Ironman Preparation: Learn to Be Bored And Don’t Be a Meerkat – By: Kelly Williamson

September 24th, 2015 - Posted by

Kelly in Field in Crested Butte

It’s no secret that Ironman isn’t the most exciting of sports. Having grown up a swimmer, I’ll liken it to a 1650 race in the pool. That is 66 lengths of the pool. That’s a lot of back and forth. Or if you are my father, perhaps your idea of ‘boring’ is a 400 IM (where you swim a 100 butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle). He filmed a 400 IM race of mine at state meet one year, and when I excitedly watched the video, I saw myself dive in, swim a length of butterfly, flip then… … … oh wait we’re back, and I’m finishing my final length of freestyle. I asked my dad “What the hell dad? Where was my race?!” to which he replied, “Oh, well it got a little boring there in the middle.” It was less than 5 minutes! How on earth he has endured spectating some of my Ironman races is beyond me; oh right, we can thank bocce ball and mid-race naps for this.

Whether you are a seasoned triathlete, multiple Ironman finisher, or just getting into multisport, one thing you’ll find is that it isn’t the most stimulating of activities. Sure, we get to change disciplines and in our training we essentially get to alternate between swimming, cycling and running; which is refreshing. But the acts themselves, they are vastly endurance based and require substantial time commitments regularly to see performance gains. As we draw close to the end of the year with of course Kona looming on everyone’s minds, I figured I’d hone in specifically on Ironman training boredom…a few things to consider, and when approaching a big race, a few things to avoid.

Every time I really dig my teeth into an Ironman prep (call it the 4-8 weeks prior to the race), there are a few key workouts that I like to knock out. Realize that some of these change over time, but I figured I would explain just a few of them that I’ve done over the years. While Derick (my husband and coach) and I often reference “what has worked in the past”, we are also flexible because things change (among many things, our bodies change) so what worked 2 years ago may not work today. But the one recurring theme I see during Ironman preparation is that a few solid, long, boring workouts are a staple and they are very helpful in training not only the body for a very long day ahead but the mind for the challenges that the repetition and long miles will bring on race day. Additionally, what I think makes these all the more challenging is that they are not “easy”. While they are often done at a steady endurance level of exertion, I am constantly staying engaged and aware of the effort; so the tendency to “zone out” is often curbed by needing to stay strong throughout, much like what race day will require.

Blog Pic Swimming Over citySwim – My go to swim workout is an open water swim of at least 1 hour, straight, without interruption. This may be in Lake Austin with Derick paddling ahead of me (30 minutes out/30 minutes back with the goal of going a bit faster home) or in Pure Austin Quarry which has a 750-meter loop marked with buoys (consisting of 5-6 loops). I will aim to do this once a week for about 4-5 weeks going into a race. I find that my hip flexors get sore the first few times but this often goes away as the weeks progress. Additionally, I’ll find my shoulders, neck and/or back get sore some days but all of these small aches and pains remind me what to expect on race day. (If you don’t have access to open water, you could do something like 30x100s in the pool on short rest, perhaps flipping before the walls on a few to simulate open water starts, or a 3k or 4k straight pool swim).

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 11.45.39 AMBike – This one has varied over the years. I used to hop on the trainer and do a 4 hour ride with 4×45 minutes at close to or just above Ironman goal power with 5 minutes recovery. Lately, I have opted for heading outdoors as I find it is good for me to deal with the external conditions (namely winds) as that is what I struggle with in Hawaii. A standard prep ride going into an Ironman is to do my 100-120 mile long ride but finish it on a looped section. My two options are an 8 or a 9 mile loop. I’ll do anywhere from 1-3 hard loops at the end of the ride, depending upon the day. While this is not really so ‘boring’, it mentally challenges you when you’re very tired (and in Texas heat often depleted) and forces you to really dig deep when you’re ready to just cruise home. It’s made even more fun if you have someone to chase. Derick did this with me a few weeks back, and he gave me a small head start on our 9 mile loop. Of course it’s the most fun when you manage to hold him off. J

