The past nine months have been awe-inspiring and ultra-active for Peter the ‘Best Life’ Great. He kicked off the year with a 5K in February, followed by a half marathon in May, an Olympic-distance triathlon in July, and finally, a half Ironman in August. With a lineup like this, it’s no wonder that Peter has maintained a 140-pound weight loss for two and a half years (click here to read his most recent success story). We recently chatted with Peter about his latest event, his thoughts on the year, and his plans for next year.
Event: Half Ironman
Date: August 15, 2010
Place: Lake Stevens, Seattle
What motivated you to enter an Ironman event?
Back in 2008, I had gotten into a rut with simply “just working out,” so I decided to try something new, which is how I became interested–and started to compete–in triathlons. A short distance triathlon was a great way for me to push myself and to see how hard and how far I could go. I enjoyed doing the shorter events, but soon I wanted to test myself even more, to see how far I could push myself. I needed to set a goal, and a half Ironman event (see below for details on the event) was the next biggest step up the ladder, so to speak. My true motivation for doing a half Ironman event, however, was to keep physically active for myself and for my family–to promote a healthy lifestyle for my son.
Can you break down what was involved in the event?
It’s 70.3 total miles, and there are three parts: a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike, and a 13.1-mile run. And, of course, there are two transitions–from swim to bike, when you get out of your wetsuit and into your bike shoes/helmet/gear, and then between the bike and the run, when you get out of your bike gear and into your running shoes.
How is an event like an Ironman more grueling than shorter events?
Overall, it’s more grueling simply because it takes longer. Physically, that means you’re in constant motion for a much longer period of time. And every ache and pain that creeps up causes you to question yourself–you start to doubt yourself and wonder whether or not you can continue on. Mentally, it’s a constant battle between the muscles that want to quit and the brain that says, “MOVE!”
What was the most difficult part of this race?
For me, it was the run. By the time I finished the swim and the bike (the two things I enjoy the most), the day was heating up. It was one of the hottest days in Seattle this summer–it hit 98 degrees. Plus, the run-loop was a figure eight set-up and the top portion of the figure eight goes out through an industrial area where there was very little shade and nothing really interesting to look at. It was a serious grind. The lower portion of the figure eight was along a lake, and that was really pretty to look at–there were tons of boats and people having a good time on the lake. But that was challenging, too, as there were a lot of uphill sections. And because it was so hot, all I wanted to do was to jump in the lake.
How did you prepare for this event?
Physically I had put in the time, the distances, and the effort by training for the last seven to eight months, swimming, running or biking up to six days a week. I knew I had done the distances and the physical training that would get me across the finish line. Plus, the other events I did earlier this year were crucial in getting me across the finish line in this race. They were all “training” events that aided in my training for the half Ironman.
Mentally I don’t know how you can train for something like this until you’ve done it. My friends told me stories about the “battles” they had during their own races–questioning their sanity, physical ability and determination–so I knew to expect a fight inside my head, but I didn’t know to what extent I would experience this. Thankfully, for me the mental battle was easier than the physical battle. The answer to my mental battle was to tell myself over and over to just MOVE!
Would you consider this the pinnacle event of the year?
For sure! It was what I had been thinking about, working towards and dreaming of for almost two years. I had initially entered this race last year in 2009. However, while training for the event, I fell off my mountain bike and broke my clavicle. Twelve screws and a stainless steel plate later, I was not able to compete in the event, and I received a medical deferral, which carried my entry over to 2010. So, it had been on my mind for quite some time.
How did you do?
I finished. Going into it I had a goal of 35 to 40 minutes for the swim, and my actual time was 37:09, so I was right where I wanted to be with that segment. For the bike, my goal was between 3 hours 15 minutes and 3 hours 30 minutes; my actual time was 3 hours 18 minutes. And my goal for the run was between 2 hours 45 minutes to 3 hours; my actual time was 3 hours. With the two transitions, my total time was just a hair more than 7 hours.
How did you celebrate?
When I finished, I gave my wife a huge hug, and thanked her for everything that she had done to support me throughout all of my training. (I think we both cried a little). Then I swept up my son and gave him a big, sweaty, icky kiss. My great friend and training partner Mitch was there cheering me on as well. I thanked him for all the pain he inflicted on me during all of our training miles and for being there for me at the finish line. After that, we headed home, where I showered, changed clothes and hung out on the front lawn with my son and other kids from the neighborhood, with my feet propped up, a huge grin on my face, and my finisher’s medal around my neck.
How will you spend the rest of the year?
Right now, I’m just taking it easy, but I’m being very careful about what I eat because I’m not nearly as active as I was while training. I also don’t want to get into a fitness “rut” so to speak, and I want to be able to bring my activity level back up quickly even though there are currently no events I’m working towards. I plan on starting to train again real soon. I’m still battling an Achilles injury that has me a little worried, so most of the stuff I’ll be doing will be low-impact until I’m fully recovered.
Is it a relief or a let down to be finished for the year?
It’s both. It’s real nice to sleep in on the weekends and actually have breakfast with my family, but I miss the early morning rides and runs. I really want to give my family back some time, so that’s a relief. The let down is that it’s all over–well, at least for now!
What’s on tap for next year? Bigger events, or the same as this year?
I haven’t signed up for anything officially yet, but I’ve got a lot of ideas in the back of my mind about what I’d like to do. I’m planning on heading down to Panama City Beach, Florida in November to watch–and hopefully volunteer at–Ironman Florida. (Both my parents live nearby.) In order to register for the following year’s event, it’s best to be there locally to register rather than registering the next day online, as there’s a chance that the race can fill up before being open to online registration. Volunteers also get to register earlier than others for the following year’s event.
I’d also really like to do the Lake Stevens Half Ironman again (in August), and come back better trained so I can beat my time, which I think is totally doable. There is also another 70.3-mile event in early June that I’d like to do, and, of course the Lake Chelan Olympic Triathlon is an event that I will do for as long as I possibly can. It is absolutely my favorite race. So what I’m thinking about right now in a nutshell is a Half Ironman in June, an Olympic-distance triathlon in July, another Half Ironman in August and then a full Ironman in November. This would be my “ideal” race setup for next year.
Do you feel these events are a crucial part of your success?
Absolutely. Being active, reaching for goals, and living a healthy lifestyle are all a part of living my best life, and that’s exactly what these events have given me.
How do you feel about your year of events on the whole?
Amazed. Humbled. For me, looking back on it, I would say it was about as emotional as crossing the finish line in my very first 5K. I’m a very emotional person when it comes to crossing the finish line and achieving something that a few years ago was not something I could even dream about. I fought back a lot of tears as I crossed the finish line of the Ironman event and, quite honestly for several days afterwards.
About the Author
Bob Greene is the founder of the highly acclaimed Best Life Diet brand. Through his books, foods, fitness products and website, Greene has helped millions lose weight and live their own personal best life, using his gradual three-phase approach to eating and exercise.