My path into endurance sports…

A few things I notice ever since I ramp up my training:

i) I eat a lot. I am never full. I have to make sure I eat enough after the night workout so in the morning I have energy to train.
ii) 8-9 hours of sleep does wonder for the body. Wed morning I bailed my morning swim so I can get more snooze. Tues night I was feeling really tired (and cranky). After the long sleep, I am recharged.
iii) Recovery and stretches are important to keep the legs fresh.
iv) Volume wise, I am hitting the limit (or close to the limit). My body and lifestyle cannot absorb more training. 18 hrs/week is a point (or close to the point) where I am training long and not feeling burn out.

Can I hit the elusive 20 hours mark? Body wise, if I continue to train and stretch my aerobic base, 20 hours is very doable. Lifestyle wise, if I take one day off I can put it a second long ride. With a new job, that might not be a good idea (I rather save my holidays for Ironman).

I can’t say I won’t be happy if i train hit 20 hours a week. However, the focus is to keep my lifestyle align. As long as my lifestyle supports my training, I dont’ see why not.

Whenever someone ask me about training or how to start a marathon or a triathlon…I always give two tips: take it easy and make it fun.

Those two tips reminded of myself how I started into the world of endurance sports.

Before 2004, I am in fairly good shape. I lift weights in university (major bulking up). I also run on and off. I hadn’t touch a bike or swim for years. I run from 20 minutes to 50 minutes.


I bought my friend’s road bike in 2004. Everyday I would ride 2 hours after work. On the weekend, I would go long. Back then, there wasn’t any heart rate monitor, cadence or nutrition strategy.

Two bottles of water and just go. We would stop at McDonalds :0). It was a lot of fun. My longest ride was 112 miles.


I signed up for my first triathlon. The ‘training’ plan was very loose. I would bike one day and run the next. Sat, I would swim, bike and run. I figure I should reherase as close to the actual race as possible. I start drinking gatorade. The night before my triathlon..I caught the idea of doing an Ironman.
After my first triathlon (July 2005), I signed up for a marathon (Oct 2005). I follow and adapted an online training schedule. I started using a Heart Rate monitor but I didn’t follow any zones. I just kept my heart rate at 140s since that’s an easy pace for me. I started taking gels.

I had a bike accident which I lost a few teeth. Despit that I was still able to do a marathon. 5 hr 17 min :). 98% of the females in that race beat me…..(my friend still tease me about that :D).


After the marathon, I learnt how to swim freestyle. My goal was to do a Ironman in 2007….so it made sense to do a few Half Ironman for 2006.

I followed Joe Friel and Gordo’s philosophy on training. Training wise, I was serious. I pushed myself quite hard during 2006. As a result, there were a number of times when I almost burnt out by going too hard (here or here) . Luckily I suffered no injuries.

On the other hand, I am better at listening to my body and myself. Whenever I am getting cranky, that’s the first sign I need to back off. If I hadn’t overtrain last season, would I know what is the symptom of overtraining?

Last year was a blast. I did two Half Ironmans (Peterborough Half Ironman and The Canadian Half Ironman), one long course (Muskoka Long Course) and one triathlon (Toronto Tri). I met up with Darren and he showed me the hills in Orangeville. Still not following an actual plan or zones, I bonked often.

2007Starting this year, I had a number of responsibilities which kept my training down. I am a leader of my church’s young career fellowship. In Jan – Feb, I had to reduce training to take care of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I resigned my job end of Feb and went back to Hong Kong for March. 2006 I trained more consistently. 2007 I focused more on keeping my mental and emotional level steady. Whenever I feel stress and overwhelm, I back down. If work and other life issues comes up, training is drop down. I also kept my Heart Rate low. Zone 3 is as high as I go. The stuff that occupy my life earlier this year..might actually be good for me. At least I didn’t nuke myself early in the season. …so here I am. A few more weeks before my first Ironman. I am still surprise at how my body can bounce back with 8 hr sleep. This season, I have zero injuries, no burnt out and no sickness. These had been my goal for training. If I can stay away from those, I can continue on building my base. Other than my 7 hr brick with a 2 long run back to back, I have not dig deep once. I am saving that for the Ironman. I look back and still remember the days in 2004 when I first got my road bike and ride clipless. It was so much fun. So smooth. That’s the way to start, just go and have fun! I never plan too much. It is more imoprtant to not be a slave to a schedule, listen to the body and keep things relax. I am still tweaking the balance between discipline vs fun. Last Wed, I just decided to do a 3 km swim non stop just b/c I feel like it. I never see myself that I have to give up life to train. I don’t force myself go into crazy diet that I don’t enjoy. I simply change my lifestyle to fit into those things. I keep trying on different things discard those that don’t work for me. Example: Beets are great for you. I can’t stand stand the taste. So I stick with yam :)Whenever I talk about 5-7 hours rides, Orangeville, Hockley, Inglewood, Belfountain, Heart Lake Road, Mt Nemo (not really a mountain) comes to mind. These are places in my area just lovely to ride. Lots of empty roads, hills and lots of nice scenery. What’s next? I am not sure. I might do a marathon this fall. I probably sign up for Lake Placid next year. I look back and see where I started. My first triathlon was simply for fun. I didn’t even know why I signed up. I just know I can do one so I did. There wasn’t any deep philosophical thought on this. Who knew that I will be continue to stretch myself….and have fun doing it 🙂


By Cliff

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