20150803_175726~2_resizedRun – While running is something I love to do (almost as much as swimming), no doubt training to run 26 miles off the bike ‘well’ requires some serious work. This year we have upped the quality runs to 5×2 miles, and each week shortening yet progressing the pace on these to 6x2k and 8×1 mile. While not necessarily boring, these workouts are mentally challenging since the goal is to make the last interval the strongest. One good standard mentally tough run would be the fast finish long runs. These often consist of a long run in range of 19-24 miles but with the goal of running anywhere from 2-4 miles ‘fast’ at the end. You have to stay engaged throughout the entire run, checking pace to assure you’re “within range” then prepare to drop it at the end. Ironically, I often find that the bulk of the run feels tougher than the end; almost as if my body is more efficient at the faster pace. These runs are great for both physical and mental strength.

A few things ‘extras’ I would recommend as you dial in the big weeks and begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel (ie: rest around the corner!). I don’t recommend perusing blogs, tweets, and media about how much everyone else is doing. This is a fantastic way to doubt yourself, question your own preparation, and it gets you absolutely nowhere. I’ve seen people write of doing 400 mile bike weeks, 38 hour training weeks, and 30k+ swim weeks. They write of how absolutely exhausted and trashed they are. This could get in my head, but then I realize that if I got near these numbers, I would not make it to the start line in one piece. Trust your training, communicate openly with your coach, and commit to your own personal goals based on your own body. Asking questions is good; being a meerkat is not. Curiosity killed the meerkat, and it will kill your Ironman if you let it.

I do recommend focusing on specific workouts that will boost your confidence. By this, I mean dial in what you know you need to do to be successful on race day and commit to it. Do not put unreasonable goals and expectations on every workout. Remember, racing an Ironman entails being able to sustain a consistent pace for a long day; to be mentally, emotionally, and physically strong; not to be overly heroic at any one point (unless it’s the end). While I managed to do 5×1 mile at 5:30 pace a few years ago, I have realized that to run 26 miles at 6:35 pace, it’s smarter to do longer intervals at a slightly slower pace. I had to let go of “seeing that speed” and embrace relaxing into a workout and accomplishing a workout that is challenging, yet attainable; and more specific to the goal.

Have fun in your preparation! Swim with friends, do your easy rides socially, and hop into a small race here or there. Remember that while there will be some long and lonely days, there should always be an element of fun; and it is with consistency in training, belief in yourself and your program, staying healthy and enjoying yourself that you’ll get the most out of your race.

-Kelly Williamson

Making Pizza by Ben Hoffman

September 18th, 2015 - Posted by

My life has been focused around two main goals over the last decade: winning Ironman Hawaii and building amazing pizzas.


Generally speaking, winning a world title is probably a fair bit harder, but that doesn’t mean that it creating thin crust masterpieces has come without some trial and error. Burned crust? Many times. Over-saucing and over-topping leading to sogginess? Definitely. The perfect pizza? Still in pursuit, but getting closer…


The pizza is one of my favorite foods, and often my pre-race meal. Almost every city and country has this staple on tap if you are traveling, and most of the ingredients are readily available if you want to build your own. It certainly ranks as a bit of a “comfort food,” but it can be fairly healthy, and sometimes that comfort and familiarity is helpful in calming pre-race nerves. Finally, this is pizza I’m talking about, people. Do I really need to say much more…?


So what have I learned in my many years of pursuing the perfect pizza? Just call Domino’s! Just kidding. Here’s a few rules to follow, and some instructuons for the way I make most of my pizzas now:


  1. Get a pizzaIMG_8685 stone. Although this isn’t the way I have been cooking my pizzas lately, it’s a great kitchen utensil to own, and will bake a pizza more evenly and quickly. Emile Henry out of France would be my suggestion.
  2. Make your own crust. This adds a little time, but it’s seriously easy to do and worth it. If you don’t have time or the inclination, stop at a local pizza place to buy some of theirs (most places will do this), or purchase pre-made dough at the grocery.
  3. Get creative, or keep it simple, but make sure things are fresh. We grow our own basil and tomatoes for margherita pizzas, and have even made our own sauces (still perfecting this one…).
  4. Generally speaking, hotter than you might think is better. For the oven, I aim for 450, and for the grill, closer to 500-550. Depending on your altitude, pizza construction, etc., this will vary a bit, but that’s part of the fun and challenge.
  5. From learning to toss and stretch your pizza dough to the optimal thickness, to spreading the right amount of sauce and ingredients, pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. I would generally say less is more. As in, aim for thinner crust, less sauce, and fewer ingredients.



