Training advice from a first-time Ironman racer

Megan Porteous is currently training for her first Ironman triathlon, taking place this month. Photo courtesy of Porteous.
Megan Porteous is currently training for her first Ironman triathlon, taking place this month. Photo: Courtesy of Porteous.
A triathlon — a single endurance race that involves swimming, biking and running — is a frightening word to someone like me, who can barely make it through a 5-mile run before getting bored. Not so for California’s Megan Porteous, who’s currently training for her first 70.3 triathlon, the Lake Tahoe 70.3 Ironman in September.

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As the director of marketing at Designer Protein, she’s had a lot of experience highlighting the athletic prowess of a large team of brand ambassadors, but her own accomplishments are worth some digital space, too: After meeting her husband at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, her adventurous spirit kicked into overdrive (they even got married in the winter so they could ski after the ceremony). The duo documents their SUP, backpacking, skiing and hiking jaunts on their blog, Never Last Run. The latest adventure? Training, training and more training for one of the most challenging endurance races in the country. Here’s what this soon-to-be Ironman contender has learned about breaking a sweat for a big athletic goal.

Have a morning ritual

A morning ritual—even as simple as making coffee—can make waking up something to look forward to. Photo courtesy of Porteous.
A morning ritual — even as simple as making coffee — can make waking up something to look forward to. Photo: Courtesy of Porteous
“My alarm goes off at 5 a.m. and I’m in the pool by 5:45,” says Porteous. To ease the pain of an early morning, Porteous redefines “hitting the snooze button” by walking into the kitchen, putting a kettle on the stove and then going back to bed until the water is boiling.

“When the water is hot and the kettle is screaming, I’m forced to get out of bed to grind coffee and make a French press,” she says. While it’s not the quickest method for prepping her morning cuppa, Porteous says she looks forward to the gentler way of starting her day.

Friends don’t let friends sweat it out alone

While coffee is Porteous’ secret weapon, she has another trick for battling lagging morning motivation: accountability. “If my friend is going to meet me [at my 5:45 a.m. master’s swim workouts], I’m not only getting up for myself, I’m getting up to train with that friend,” she explains.

Not all fitness role models are on Instagram

Growing up playing volleyball (she was a D1 player at Santa Clara University), Porteous says her coach was all about “creating your own luck,” or setting a goal and training hard for that goal. As the sports marketing manager at Oakley, Porteous was able to see firsthand how driven the brand’s professional athletes and employees were.

“My co-workers completely immersed themselves in sport and were constantly completing Ironman triathlons, ultramarathons, backpacking adventures … the list goes on and on,” she explains. It also helps to have inspiration at home, too; Porteous’ father is an “amazing athlete” and two-time cancer survivor who, due to his illness, can no longer ski.

“Every time I run a half marathon, go out for a long training ride or swim a hard workout, I think of my dad and other people who are battling illnesses and diseases that have hindered their ability to be active and do some of the things they love. I have a strong, healthy body and I want to use it,” she says.

Whether it’s a goal or a habit, know why you’re training

Megan trains for her triathlons with her husband, Tyler, and their dog. Photo courtesy of Porteous.
Porteous trains for her triathlons with her husband, Tyler, and their dog. Photo: Courtesy of Porteous
After she was done playing volleyball, Porteous remembers needing to have specific goals to work toward to keep herself motivated, which is why she signed up for her first half marathon. “It felt weird to train just to train, so I needed something tangible to work towards,” she remembers.

Now, in addition to specific goals, Porteous says it’s the feeling of building strength that keeps her going: “I like to be generally strong for all the various outdoor activities I enjoy, like skiing, backpacking and SUP.”

Lift some weights (and don’t be afraid to lift heavy!)

“After college, I did a lot of running and yoga and avoided weights like the plague because I had to do so much heavy lifting in college,” Porteous says. Over the past three years, she’s started integrating strength training into her workouts — with impressive results.

“Not only do I feel more solid on the ski hill, but I’ve become leaner,” she says. “That’s because after a weight-training workout, the metabolism is boosted for an extended period of time. For me, my body responds best to a combination of general strength, endurance and sport-specific training.”

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Eating better can be pretty fun

Porteous is a superfoods lover, stocking her kitchen with jars of goji berries, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds, maca, chia seeds and cacao nibs, all of which she sprinkles generously on smoothies, oatmeal bowls, salads and even in her baked goods.

“I’m a huge fan of baking healthy and nutrient-packed versions of traditional items like banana bread, chocolate-chip cookies and even protein bars/balls,” she says. For meals, she keeps it simple with salad, fish, chicken and grilled pork tenderloin.

Your brain is kind of needy

Cross training? It can sometimes involve hobbies like hiking and skiing. Photo courtesy of Porteous.
Cross-training? It can sometimes involve hobbies like hiking and skiing. Photo: Courtesy of Porteous
While Porteous says she loves listening to the sounds of nature and focusing on her breathing while training outdoors, sometimes she needs a little digital encouragement.

“I listen to a playlist about half the time,” she says. “We love to listen to podcasts — ‘This American Life’ and ‘Stuff You Should Know’ are our favorites — and audio books. My husband and I have been so wrapped up in an audiobook that when we arrive back home after a weekend in the mountains and have about an hour left of a book, we’ll chill on the couch in the dark to finish it.”

It’s OK to spend more money on workout clothes than normal clothes

“The majority of my clothing is made of Dri-FIT or technical materials,” laughs Porteous. “Even when shopping for regular clothing, I always have a little voice in my head that says, ‘Cotton kills!’”

For the triathlon lover, it’s Oakley Women training gear at the gym, Roka goggles and Xterra wetsuits while swimming, a Trek Domane 5.9 bike with Shimano Ultra Di2 electronic drivetrain, and Lululemon speed shorts paired with Stance athletic socks while running.

Take a solid first step

The first step toward finishing your own triathlon? “Sign up!” she says. “It becomes very real once you get that confirmation email.” Porteous suggests signing up for a sprint triathlon first; it offers a more approachable distance, but still simulates what a longer race will feel like so you can practice open-water swims and transitioning onto your bike.

The next step is to reach out to your friends who have already experienced a triathlon: “The thing about the triathlon community is that it’s very inclusive; group rides, track workouts and swims are very common.”

Triathlons are kind of scary at first (well, obviously)

The best part of the triathlon? It might be the beer (you the accomplishment you feel when its all over). Photo courtesy of Porteous.
The best part of the triathlon? It might be the beer (and the accomplishment you feel when it’s all over). Photo: Courtesy of Porteous
Porteous is the first to admit the starting line of her first triathlon got her heart pounding and her adrenaline pumping. “Nothing can really prepare you for the splashing, kicking and scratching that takes place,” she says of starting the race with about 50 other females in her age group. “Another scary part was the transition between bike and run. As I entered the transition zone, someone’s bike in front of me fell to the ground, which caused me to trip and fall with my bike.”

Another surprise? Feeling dizzy after the open-water swim. “This was due to my body not supporting its weight while swimming and being in a horizontal position for an extended period of time,” she says. “When you stand up after swimming to shore, it takes a few moments for the blood to go back to your brain from your arms and legs!”

Treat yo’self

A major bonus of triathlons? The beer sponsors. “There’s just something so refreshing about a nice beer after an exhausting physical exertion,” says Porteous. Set up a brunch outing with friends post-race so you know you have something to look forward to after your event. “I’m lucky because I always have a partner in crime at the finish line because my husband competes in most of the same races I do,” she says. “We don’t always finish together, but we are always there to clink matching race medals in the beer garden!”

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