Found on Ironman.com and written by Jennifer Ward Barber
Just moments after finishing in a respectable sub-5 hours, the Olympic speed skater reflects on the beginning of his new athletic journey.
by Jennifer Ward Barber
Retired American speed skater and eight-time medalist Apolo Ohno finished his first triathlon—IRONMAN 70.3 Boise—in under five hours today. Ohno is part of the BUILT WITH CHOCOLATE MILK crew taking on a journey that will culminate in Kona. Today, the athlete made an important first step, completing not only a half-distance race, but his first triathlon. Ohno swam a 32:05, biked a 2:30 and ran a 1:52—respectable splits for even the most seasoned competitors—for a finish of 4:59:27.
Ohno is based in LA, and says he does most of his training solo. He is grateful for the triathlon community in LA and San Diego who’ve inspired him along the way, especially triathlon and IRONMAN legend, Paula Newby-Fraser, his chief coach and advisor along this journey. We caught up with Ohno at the finish line to get his thoughts on his first race, and first leg of his year-long journey.
Succinct finish line thoughts: “I’m so tired—that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. Ten minutes into the swim, I was dead. I think I went too hard, I just got so excited.”
Follow your coach: “Paula wanted me to go 4:50, but I was a little bit slow on the run. She gave me the parameters to stay between for my heart rate zone, but when I got on the bike, I just threw it out the window and went as hard as I could. I just got excited, you know? There was so much crowd support, everyone was out there hammering on the bike. I can see how this gets addicting.”
On the differences between competitive speed skating and long-course triathlon: “The biggest difference is just the duration of time. I’m used to going very very hard and then having a long period of rest. Here you have no rest, you just keep slogging for five hours straight. I’m just not used to that. My races were 40 seconds long, and all power.
Nutrition: “Paula’s making fun of me, she said you need to take more salt and drink more. She also said I’m out of shape. Which I am, it’s OK. During the race I took salt tabs, gels and an electroyte drink. Afterwards, obviously, I drank chocolate milk. I think I had like four, I was just so thirsty.”
Anxiety: “I wasn’t nervous. I probably should’ve been if I really knew what I was getting myself into. But I wasn’t, I had no idea what I was doing. I wouldn’t even say the swim was too crazy or chaotic. But you know what? There’s no amount of lap swimming that can prepare you for open-water swimming. I only did one open water swim, and I should’ve been doing a lot more. It’s just a totally different animal.”
Props to triathletes: “I’ve been retired for four years. The body doesn’t stay in that state for long. But you know, I did notice, these triathletes are animals! It’s so inspiring to see how strong everyone is. I have a whole new found respect for these athletes. I also realized that I have to change my body type. Looking at all the triathletes around here I was like ‘I need to lose some weight, man!'”
All about the training: The number one thing is just the time it requires to put in real quality hours of training. And you can’t just do it all on an indoor trainer. You’ve gotta get out on the road, you’ve got to ride and run. It takes a certain type of athlete to stay committed and stay consistent. Unfortunately, you can’t catch back up on lost training. It all compounds over time. It’s awesome—there are no shortcuts, that’s for sure.
Recovery matters: I focused a lot on recovery when I was training for the Olympics. I haven’t been lately, but this is a pretty big wake-up call for me to really get my butt in gear and take this really seriously or else I won’t finish properly [in Kona]. I know as the volume gets higher, I’ll have to be more focused on recovery. I can only train as hard as I can recover, right?”
In summary: “It was beautiful, horrific and amazing all in the same sentence. And I would do it again, absolutely. It’s very addictive. As far as the course goes, I was hurting too much to pay attention. I’m not going to lie!”