A triathlete friend asked me on FB about how much time I put in training for my ironman. I think he was looking for a hard number of hours per week. Here is my response:
It would be tough for me to guess the hours training. The key was to get an alternate workout in almost every day. I'd try to get a long run in mid-week and ride long on the weekends to separate the longest workouts. Other than that, it was trying to swim 2X during the week with a long open water swim on the weekend on the off bike day. The other days were 10K runs and 25 mile rides. Rest days thrown in where needed. I liked the Olympic brick as the occasional test of fitness level. I also scheduled a HIM about 2 months before my IM as a gut check and a forced fitness training level to jump up to the full IM training. I only did two 20 mile training runs and 2 century rides, scheduling them in alternate weeks. This may all have been overkill, but I was afraid of being under prepared.
I realize that's not a direct answer to your question. As for time training, it eats up most of your free time. You can still do some socializing, but I found myself excusing myself from parties early for next day workouts and missing most of my son's soccer season. It's not a balanced life, but with an understanding and supportive spouse, plus good workout buddies, its doable. In fact, knowing the goal you are striving towards, the training is enjoyable. I often describe triathlon training as a lifestyle; IM training is just more so. This much I can assure you: you will be in the best shape of your life.
This weekend I'm scheduled to act as support crew for a guy running the Keys 100 Race, a running event from Key Largo to Key West. I volunteered for this duty based on my desire to give back to the sport where I've benefited from the help of so many others in supporting events that I've participated in over the years. The whole "Pay It Forward" concept. That, and the fact that I'm contemplating doing a 50 mile ultra run as my foray into these beyond the marathon events. I figured the crewing would be a learning experience for me to understand what ultra running is about.
In any event, I was in loose contact with my runner for the last month. His name happens to be Bill also. Sunday night, as I lay in bed, it hits me: This is a major undertaking; both for the runner, and for me in support. It's best to have at least 2 people as part of a support crew for an ultra runner. One person to drive; one person to jump out and take care of the runner. I inquired around and tried to recruit a second crew member, but it looks like this will be a solo crewing effort.
As I started thinking about my duties and the supplies I'll need to help support my runner, I was thinking about how extreme a 100 mile run seems to me. While it will be a bit of a marathon event for me keeping awake and assisting my runner for from 20 to 22 hours (his own predicted finish time), it's going to be a Herculean event for him. As I thought about the night running involved in a 100 miler, I started wondering: Isn't a 5K or a sprint triathlon enough of a workout? Why do we keep upping the ante to the half marathon, the marathon, the HIM and the IM distances? Why on earth do people do ultra running events? Why do we go long?
In answering my triathlon buddy's inquiry, I think I answered my own question. It's in the dedication of training for an event so long that not everybody is willing to make the sacrifices needed to make these longer events a possibility. It's about the planning and execution of the training plan to achieve the goal on race day. It's also about the anticipation and nervousness as race day approaches. And it's ultimately about crossing the finish line of an event that you know took months of preparation to make that crossing a reality.
Circular reasoning perhaps, but in answering my friend's inquiry about IM training, I renewed my sense of excitement and joy in the dedication and training it took to achieve the IM distance.
Why do we go long? Because it's hard, but we are up to the task.