My current “pursuit of pizza perfection” has led me to the following recipe, found online at:


As always, feel free to adjust as you see necessary… Experimentation can lead to great things!


When you grill pizza, you need to have everything ready to go — all the toppings, the sauce, the cheese. This is because the key to pizza on the grill is to top the pizza after you’ve put it on the grill. It also helps if you cook the dough for a minute or two, flip it, and then top it.


What You Need

1 ball pizza dough (about 1 pound), store-bought or homemade
1/2 to 1 cup tomato sauce, store-bought or homemade
Cheese such as torn mozzarella, grated Asiago or Swiss, and grated Parmesan
Toppings such as herbs, thinly sliced vegetables, pepperoni and salami, prosciutto, chopped greens such as kale, or diced tomatoes
Olive oil

Grill, gas or charcoal
Metal tongs
Metal spatula


  1. Heat the grill: You should heat it quite hot;my grill was about 600°F with the lid on while baking this particular pizza. Aim for at least 550°F. If you have a choice on your grill between direct and indirect heat, set it up so the pizza is over direct heat.
  2. Gather your ingredients and toppings:Set up a table or bench near the grill so you have easy access to everything. Good grilled pizza is as much about the organization and logistics as it is about actual cooking!
  3. Also have your tools close to hand:You will want a pair of long metal tongs. A spatula may be helpful, although not absolutely necessary. You may want a hot pad or oven mitt if your grill lid gets hot.
  4. Prep your dough:It should be stretched or rolled out into a thin circle. (Circle-ish — as you can see, my pizzas usually resemble continents more than they do the moon!)
  5. Brush the dough with olive oil: Brush one side of the dough with oil; this is the side you’ll lay down on the grill.
  6. Grill one side of the pizza: Take the lid off the grill. Lay the dough round on the grill with theolive-oil side down. Brush the top of the dough with a thin layer of olive oil, too. Let the dough cook for about 3 minutes, with the lid off, or 1 to 2 minutes with the lid on. Use the tongs to lift up the dough from time to time, checking on how it is doing. You want grill marks on it, but you don’t want the dough to get crispy; it should be just set.
  7. Top the pizza: Flip the dough over with the tongs or spatula. The dough should come up easily and flip without tearing. Now is where your organization comes in! You need to top the pizza quickly. Spread on a thin layer of sauce, some cheese, and toppings. It shouldn’t be too heavily loaded, or the pizza won’t cook well.
  8. Cook the pizza: Put the lid on and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Use your sense of smell; if the pizza smells like it’s scorching, take the lid off and move the pizza to a cooler part of the grill or turn the heat down.
  9. Remove the finished pizza: Remove the lid and check the pizza. The edges should be crisp and well-done, and the cheese should all be melted. Drag the pizza off with the spatula or tongs. Let cool for 3 minutes, then cut into pieces and eat!

Recipe NotesIMG_8687

  • Every grill is different! You know your grill and it cooks differently than mine. Your pizza may take longer or shorter depending on how hot the grill gets and where your areas of direct and indirect heat are. Consider your first pizza a sacrifice to learning just how to control your grill temperature.
  • Cooking times will vary! On that same note, of course, you need to keep an eye on the heat. This method works perfectly every time on my own grill, but the timing depends on how thin you stretch your dough, and how hot your grill gets. Flipping the dough gives you an extra measure of control and certainty, though, that the crust will be cooked through by the time your toppings have melted and warmed.

-Ben Hoffman