondered had I not all the aforementioned injuries, could I complete an Ironman distance triathlon?

Inspiration to Start Running

So, one day in November 2016 I thought I would try running again. My right hamstring injury had healed but has left a dent about the size of a tennis ball and my right leg doesn’t work the way it used to, leaving me with a slight limp.

However, my first run was over 4 km, I had decided to log everything using Strava via my iPhone.

It took me 25 minutes. So, it was clear my speed was not great but I was really happy to be running again. Deep down I knew it wouldn’t be long before my fitness would return to a decent level and the extra weight I was carrying would reduce.

Triathlon, at an amateur level is, for the most part against yourself. Which suits me with a faulty leg and damaged spine. I should point out that my spine is healed but I now always treat it with the respect it requires.

So to answer your question; what drives me to compete? Well, all of the above!

Plus, I also really enjoy a challenge and love pushing myself in training. But, I also find it amazing what a human body is capable of.

Being able to recover from fairly significant injuries to a point where I am now able to cover 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42km run all one after an other and that’s not to mention the ability to cover a not insignificant amount of training relatively pain free.

I also didn’t realise that I love getting medals!

2. How do you train for it (Ironman Florida 70.3)?

Lots of training was my first thought, which of course is a correct answer, but now that I am actually thinking I realise the way in which I train is significant. So I’ll try to keep this as short as I can.

When I started triathlon I only aimed for sprint distance. So, all of my training was short with no regard to heart rate or diet.

Getting a Coach

That changed dramatically once I entered 2018 Ironman Zurich. I employed the expertise of a coach who helped guide my training. But, this was only geared towards getting me over the finish line. Which is perfect for a first timer, but now that I have the experience and the knowledge that I can actually complete an Ironman I have changed the way I train.

I now train where I feel comfortable.

Training Based on How He Feels

What do I mean by this?

Well, when I was training for Ironman Zurich, I seldom allowed my heart rate to rise above 140 bpm. But, now I almost completely ignore my HR and run and bike to where I feel will allow me to complete the training session without leaving myself completely knackered.

For me, it really is as simple as that. I do keep a check on my HR during every run and bike training session but also pay much more attention to my perceived exertion by checking my breathing rate and just how “heavy” my legs are feeling, and of course other signals my body is feeding back to my brain.

I then adjust my pace or exertion accordingly.

Train Twice a Day – 3 to 4 Times per Week

I also find training twice a day 3 or 4 times time per week also really helps.

So an example of a week training would be:

  • Monday – rest
  • Tuesday- 2km swim at noon, 1 or 1.5 hour on turbo trainer at 7pm.
  • Wednesday – 10km run at noon, 1 hour on turbo trainer at 7pm.
  • Thursday – 2km swim at noon, either 1 or 1.5 hour on turbo trainer or 5 or 10km rum at 7pm.
  • Friday – either a 1 or 2 km swim (depending how I feel)
  • Saturday – long run of up to 20km followed by a 1 km swim. Usually starting at 9am and sometimes fasted.
  • Sunday – 1 or 1.5 hours on turbo trainer with a 5km run brick session at 7pm.

I would also sometimes do my Saturday run of between 15 and 20 km fasted or practicing my race nutrition and hydration.

Keeping well hydrated and properly fed throughout the week is also important to me and I would look upon this aspect as training also.

That said I am addicted to sugar and this is one area I can definitely improve on in my training.

3. What mental preparation, if any, do you do for Ironman 70.3 Races?

Luckily for me, I do not have that much problem with motivation. I find this easy. As I said before, I like the challenge and enjoy pushing myself in training.

I guess my mental preparation comes down to…

the feeling I get when the volunteer on the other side of the finish line puts that medal over my head and says, “Well done!

4. Did you meet any memorable people at the Ironman Florida 70.3?

The Fire Fighter in Full BA Gear

It was on my second lap about 1600m in that I noticed a fire fighter running.

I thought there had been a call and that they were unable to get their truck in to the course. To be honest I was quite confused!

But, as I looped round part of the housing area the course took us through it became apparent she had been running to offer assistance to a fallen competitor who, to be honest didn’t look too well and as I ran past seemed to be going unconscious. I didn’t stop as there were already 3 other competitors and a fire fighter giving first aid.

The job they were doing was amazing. And I hoped the stricken athlete made a full recovery, I take my hat off to those who helped.

Before I left Lake Eva that day, I saw 3 other competitors being given first aid for what I believe was heat related and dehydration.

I heard after I had finished that the amazing fire fighter was running one lap in full breathing gear in almost 90 degree heat in recognition of a fellow fire fighter who is ill. I thank her and fellow personnel for their service. Truly inspiring!

The Man Who Didn’t Need Goggles

One guy that sticks out for me, was the man beside me in transition at the 2019 Ironman Florida 70.3. He was talking, it turns out to himself, asking where his goggles were. I replied saying, “I can’t see them.”

He had left them back at his apartment and clearly had no time to go get them, he said that he regularly trained without goggles and would be fine without them. I doubted this thinking. Who would train without goggles?

