Ironman Training at age 57

Posted by Michael Stearns on May 13th 2016

Jan Guenther and Ironman Training at age 57

Another blog so soon you say? Well this blog was supposed to go first, to introduce those who might be interested in what I was doing before I start the “training installments”. Listed below are reasons why I decided to do an Ironman again five years after racing Madison and at last year not racing any triathlons.

As background, I started embracing triathlons way before I knew how to cross country ski, about 33 years ago. In 1983. I completed the 2.5 years of the Kellogg School of Business, quit my serious telecommunications job and purchased a bike store outside Chicago with friends. And I jumped headlong into triathlons after not really swimming, biking or running. I completed the 1985 Hawaii Ironman when Powerbars were not invented, Scott aerobars had not surfaced until 1987 I think (or at least they did not hit the Midwest until my friend Jilly whiting got a prototype). Clipless pedals were a product of the future and there was no such thing as a good fitting women’s bike for those of us under 5’5”. Thus begun a lot of racing of Ironmans, paddling of canoes for other various water triathlons and learning how to xc ski.

Fast forward a zillion years and I am writing a blog about training for my last Ironman. I wrote previous blogs about the struggle of balancing work, family and athletics. I did so because a lot of my customers think what I do is easy for me; that the mix of my store, my kids and racing all seem to come out ok in my life. And that is not really true. It is a challenge, perhaps more than I let on. But I must like the stress because I keep on trying to do it all. Yet I do miss out on a lot of other activities that I plain do not have time for, such as certain social activities and following my other passions such as drawing. What I really hope is that you readers write in about what works for you and how you achieve balance and maintain excitement in your lives.

Picking up from last year, most importantly, we finished the new Gear West Alpine building (see prior blogs) and all alpine, soccer, lacrosse, long board and casual clothing inventory has been moved into the new stand-alone retail building just 500 feet from Gear West Run & Ski. The vision of a Gear West Specialty Sports Campus is done! (Not really, nothing is ever “done” when one owns their own business). I should say, one GIGANTIC worry is alieved. Conceiving and finishing this new Alpine building took two years of stressful decisions, scary loans and hard work to reach a goal that I am never sure was or is the right answer to my retail ‘Brick and Mortar’ challenges.

Anyway, due to me having a few hours of extra time, I signed up for Wisconsin Ironman, again. Even though i said, “Never again.” I am slightly burnt out on jumping into cold water lakes and scrambling to organize triathlon gear on Friday nights after work. So why did I do it at the ‘mature’ age of 57?

I am not sure! Most likely, because I still can, although the knees are starting to say, “not really”. One reason is to experience and write a blog on how different it is to train/race in my late 50’s. Other reasons are:

1) To Have fun with old friends. My girlfriend of nearly 40 years will join me one last time to complete IM Wisconsin together. We have so much fun preparing for the event that I am sure I use too much pre-race energy laughing at our pre-race antics. Madison’s farmer’s market and Marigold’s breakfasts almost make IM Wisconsin worth all the stress. I join her for training rides in Madison that I normally would not take the time to do and I get to re-experience gaping at all the milfoil in Lake Menona before it magically disappears IM week. I also will make time to enjoy biking training on the IM hills (five hills of “consequence” as my friend identifies them) and stopping for food, pictures and memories of how we fast we ‘used to do things’.

2) To Increase motivation in all areas of my life! (I hope). I have big plans (many of which I still have not committed to yet : Less sugar! Healthy smoothies! Maybe even a juice fast! Swimming in the early mornings. Biking more than once a week. Eating less chocolate. Improving time management. Just feeling fit and strong! So many areas to improve and I think, doing an IM will solve them all!! Basically I am challenging myself to see IF I can become more disciplined and IF improved healthiness and dietary focus (should that happen!) will make me feel stronger and younger...

3) To feed my curiosity of just how to train at age 57 to minimize injury and retain energy. As mentioned earlier, I completed my first Ironman at age 25 in Hawaii and filled the years after with long distance runs, xc skiing, Olympic xc ski trials, more ironmans and all types of triathlons, paddling and outrigger races... kids, retail, family . Training for these events was all about how much time I could devote to the sport around responsibilities, with the adage, ‘more would always be better’. Now my body is tender. It screams maintenance! Longer recovery, better nutrition, more sleep, foam rolling, softer running shoes, yoga, chiropractic services.... an occasional massage. I question what positive impact I can make on my life if I concentrate on being better organized, eating less baked goods, going to bed earlier, adjusting all training programs to minimize soft tissue aches,—all that discipline stuff to see if I can pull off an injury free, positive race experience at the Ironman. I know that just adding more MILAGE to my biking and running workouts will injure me; I have to thoughtfully feel out what I can handle that will build me up, not tear me down.

4) To satisfy my psychological Issues! Why DO I feel the need to add triathlons back into my lifestyle? Addressing that could turn my blog into a therapy session so I most likely will avoid answering the question entirely. I will say, it may be mentally healthier than attempting an ultra-trail race (which was in the back of my mind). What I do recognize is that I am extremely fortunate not to suffer from debilitating arthritis, cancer or other ailments. I embark on this summer venture with appreciation of my health and my energy, good friends and all the running shoes I have at my disposal. So thus begins my journal entries.

Please join me with your thoughts and contributions to training, health and goal setting, be it triathlons or other adventures you embrace.

-Posted by Michael Stearns on May 13th 2016