Growing up, I had always been active in sports, bodyweight exercises, and a little bit of resistance training. The first time I had any exposure to endurance activity was when I joined cross country in my junior high school year. I became decent but not great because I don’t exactly have the best genetics for endurance running. I believe I was the largest person on the team. But I showed up to every practice, gave my best effort, and during my senior year, I got myself to a sub-20-minute 5k. I continued running from there on out because I learned to love it.
Training & Preparation for My First Ironman Race
I’ve had ambitions to do an Ironman for a long time, and I decided to start training for one during college. I knew next to nothing about doing so. I decided to buy a 9-month minimalist Ironman training program by Ben Greenfield. Even with a minimalist training program, I committed 10-14+ hrs/ week to steady-state and intense interval-training for cardio. Any kind of resistance training I did was extra. I also watched swimming and biking tutorials online to improve my form.
First Half Marathon
In 2017, as part of my Ironman training, I registered for a Thanksgiving Half Marathon called Thankful 13. I gave it everything, and in the latter portion of the race, I puked partly because my pre-race meal was a little too much, and my legs cramped up at the end. Despite that, I got 2nd place in my age group and finished with around 1 hour and 30 minutes.
I had no coaching or special equipment. I just had running shoes, swimming goggles, and fins. All of my swim training was in an indoor pool at vasa gym. Since I don’t have a road bike, all of my bike training got done on a stationary gym bike. There were days that the program would call for 100-mile bike rides, I would do 100 miles on a Tour De France stationary bike, and it would take me up to 7 hours. Talk about doing something that is both boring and hard. My running was outdoors or on a treadmill, and I occasionally went for a 20-mile run.
After about a year of doing this, in 2018, I signed up for the St. George Ironman 70.3. It is the most challenging half Ironman in North America because of the uphills. It happened to be the closest Ironman race location to me, which is why I decided to sign up for it. I purchased a biking suit, biking shoes, and a cheap wetsuit from Amazon in preparation for the Ironman race.
My First Ironman 70.3
As for the bike, I just did a cheap road bike rental from Cedar City, which is 20 minutes from St. George. I showed up to St. George the day before the race, and honestly, I wasn’t sure I could even do an Ironman. I was excited and nervous at the same time.
I arrived at the tent setups at St. George to pick up my packet, which contained my racing bib, swim cap, and shirt. I loved the environment, tents, and shop setup they had, and I hung around and listened to speakers giving race day advice. St. George is also one of my favorite places because of its scenery. Of course, I practiced riding on a real road bike for the first time and took a swim in the Sand Hollow Reservoir, where the race’s swim portion is. At the end of it, I had my bike and all my gear set up at the running and biking transition stations.
Race day comes, and I had to wake up at 430 am and didn’t get all the sleep I wanted, but it didn’t make a difference because I was so anxious, nervous, and excited. I went on one of the busses that transported all the participants to the starting point. Upon arrival at the Sand Hollow Reservoir, I had to wait a while to check-in for the race. At the start of the race, they have everyone jump in the lake row by row, starting with the most elite swimmers down to the slowest at the end. And with nearly 2k participants, that process takes about 2 hours. I was somewhere in the middle because I estimated that my swim time would be somewhere from 40-45 min.
Sure enough, my time comes, and I jump into the cold water, and that’s when your timer starts. It was hard through the whole race, but at the same time, I would think to myself, I can’t believe I’m actually doing this. I swam 1.2 miles in San Hollow Reservoir, biked 54 miles (a ton of uphills), and finished with a half marathon (also a ton of uphills). While biking, my shoe was extra tight around the dorsal of my foot, which restricted blood flow, and since my shoe is clipped on the pedals, I unstrapped it while biking and pulled my foot out to shake it off before putting it back in and readjusting it.
After what felt like an eternity, I finally ran across the finish line with immense satisfaction. I was hoping to get a time of 6hrs or less but ended up getting 6.5 hours. I was not satisfied with my time but still on a high with what I achieved. So much so that I sprinted across the finish line, jumped in the air, and chucked my hat off despite being beyond exhausted. And I can remember being super sunburned and chaffed after I finished.
My Second Ironman 70.3
Afterward, I trained again for next year’s race feeling more robust and better conditioned, and I entered my second Ironman race. There was one problem, though, my asthma had worsened. I believe my asthma was further exacerbated because of breathing in all kinds of dust from my construction job combined with potentially overdoing it on my HIIT training and my assumption that I didn’t need an inhaler.
On my second Ironman, I pushed through the race but felt like I couldn’t get a full, quality breath. In terms of all the physical activity I had ever done, it was by far the most challenging and painful physical activity of my life. At the end of it, I was proud but at the same time deeply disappointed to see a race time that was worse than the prior-year when I was expecting an improved time.
My 40-Mile Run
I continued to train for endurance running, and I came across David Goggins book ‘can’t hurt me,’ which inspired me to toughen it out and go for ultra running. Since then, I have had the goal to run a 100-mile ultra marathon. On August 25, 2019. I spontaneously decided to go for a 40-mile run by doing eight 5-mile laps. I used 19 energy gels to fuel my run, and in between some of the laps, I’d grab something quick to eat. Aside from a little cramping, I felt pretty good for the first 35 miles. However, in the last 5-miles, I got sudden plantar fasciitis that got increasingly painful with every step. I was determined to make it to 40 miles, and that gave me an injured foot that took a few months to recover fully.
Why I Transitioned to Bodybuilding
While my foot was still recovering, I did my squats too fast on a Smith Machine at the gym, and I injured my lower back. Not too long after, I was treated by a Chiropractor who had me stay off running and squatting for a couple of months. I will say the treatment, along with ice baths, did wonders for me.
After all this, I decided it was time to give my lungs and body a break and commit myself instead to bodybuilding and gradually stopped the endurance training.
I still have a 100-mile ultra marathon on my bucket list and want to do more Ironmans sometime within the next few years. But since the end of 2019, my primary form of exercise is Strength or Hypertrophy based weight training. Only occasionally, I’ll do an easy 3-6 mile run.
I am glad that I did shift over to bodybuilding because the recent physical transformation has allowed me to land paid fitness modeling bookings and get my foot into that industry. I enjoy the increase of strength and muscle mass and prefer that appearance compared to how I looked during endurance training. Also, endurance training is high volume training that takes up a lot of your time. At most, I’m spending 1-1.5 hrs 6 days per week on lifting, wherewith endurance training, you are looking at 2-4 of training per day, sometimes more on days where you’re doing a 100-mile bike ride and about an hour for your recovery days.
I am determined to achieve mastery with resistance training and obtain my ideal physique, which is otherwise impossible with endurance training. When I eventually get back into endurance training, I will take active steps to preserve muscle mass.