Tri for a Purpose: Four Ironman Events in One Season

It is my mission during Summer of 2017 to complete four full Ironman distance events in the hopes of raising money for ocean conservation.

I've been involved in endurance sport since my twenties. I ran my first marathon when I was 27 and under a lot of job stress. It was controlling that stress that pushed me from being a casual jogger to running marathons. I was a disgruntled architect and soon realized I couldn't take it anymore and decided to travel the world teaching English. During the past 15 years a lot has evolved…jobs, men and countries have come, gone and some have stayed; but I always kept running as a staple to maintain physical but more importantly mental health.

In the past few years, I have been struggling with a sort of depression that overcomes me now and again. I say "a sort of depression" because it doesn't stop me from functioning and I don't have any physical symptoms but even still, a grey haze often invades my morale. When it first started, I immediately began running more and remembered how I had always wanted to do an Ironman. As I had a lot more free time, I decided to at least start with short distance triathlons. I began to love my training. With so much to think about, the gray haze slowly appeared less and less.

It was only natural (in my head anyway) to do Ironman Nice. I live in Montpellier, France and I am quite familiar with Nice so it was a logical choice. While there were highs and lows, overall I loved every moment of it and I knew even before I finished my first Ironman that more would follow. I wanted and needed to push myself further. I finished my first race at nearly 15 hours (14 hours 51 mins) and looking back, a lot of time that I lost wasn’t necessarily due to my physical capabilities but just lack of experience. I learn and master something best thru complete immersion and endless repetition. Well, I should add that as a lifelong language learner and former language teacher, that method is probably best for most people; but that's a different topic.

Preparing and training for an Ironman is an involved process. There is a lot to work on that does not necessarily always involve the swim, bike or run. In approaching Ironman preparation I used the same logic that I used for mastering other skills/challenges in my past. Do it over and over again until I get it right; with the major caveat of remembering my mistakes and not repeating them. So, there was born the idea of doing multiple Ironman races in one summer- close together. I think like anything else, the body adapts with the repetition and just goes with it. This of course is assuming the body has been prepared.

My preparation is not that much different than training for a single Ironman. In my case, the first race should be the hardest and it’s before this race that the bulk of heavy training will be completed. My first race is Alpsman Xtreme, which takes place in the French Alps on June 10th and will be very difficult as it’s all climbing; the total elevation gain is 4300 meters. If I can do that, the other bike courses should (in theory) go faster for me than last year. After Alpsman, I’ll do IM Nice on July 23rd, IM Vichy August 27th and IM Barcelona October 1st.

I train six days per week and in general it’s composed of three swims, three runs and four bike rides. 12 weeks before the race I’ll add on a fifth bike session. Once the first race is finished, it’s about maintaining my strength. I’ll be turning 49 shortly and while I believe age is only a number, let’s just say recovery takes a little longer than it used to. After the first race, I will lighten my training load on all biking and running as far as distance but still maintain intensity to keep fitness but hopefully avoid injury. Like I said, from there the body is in the routine and, in theory, can continue as long as you don’t stop for too long. After each race I will take two to three complete days off and then add short, easy swim sessions only. By the following week, I will gradually add in short bike sessions and the week after that very short runs.

During my discovery period of triathlon training, I took great attention to how our environment is deteriorating right before our eyes. I have always had a great affinity for the sea, I have to say it hurts to see how we essentially treat the ocean as a landfill. From the massive amounts of plastics, to the destruction of precious coral reefs to the near extinction of our biggest sea mammals, there are no words to describe how gutted I am.

It's because of this that I wanted to give my Ironman training a more meaningful purpose. I figured to get attention for my cause meant to I had to do something few people do. Multiple Ironmans in one summer sounded about right. Why four, you may ask? Well it's probably about as much as my body can stand for now.... ok well, who knows for the future! Logistically, the races I chose are close together so it's easy to get to each site which minimizes the fatigue of traveling.

I am raising money for three different organizations. I've chosen three charities because as we are now a global community, I wanted to have a choice of charities that do different things in different parts of the world. As well as perhaps there are those who wish to donate to a cause closest to where they live.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation preserves the Chesapeake Bay which is an estuary, a body of water formed where freshwater from rivers and streams flows into the ocean, mixing with sea water. This includes not only the 200 mile long estuary that runs from Havre de Grace, Maryland to Norfolk, Virginia, but also 50 major rivers and streams that pour into the bay each day, and the creeks that feed those streams. This includes the roughly 64,000 square mile watershed covered with forests, farms and wildlife habitat; cities and suburbs; waste water treatment plants and heavy industry.

The bay also comprises the hundreds of waterways from New York to Virginia that have been listed on the Clean Water Act’s “dirty list”. We can save the bay only if we clean up our local creeks, streams and rivers. Because of budget cuts, now more than ever before CBF needs our help.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is the UK’s leading charity for the protection of our seas, shores and wildlife. Our seas are under immense pressure: too many fish are being taken out, too much rubbish is being thrown in and too little is being done to protect marine wildlife and fish stocks.

Our UK seas and coasts are amongst the most diverse and beautiful on the planet, playing host to dolphins, sharks, whales and turtles. Over half of the UK’s wildlife resides within our seas and many other species such as seabirds rely on them for their survival.

Project Aware Foundation is a growing movement of scuba divers protecting the ocean planet- one dive at a time. Project Aware believes that together their actions will make a huge impact and help to rescue the ocean. With new programs and more online resources, Project Aware supports an unprecedented global movement of divers acting in their own communities to protect the ocean and implement lasting change. Project Aware focuses on two major ocean issues: Sharks in Peril and Marine Debris- trash in our oceans.

While I believe that humans should do all they can to preserve humanity; humanity also means protecting and preserving all the planet's living species that cannot otherwise protect themselves. I know it's obvious but apparently it still needs to be reminded; Humans cannot not exist without the planet. We need to respect and treat it as such.

It would be great if I could raise money for these great ocean conservation organizations. But what would be even better is if I could encourage people to take action on their own to make a difference.

Written by Gyl Golden

For more information about Gyl and the organizations she supports, visit her Facebook page and follow her on Instagram @ironwomanfortheocean

You can make a donation towards Ocean Conservation here

What are your favorite charities to swim, bike, or run for? Tag your cause in the comments below and give them a shoutout! 

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