He looked very confident in his statement so I also thought, “Fair play to him.” As he certainly didn’t looked too annoyed or phased at the fact he had no goggles for the 1.9 km swim in the murky-green water of lake Eva. Had I had a spare set with me I would have let him use them.

5. Did you learn something about yourself at the Ironman Florida 70.3?

 Sean at the Starting Line

I have always been quite a confident person when it comes to any sports. But, please don’t confuse this with arrogance.

I’m am “just okay” at most sports. I can pick up a tennis racket or golf club and be “okay” at swinging it even being able to hit the ball in the general required direction or hold a shotgun and knock 5 out of 10 clay pigeons out of the sky or lace up a pair of soccer boots and be able to score 10 or 11 goals a season from midfield but that’s the problem for me, I’m “just okay”. I would much prefer to be useless at all sports with the exception of being “good” at only one or two.

I’m am “just okay” at most sports …. The thing that I have learned about myself is knowing now what I know and enjoy about triathlon, it would be this sport that I would pick to be “good” at

The thing that I have learned about myself is knowing now what I know and enjoy about triathlon, it would be this sport that I would pick to be “good” at. And I wish I had taken the opportunity to take part in triathlon in my teenage years, I had a couple of friends who did them but I didn’t even go to watch.

I have also learned that one bike is never enough.

Support Staff – Having an Awesome Spouse

I think more importantly though, is what I have learned about my wife Briege.

Briege is more than understanding when my training volume increases considerably a few months before either the full or half distance events. It can peak at 16 hours per week with between 10 – 13 hours weeks being common for around 12 weeks.

6. If there was a moment that you felt like giving up, what kept you going?

Not at the Ironman Florida 70.3 …. But at the Zurich Ironman

Near the end of the 2nd of 4, 10km laps of 2018 Zurich Ironman, I stopped with my wife, her Mum, Mary, and our two kids, Rachel (6) and Olivia (4), who I had dragged along with me for moral support.

A Cautionary Tale

For some unknown reason, I had signed up for the full Ironman distance with only having done only 2 seasons of triathlon, and more importantly, only 1 Olympic distance. So, I really had only my training to rely on for Zurich and no experience of long distance events.

I had only ran a couple of half marathons before and as part of my training had taken part in TriAthy. Which is a double Olympic distance event here in Ireland.

Although I never doubted I could finish Zurich beforehand, I really didn’t allow for the distance. A full distance Ironman really is a long way. Anyway, when I stopped with my family I was ready to quit and told them all as such.

I mean I still had over 20km, well over 2 hours of running to do; my weakest discipline by far due to my hamstring. And at this point in an Ironman, my spine was starting to get sore at T12 and S1 through S5, but not sore enough to prevent me from continuing.

The Rally

I actually laid down on a park bench just out of sight of the finish line that you had to run past 3 times before the 4th lap being allowed to enter the finishers chute. When I laid down, I felt a few clicks in the middle of my back and I received instant relief as things obviously realigned. Not to mention the overwhelming nauseous feeling in my stomach, or the extreme tiredness in my legs, or the fact that my HR was sitting at around 140 bpm.

But, my run pace was at around 8 min/km. I use the word run in a very loose sense of the word as there was probably more walking than running at this point. But this is what an Ironman can do to you. It will reduce you to a self doubting, long distance walker who wants to give up and then throw up!

When my wife said I was close to finishing and soon I would be an Ironman. She said not to give up at this late stage, and not to dare to put the hours of training to waste. My daughters Rachel and Olivia were giving me high fives at this point. All this was enough to lift my spirits and keep me moving forward.

“A Battle in My Mind”

It became a battle in my mind between the pain of 12 hours of exertion with over an hours running still to complete, my will power, and being able to remain positive by focusing on that finish line and the fresh memories of seeing my supportive family who were on this journey with me. All these things were required to keep me, an amateur, going.

What advice do you have for others who want to conquer the Ironman Florida 70.3?

The advise I would offer anyone is based on my own experience.

  • Get a training plan but don’t be afraid to modify it as you go along to suit your life and family.
  • Eat as much good food as you can. I have a couple of simple rules that I employ for the most part when it comes to diet.
  • Stay away from processed food and if it has more than one ingredient then think carefully if you really want to eat it.
  • But also don’t be scared to eat that ice cream or have a beer in moderation. A complete contradiction I know but we are mostly unpaid athletes after all with real lives.
  • For your first half or full distance event think about using a coach or joining a club as they will have the knowledge to get you over the start line at least.
  • It’s up to you if you want to finish it enough.
  • Concentrate on your weakest disciplines but don’t forget about the others.

This is What it’s Like to Train and Race at the Ironman Florida 70.3

Being an Ironman is so much more than being a participant at a triathlon. From the daily physical training, mental preparation, nutritional needs, and the coaching to the will to keep going no matter how one feels; being an Ironman is a way of enjoying life.

I feel privileged to have been able to interview these extraordinary people who happen to be Ironmen. Through their words, my hope is that it inspires each of us to find that will to keep going. I hope we all continue to inspire joy and accomplishment to all of those around us in our everyday lives.

The Ironman Florida 70.3 is a race of champions.

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