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Garmin engineer completes his first Ironman 70.3

24 June 2013 @ 11:04 PM  / Garmin Connect / Sports / Fitness Blog /

At Garmin, we’re encouraged to embrace the active lifestyle made possible by our products for flight, hikes, bikes, boats, travel and more. That mindset helps us develop better products and connect with our customers and their needs. This story comes from Jeremiah, who’s gone well beyond walking the walk as a fitness design engineer for Garmin. After completing an outstanding running streak last summer, he decided he needed a new challenge. Here’s Jeremiah’s recount of his first Ironman 70.3 triathlon, with every mile and minute of his training and racing tracked by the Forerunner 910XT.


When I joined the fitness team at Garmin two and a half years ago, I started running and worked my way up from a 5k to a full marathon in about 10 months. I really enjoyed running for the most part and decided to stick with just that for awhile. I was intimidated by the thought of swimming and didn’t want to get into biking since it is a very expensive sport. However, I wanted to learn more about the multisport market as part of my career at Garmin and wanted to be in a place where I felt like I could test out our multisport products at least to some degree. So in January of this year, I bought a membership at the YMCA and went for my first swim. I had no idea what I was doing, but figured it couldn’t be too hard. I made it about 50 yards before I was completely out of breath. I was able to swim 1,000 yards that day, but it took me more than 30 minutes since I kept resting and switching strokes. I decided to keep going back once a week and see if it would get any easier; the other six days of the week I was training for the Garmin Marathon. I missed qualifying for the Boston Marathon by 25 seconds when running the Kansas City Marathon in October 2012 so I wanted to keep my focus on the marathon training. Little by little I was able to swim further and faster and by March, I was able to swim a mile in 34 minutes with only two quick rest breaks. 


In early April I learned there was a road bike at Garmin that was no longer being used and that I could borrow it, so I took it out for my first bike ride. I had a really tough time getting used to the clip in pedals and could only figure out how to shift into the higher gears so the first ride was really tough, especially on the hills, but I was able to make it 15 miles in about an hour. On April 20, I ran the Garmin Marathon and was able to qualify for Boston with a time of 3:03:25, so I was very happy. Immediately after the Garmin Marathon, I switched my focus to triathlon training. My plan was to do the Kansas 5i50 as my first triathlon on May 19, which consisted of a 0.93 mile swim, 25 mile bike and 6.2 mile run. Since I only had four weeks to train, I decided to ramp up quickly. I increased my swim training from once a week to three times a week and increased my biking from once a week to twice a week. I also tried a couple of brick workouts to get used to running after biking. 


The image above shows Jeremiah's training for the month of May, represented by his calendar in Garmin Connect.

By the week of the Kansas 5i50, I had made it up to a brick workout consisting of a 40-mile ride and 8-mile run, so I had pretty good confidence in completing my first triathlon. Unfortunately, there were a lot of storms the morning of the Kansas 5i50, so after postponing it several times, they ended up cancelling the swim portion and at that time I decided to bag it since I really wanted to complete a triathlon and not a duathlon. Two days later, I made the quick decision to sign up for the Kansas half Ironman that was on June 9, only two and a half weeks away, which was about double the distance of the Kansas 5i50 I had been training for (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run). It was a little intimidating thinking of completing a half Ironman for my first triathlon, but I didn’t have time to think about it; I just needed to train even harder than before. The week of May 20 was exhausting where I swam 2.5 miles, biked 142 miles and ran 50 miles, but by June 9, I felt like I was in a position to complete a half Ironman. The morning of the race was eerily similar to the morning of the Kansas 5i50 where it was storming like crazy on the way to the race, but I stayed focused and just went on with my plan. Thankfully the weather cleared up just in time for the start of the race and it was a go. I was pretty nervous before the race but just had to tell myself that I had prepared for it and was ready.


The swim was tougher than I had imagined. The water was very choppy compared to Shawnee Mission Park Lake and Gardner Lake where I did open water practice swims. Also my goggles fogged on me so I was having a tough time seeing the markers and staying away from other swimmers, which resulted in several unintentional punches to the face. That said, based on my training with the Forerunner 910XT, I was planning to complete the swim somewhere between 37 and 41 minutes, so I was pleased overall with my time of 41 minutes. Oh, and I didn’t drown, so that was a very good thing too.

The bike was pretty tough due to some large climbs and a stiff wind, but I tried to just push through it and get it over with. I was able to eat quite a bit while riding and took in a lot of Gatorade to stay hydrated so that was good. I ended up having to stop for a quick bathroom break around mile 45. By the end of the ride I was pretty gassed and could tell my core was really heated due to the bright sun and fairly warm weather and my heart rate had been pretty high for a long duration. Based on my training, I was planning to complete the bike somewhere between 3:07 and 3:18, so I was happy with my time of 3:09.


When I started the run, I could tell my core was already really heated and heart rate was high, but my legs felt good, so I was running around a 7:15 pace until I hit the dreaded hill just before mile 3. After that I slowed to around a 7:30-7:40 pace to prevent from way overheating and held that for a little while. When I hit that hill again on the second loop, I was talking myself into walking it since I thought it would be better overall in the long run but I ended up jogging it instead. Around mile 10 I had to take another quick pit stop since I had been drinking so many fluids. Just after mile 12 I started to get tingles down my spine and got the feeling I had at the Brew to Brew run last year when I got heat exhaustion and threw up constantly and couldn’t hold down fluids for several hours. So even though I only had one mile left, I really had to stop and walk. I didn’t want to start running again until I felt my core had come down quite a bit, so I just waited until I had about a half mile left and then started running again. Based on my training, I was hoping to finish between 1:32 and 1:38, so I didn’t miss it by a lot with my time of 1:43, but running is my strong sport so I felt like of all things I should have hit my targets there. I wasn’t able to do much training to simulate running a long distance in the heat after a long swim and bike, so my body was just not acclimated to that environment.

Conclusion: My official finish time was 5:43:13: 40:56 (Swim) + 7:28 (T1) + 3:09:19 (Bike) + 2:34 (T2) + 1:42:56 (Run). Overall I was very pleased with the final result. My primary goal was just to finish and my secondary goal was a time between 5.5 and 6 hours, so I was able to accomplish both goals. While I trained really hard for it, when push came to shove, it was not my training but my faith that gave me the strength to push on. I can honestly say that I don’t desire to attempt another half or full Ironman in the near future. The training schedule to prepare for such an event is intense and I just can’t devote that kind of time right now due to a very busy career at Garmin and a very busy home life with three young daughters. I would like to continue on with shorter distance triathlons, but my primary focus will be on marathons for now. With the right Garmin gear and training, maybe I can break the 3-hour barrier this fall?

Check out Jeremiah's swim, bike and run data in Garmin Connect, our free online fitness community.



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