This is the second email of three recapping my recent Ironman and lessons I learned. If you didn’t read the first email you can click here to see it.
As I mentioned in my previous email the 26.2 mile run is the most challenging part of the Ironman. By the time you get to the run you have swam 2.4 miles and biked 116 miles. A marathon In itself is tough so to have to do it after the swim and run is a beast.
I remember cramping around mile 16 of the run at my first Ironman in Panama City. As I began the run I felt great. I met a participant named Ross from Mississippi. We started talking and ended up staying together for half of the marathon. He was a good dude and this was his second Ironman like it was for me. He was 30 years old and his goal was to finish the marathon under 5 hours. I told him we were running at a 4 hour pace and he seemed to be running well so he continued running with me.
Somewhere between mile 2 and 3 I felt a cramp starting in my right leg and immediately stopped. He asked if I was ok and I told him I just cramped a little and better slow my pace down. I told him if he wanted to keep on running to go ahead but I was going to slow my pace to about a 10 minute mile. He said he would slow down with me. Then he offered support in a way that I truly believe saved my race.
Ross asked if I wanted any salt tablets. I asked what those were and he explained. I said yes I will definitely take a couple. He told me if I needed anymore to let him know because he had several and had even more at the half marathon in his personal items bag. He told me that his neighbor who has done several Ironmans recommended that he take salt tablets during the race to prevent cramping. He confirmed with a doctor friend of his that this was fine and asked what is the most he could take in a day. I trusted him so I took him up on his offer and took a couple salt tablets.
We continued running and I took a salt tablet every other mile. At the half way point of the run Ross gave me a handful of salt tablets from his personal items bag and I put them in my pocket.
During mile 14 I had a major cramp and had to walk. I told Ross to go ahead that I definitely needed to walk this one off and wasn’t sure if I would be able to run anytime soon. He advised that I take four of the salt tablets right away. I did. Then I walked to the next drink station, about half of a mile, and slowly began running again. I was just glad to be running again. At this point in the race you see people walking everywhere. Cramping is painful and all you can do is walk it off. I continued to take a salt tablet every other mile and was able to finish the run in 4 hours and 50 minutes. I didn’t cramp again and actually finished my last mile of the race in 9 minutes and felt great.
I learned something new in this race that I will continue to apply in future Ironmans – salt tablets. I don’t know how the race would have been if I didn’t meet Ross. I definitely know I was cramping and I think the salt tablets helped. During the Ironman you see several people walking who just cant run because they are cramping. I am doing research on this and by the time I do my next Ironman I will have a plan in order to prevent cramping as best as I can.
You may not be training for an Ironman or ever want to do one. Your fitness journey is a race. A race that never ends. You may be cramping now and need some “salt tablets”. The reason you are cramping varies person to person. Maybe you have been pushing hard and are feeling burned out. Or maybe you haven’t trained properly and the race is exposing how out of shape you are. Whatever the reason is doesn’t matter. What matters is how are you going to get through this and start running again.
Ross had a friend that advised him to have salt tablets to prevent cramping. His friend had done the race several times and knew how to prepare him for the race. Ross had learned information from someone who had been there before. This is huge. This led me to think how many more little things will I learn as I continue to do Ironmans. Little things that make a big difference. Like salt tablets.
If you are starting your fitness journey and stuck you need to seek support. You need to talk to someone who has been there before and can help you get through this moment. You might be stuck in losing weight or you have hit a plateau in your workouts. Either way you are feeling discouraged. This is the time to get help.
I often tell people all they need is a pep talk. Just a word of encouragement to keep going. Or sometimes it’s more than a pep talk. When I was cramping on my Ironman a pep talk wouldn’t have helped. I needed salt, magnesium, electrolytes and more and I needed it to go straight to my body fast. You might need a step by step meal plan, accountability and specific workout program.
Good thing for you I am really good at giving pep talks 🙂 I also know how to help people with their nutrition and fitness program. I have committed 20 years of my life to helping people in this way. If this makes sense and you need help let me know. I would love to support you on your fitness journey.