Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chris Lieto diary: 'Hay is in the barn' as Ironman Championship nears

By Chris Lieto, special for USA TODAY

Wednesday, Sept. 29: Well, it has been a week on the island and the athletes are starting to show up. This is the busiest I have seen this island with Ironman athletes this far out from the race. Guess we all think alike, come out to a beautiful place for your final preparations and get acclimated to the weather. The temps here can be in the mid-to-upper 90s with high humidity, so it is important to acclimate as much as you can.

For me, this means hitting some key workouts in the heat of the day. I have had some great workouts during this time, including an hour-and-a-half run, which consisted of some tempo and hard intervals. My runs have included efforts like 1-mile intervals up to a 5-mile tempo run done at a fast pace while ensuring that I have fluid to take in every mile. You want to stress your body in the heat to get used to it, but you also don't want to deplete your body too much by dehydrating and getting low on minerals and electrolytes. Even though these last three weeks before the race include much less volume of training as compared to what I was doing in Mammoth for five weeks prior, it still makes for full and sometimes tiring days. These workouts are key in preparing both my body and mind for the race coming up.

Currently, I am focusing on speed workouts that sharpen my skills and allow for recovery opposed to the large aerobic workouts in Mammoth that were sometimes up to 6-and-a-half hours in duration. The hay is in the barn, and now it is time to make sure I can easily access that on race day and fine tune the fast twitch muscles.

You can't just sit back and rest for a couple weeks going into a race like the Ford Ironman World Championship because you will find yourself feeling flat and sluggish. You need to focus on keeping the body sharp and awake, while at the same time giving your body rest to be prepared for the long hard day ahead. It is a lot to think about and formulate, but my coach Matt Dixon, from Purplepatch Fitness, stresses about this for me and all I have to do is follow his plan that he lays out for me. When I am not out training, I am relaxing and making sure I am eating a lot of natural foods. It is critical to supply the body with good fresh vegetables, plenty of protein and carbohydrates to build my glycogen stores. You can't do all this the last two days before the race, so you need to be diligent and wise in how you train these last weeks and what you put in your body and make sure you get enough in at the same time. The days of carbo loading are over; it's about the steady, consistent fueling of your body on a daily basis and keeping your body healthy from the ground up that will allow you to perform at your best.

Taking care of your muscles and body is just as important and is why I have been getting daily massages and acupuncture treatments. This makes sure my muscles are loose and healthy to absorb the glycogen to be prepared for the next day's workout and recover from the prior day as well. About 10 days until the big race and things are going great. My body and mind are doing well, and really there's nothing more I can do. I just follow the plan and get in a couple shorter key workouts in and show up to the race.

There's still some gathering of minor equipment and tweaking of some components, like testing out the new drink system on my bike and deciding which model of my K-Swiss to race in — a pair of K-Ruuz which I have been racing in all year in the Ironman 70.3 distance or a brand new model coming out next year, the Kwicky, that feel amazing but have only run in two times so far. These shoes offer more cushion and support and may be the perfect shoe for race day. Down time is spent working with the More Than Sport team preparing the last-minute details to get everything together for the race and the post-race breakfast. We are encouraging people to get involved with this year's Ford Ironman World Championship by doing More Than Sport and sponsoring a child in need. Our goal is to get other athletes and fans to join in and sponsor 141 children in need in Africa, representing a child for each mile I will be racing on October 9.

During the race, I will think about what each of those children go through daily with the little they have. We are also hosting a breakfast and auction to benefit the children in need here in Kona. We race here every year and we should all join in and try to make a difference with the youth growing up here that could use our help. We want people to make a difference in each community they race in, like Kona, and around the world. Check out and be a part of my team or become an ambassador yourself and change a child's life forever.

— Chris

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