People always have lots of questions about Ironman races...what they are, how people train, what they eat, how they pee. I decided to interview George on the drive to Madison and get the inside scoop from a three-time Ironman finisher.
In a nutshell, an official Ironman race is sponsored by World Triathlon Corporation. A full-distance Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run...for a total of 140.6 miles. To finish, an athlete must complete the full race in under 17 hours. Otherwise, it doesn't count.
In 2012, Sister Madonna Buder became the oldest woman to complete an Ironman race. She was 82.
Now, don't you feel like a couch potato? Me, too.
But let's hear about Ironman from George's point of view.
The single most important question: why under heaven do you do Ironman-distance triathlons?
I don't know. Because it's hard. It forces me to work out. Otherwise, I'd be lazy. You can't phone it in on race day. And it's an incredible feeling to finish. The high lasts a long time. And I love the energy of an Ironman weekend.
When do you start training for an Ironman?
I never really stop, but for an early-September IM, I start stepping up the work-outs in early June. That might be too late, though.
About how many hours a week do you train?
Max, about 10-11 hours a week, which is very low compared to other IM athletes. I don't like spending too much time away from my family for training.
How do you feel about this year's race?
I feel good about the swim and bike as long as I'm not stupid on the bike. [Stupid would be going out too hard on the first lap and not leaving enough in his legs for the second lap and the marathon.] I'm terrified of the run. As long as I make the turn on the marathon without cramping, I'll be okay. I predict another five-hour marathon and a 12:45 total.
Triathlon is a gear-intensive sport. Swimming requires wetsuit and goggles; biking requires a highly-specialized bike, helmet, shoes, water bottles; running requires high performance shoes. Add to that clothing, GPS and performance computers, watt-meters for bikes, special nutrition, and such. What's your favorite piece of gear?
That's a silly question. My BIKE! It's a Specialized Shiv. The frame is extremely aerodynamic and I'm very comfortable on it.
How many miles a year do you put on your bike?
Not sure. Over a couple thousand, though.
On race day, how do you keep going over such a long distance?
"Stay in the now." Best advice ever from professional triathlete Paula Newby-Fraser. Don't think about how far you have to go. It's so easy to think about it, and then your mind gets really negative really fast.
What's your favorite part of this race in Madison? Other than finishing, of course!
Treading water just before the race, sun coming up on the water, the National Anthem playing, thousands of athletes' heads with swim caps bobbing in the water. Then, after the swim gets going and you get out of the crush and find your rhythm, just stroking easy and zen-ing out in the water. It's peaceful. Then, there's one hill on the bike course. The crowd of spectators is huge, and there's a narrow passage for your bike, with all these people cheering you on. That's the closest I will ever get to experiencing the Tour de France.
What's your least favorite part of this race?
On the bike, there are a couple of spots that are soooo boring. And there's a stretch in this park on the run that is demoralizing on the first lap. No spectators, you're all alone, and you still have 18 miles to go. On the second lap, that stretch isn't so bad because you know you only have about five miles to go.
What do you do to insure good luck on race day? Are you superstitious about the race?
I don't believe in luck. You get lucky by training. But I am sort of superstitious about some things. I don't bring any Ironman finisher t-shirts, hats, water bottles, or other gear from previous races with me, and I don't buy any Ironman gear until after the race. I also eat dinner the night before the race at the same restaurant...although that failed me in 2010.
You'll burn roughly 7,000 calories during the race. What do you eat on race day?
In the morning I have a peanut butter and honey sandwich. I'll have Crank Sports eFuel in my water bottles, and some Honey Stinger waffles. On the run, I'll grab what they have at the aid stations.
What company would you want to sponsor you if you went professional?
Sam Adams Brewing. I have a highly-detailed pitch for them.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to do an Ironman?
Unless you are genetically gifted, you've gotta respect the distance or you will pay for it on race day.
Do you pee in your wetsuit?
Oh, yeah. Absolutely. But I do not pee myself on the bike. I stop at the porta-potties.
What's the best thing that people can yell at you for encouragement during the race?
It's great when people yell, "Keep going!" But I hate it when they yell, "You're looking good" when clearly you're dying. And the people who yell, "You're almost there!" at mile two of the marathon, I want to kill those people.
Now it's your turn! What questions do you have for George about this incredibly insane thing called Ironman?