I’ve really enjoyed the personal challenge of triathlon over the years. I’ve done four Ironman races including the World Championships in Kona, as well as a variety of triathlon distances over the years – Sprint to Half, and Xterra. While I’ve had some personal successes, I’ve also had challenges with gut issues and feel like I have yet to do my best, so I have more to prove to before I’m done with the sport.

After my last race three years ago, a combination of job workload and a weird recurring injury (Morton’s Neuroma?) pretty much reduced my activity to nothing (maybe an occasional hike). Then, I felt the urge to race again, even though my injury had not cleared up, and picked the AZ Ironman race for my return. I had performance and “gut issue” goals to measure my success.

I discovered that the time off had really taken its toll – my ability to train was significantly limited. I started with some very light bike rides six months before the race. About three months out, I “amped up” my training, if you can call it that. In total, I was only able to do about 20 rides before the race, a few of them were 3 hours and the rest shorter – 2 hours or less. I got to the pool five times, accumulating 35 minutes of continuous swimming, and never more than 15 minutes in one session. Running wise, I did a total of 3 run/walks of 10 minutes each (after three of the rides). My total training load over the months was only a small fraction of what I have done in the past. Additionally, I trained nowhere near the actual discipline distances I would be covering in the race.

Two weeks before the race I decided to do a daily regime of respiration training (breathing drills), because I was going to need any help I could get just to complete this race, let alone meet any pre-race objectives. I spend about 45 minutes every day on various inspiration and expiration drills in the hope that it would make some difference in my performance. As it would turn out, the results were mind-blowing!

I swam 2.4 miles in 1:20, just 4 minutes off my Kona time! I was purposefully trying to take it easy, but I never expected to feel as great as I did. My breathing was never challenged which is really unusual for an IM swim under any circumstance, and I felt great getting out of the water. The bike was even better! I finished 10 minutes off my best time (on the same course) and 10 minutes better than Kona! My speed was better than any of the bike training I had done (which preceded respiration training), and yet I felt like I was riding very comfortably below my lactate threshold, but still with power for the whole 112 miles! My run/walk was about on par with prior IMs, but I had already had way more success than I felt I deserved. I had the usual leg fatigue and crisis to push through but generally felt fresher and less winded than prior IMs. Even my recovery was quite normal. Using Z-Health drills, I’d always been able to recover fairly quickly, and I saw no differences this time despite the massive training deficit.

All in all, I was amazed at how much respiration training and relaxed racing made up for my injury, time off and lack of mileage! I can’t wait to try it again when I’m healthier and better trained.

Shannon Mauck – Phoenix, AZ