Achieve Your Best Race Yet: 17 Tips from Triathlon Champions
My wife and I were recently driving to Colorado for a week of R&R. On the drive we started talking about her father, who was an amazing man. Larry Giles. Raised in rural northern Alabama, his father died when he was a boy and so he quit school after eighth grade to run the farm with his mom and take care of his three sisters. He enlisted in the Air Force, flew in a B-17 and was shot down over Germany during WWll. He suffered in a POW camp for 13 months. He escaped via the underground posing as a deaf mute. Was recaptured and finally liberated at the end of the war.
What in the world does this have to do with triathlon/multi-sport? As we rolled west on the interstate, I had a massive wave of disappointment come over me. Disappointment in myself. In wasted time. I heard a bit of his story from time to time, but I never dug in and questioned him about his upbringing, his time in the military or his escape from the German camp. His life could be a Mark Walberg movie. But now, he’s gone.
I never said, “Hey dad, let’s grab coffee because I have a bunch of questions to ask you.” Never did that. What a fool I was. He carried a gold mine of wisdom and life experience I could have drawn on. I could be a better person and a better patriot like him, had I mined some of that gold. I was in my 20s and 30s and even into my 40s I never took that opportunity.
Who in your life carries a treasure trove of wisdom because they’ve been around the block of life WAY more times than you? Well, I’ve tapped into three amazing local athletes and asked them for a few tips. They are all between 70-80 years young and have been competing longer than many of you have been breathing. A book could be written about each of them, so what is shared here is mini-snippet of their accomplishments.
Mike Manna: Mike races in the 75-79 age group and is ranked fourth in the nation in duathlon! He was a scrawny 120 lb. young man when he decided to start lifting weights. He then became a weight lifter who ran. Then cycling friends got him going on two wheels and that of course, led to triathlons/duathlons.
He won his age group at Ironman Chattanooga this year. Just finishing an Ironman in the second half of your 70s in incredible! He’s worked out almost every day for the last 60 years!! Besides winning the 140.6 mile Chatty Ironman, another highlight was qualifying for and racing the Boston Marathon. You’ll see Mike at almost every local race, showing the youngsters what perseverance looks like!
Mike Huggenberger: This Mike started running when he was 29 yrs. old, overweight and out of shape. (His words.) His first run was 1.4 miles. In 1980 he did his first marathon in Lincoln and went 3:27 after which he promptly declared that it was his first and last marathon. Ha.
43+ years later he’s completed 100 marathons (six Bostons, three New Yorks and 26 Lincoln Marathons), 4 ironman distance triathlons, and so many shorter races in both sports that he’s forgotten most of them. His fastest 26.2 is a 2:46 finishing time at the Omaha Marathon one year – smokin’ fast!
And now, did we save the best for last??? Maybe!
Mariana Phipps: Ah yes! Mariana who just might have the most impressive endurance sports resume of any Nebraskan…ever! Boldly self-proclaiming she’s pushing 80, she has much to look back on and a lot of gems of wisdom to share. She started with swimming Masters in her 40s with a desire to stop smoking and get healthy. Several aquatic mates were runners so, she became one and presto, just like that she took First Place in her age group in her first marathon at 56 yrs. young. She went on to qualify for and race Boston eight times!
She’s raced Ironman Lake Placid six times and IM Florida but, get this…she raced the Hawaiian Ironman eight times, getting on the podium five times and winning her age group in 2005, breaking the A/G record! Yes, she’s an Ironman World Champion! Wow. She was sponsored by Zipp Wheels and Sugio race and workout apparel, tires by Michelin and Infinnt Nutrition getting her the fuels she needed.
Only God knows what kind of combined numbers you’d have if you combined the accomplishments of these three senior athletes. We should honor them and, learn from them.
What tips would they give us as we train and race? Here are 17 thoughts from these amazing athletes:
- Find people who are also looking for fun and comradery, be it running, swimming or biking.
- Set specific race goals and then build a training plan that will allow you to reach them. I am self-coached and I find that creating workouts that will challenge me and are actually fun to do and keeps my desire to train and complete at a high level. Also, I try to diversify my workouts.
- Pay close attention to diet and weight. Make an effort to consume a balanced diet that includes a variety of protein, fat, and carbohydrate sources, along with a few key supplements.
- Lots of strength training (i.e. time in the gym) to counteract the inevitable loss of muscle mass that comes from aging.
- Use today’s GPS watch technologies. I have a Garmin 955 watch and I am amazed at the amount of data that is available for all my workouts and what’s going on with my body
- Simply be thankful about being able to train and race.
- Take one day a week off to let your body heal and recover.
- Invest in Physical Therapy when you have an injury. If self-treatment and rest isn’t doing it, get professional help.
- More is not better. Don’t over train!
- You’ll make better progress with your own coach. I’ve made more progress the last three years and been injured way less since I started to be coached.
- Take an easy week about every four weeks to let your body recover before taking it up a notch in the next training block.
- Take down-time at the end of your race season. At least a full week.
- Invest in good equipment. Buy new running shoes as soon as your current ones start to break down. If you cycle then own a good bike that is appropriate for your racing.
- Cross train. If you are a runner, invest some training time in other sports.
- Stretch frequently.
- Do a good warmup before your race and cool down afterwards.
- Nutrition is more important than you might think. Fuel your body with quality foods.
As I said, a book could be written about these athletes. These three have a wealth of knowledge and would be glad to answer any questions you might have. They’re all on Facebook. Find them and ask away.
I don’t want to have the regret I mentioned early on in this blog. I want to seek the wisdom of those older and wiser than I am. I’d encourage you to do the same. Thanks Mariana, Mike and Mike for sharing a bit of your knowledge with us. You are all made of Iron!