Road to IRONMAN Texas: Early Season Racing

Not that anyone's counting, but as I sit down to write this article it's approximately five months, 11 days, 19 hours and 55 (54...53...52...) seconds until the cannon goes off in The Woodlands, Texas.

Okay, I'm counting, and race day is starting to creep up on me faster than we're losing daylight.

The Memorial Hermann IRONMAN North American Championship Texas (whew!) is the first IRONMAN event of the year in the country. I chose it based on its locale--I recently moved to Dallas, so I wanted to save money on travel. That was about the extent of my thought process.

More: Road To IRONMAN Texas: Signing Up

It takes place in May, and since I don't mind the heat, it sounds perfect. But what I failed to consider is the 6-month training lead-in is during the coldest--not to mention shortest--time of the year.

This was probably a blonde moment on my part and, when you have a full time job, logic says training occurs either before or after work. In the summer, this isn't a big deal. In the winter, though, it's dark when I wake up and dark when I get off work.

Where's the time to train in that!?

I shouldn't really be complaining--most of the country is snowed in during this time of year. My warm, shorts-year-round Southern California blood is just dramatic, but sometimes staying indoors sounds more fun than layering up and facing the low 40-degree, wet Dallas weather.

But in all seriousness, when do athletes train for early season races?

After talking to other athletes, reading forums and learning simply by trial and error, there is a method in the madness.

First, the swim.

This one's easy. If you have access to an indoor pool, nothing changes--just swim before or after work. If you have to swim outdoors, double up on swim caps and have loose fitting clothing ready near the edge of the pool (or be prepared for a cold sprint to the locker room).

More: An IRONMAN's Fall From Grace

Second, the bike.

I prefer not to ride outside in the dark with only my bike lights. This limits my weekday training to mind-numbing indoor spins on the trainer after work. Although this takes the fun out of actually riding a bike, there are a few tricks to make it slightly more enjoyable.

More: Road to IRONMAN Texas: Starting a Routine

Set up a "pain cave" with your bike already set on the trainer to decrease prep time. Distractions are the name of the game--prop up a TV or laptop (and some fans) and veg out on Netflix marathons, watch training videos like Sufferfest or try virtual reality engagement like Zwift. Each is progressively more immersive and will make the hours in the saddle more enjoyable. To break up the scenery, attend a spin class at your local gym. They're surprisingly tough.

Even though trainer workouts are monotonous, its relentless nature can help build fitness really quickly. A 50-mile indoor ride will make a 50-mile outdoor ride feel like a breeze. Plus, all those weekday trainer spins will keep you looking forward to those long, outdoor weekend rides.

Third, the run.

Sometimes I just don't like running in the cold and the dark. Similar to spinning on a trainer, a treadmill is an effective pre- or post-work indoor option. Make the experience a little more exciting by playing with the elevation and pace. Since you're in a controlled environment, this is a great time to work on form and mechanics and follow different interval workouts to maximize fitness gains.

Although inconvenient and less enjoyable, training indoors around a full-time work schedule is possible. Creating a weekly plan will help keep you on track and on target for a great IRONMAN experience.

Keep up with my current progress on Twitter (@nystrummin and @active) and on Instagram (@nystrummin and @activedotcom).

Interested in starting your own IRONMAN journey? Check out IRONMAN.com for a race near you.

About the Author

Michael Nystrom

Michael Nystrom is the triathlon editor for Active.com. A California native, Michael graduated from the University of Southern California with a master's degree in journalism. He has done several sprint- and olympic-distance triathlons, raced Ironman 70.3 California and raced Ironman 140.6 Arizona. Follow Michael on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.

Michael Nystrom is the triathlon editor for Active.com. A California native, Michael graduated from the University of Southern California with a master's degree in journalism. He has done several sprint- and olympic-distance triathlons, raced Ironman 70.3 California and raced Ironman 140.6 Arizona. Follow Michael on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.

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