Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

Endurance Race Training

Taking On The Ironmana KXT Liquid Festival

You're not an endurance racer. You haven't been in a race since high school. But you're going for it. You've signed up for an endurance race, and not just any endurance race—the Ironmana KXT Liquid Festival—one of the most challenging events in all watersports.

Oh, and by the way, you only have two months to train. Ready, go.

Just shy of two months ago I found myself in this very scenario. I was offered an assignment in Tahiti, the only contingent: that assignment is the Ironmana, a grueling multi-discipline, multi-day waterman’s event on the French Polynesian island of Bora Bora. It’s all happening November 29 through December 4, and I just lucked into a last-minute invite. Holy smokes.

I didn't sleep well the night after receiving the offer. The challenge at hand consumed me. This event is for real badasses, pro distance paddlers—prone and standup—top triathletes and Olympic swimmers. The event’s mottos are "Go deeper," and "Expect nothing, be prepared for everything." Four days of swimming unthinkable distances (competitors went roughly eight miles in the swim portion last year) and paddling well beyond usual boundaries in the Tahitian heat. I'm an active but casual paddler, dedicated but mediocre surfer, fit but barely fit athlete with a faint history of injuries and plenty of room for improvement. Who am I to compete with such valiant extremists in such an esteemed arena? Then again, who am I to pass up a trip to Tahiti, or a definitive reason to get healthy as can be?

I spent a few days weighing my odds before making my decision. What's the worst that could happen? I get a free trip to Tahiti? I get to train and compete with my idols? I get in great shape? I break mental and physical barriers? I break myself? I get beat? I don't finish? I get injured? I get lost in the great blue abyss of the Tahitian sea, never to be found?

One truth overshadowed all my hopes and fears: you'll never know if you never try.

My decision was made. Of course I'm going for it. And despite all this anxious trepidation, I'm more excited than I can remember being since boyhood. The pursuit feels purposeful. Maybe it's a turning point for me. Maybe I'll embrace a new identity as an endurance athlete. Maybe I'll have a spiritual awakening in Tahiti. All I know is I've been blessed with an incredibly special and likely life-changing opportunity to take part in something few people will ever experience. An opportunity to learn and grow in unprecedented ways. To hurl myself into a firestorm of betterment.

Visiting heaven to go through hell, it’s gotta build character, right? Aspiring to mental and physical challenges beyond our perceived abilities is the practice of progress. I've been training hard for a month and a half now and I feel better than ever. Besides, I'm a firm believer in that old cliché: what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Gulp.

I see it as a duty and an honor, if only to myself, to give the Ironmana my best shot. Let's face it: I could be better prepared. Two months is not enough time to train for such an event. Entering an ultra-waterman’s event when you've never done an endurance race before is not recommended by your doctor (I checked). But I am preparing, and I'm giving it everything I've got. Whatever that is will be enough.

The preparation I'm undergoing is an immense learning process, one that's been very valuable to me and one I feel should be shared. So, I’ll be releasing a series of posts over the next few weeks surrounding my scenario—an amateur preparing for an endurance race with little time. A casual, fast-track guide to fitness, if you will. The coverage will relate to the common paddler, because that's what I am; training, conditioning, nutrition and nourishment for an efficient and rapid increase in fitness and strength. Tips to creating a checklist to get your body ready and a fitness plan that fits your lifestyle, training around a full-time job, exercise efficiency, realistic regiments and proper nutrition. Consider it my "Endurance Racing For Dummies" manifesto, the journal of a greenhorn getting serious about getting in shape. I hope it helps—both you and me. Maybe next year we'll both go for the Ironmana.

Mike Misselwitz, Digital Editor


See Also

Official 2016 Ironmana KXT Liquid Festival Trailer

From The Mag: Tahitian Dream, The Ironmana Experience