How purplepatch made me an IRONMAN

by: Matt Dixon

Want to join the purplepatch athlete community?

Becoming An IRONMAN 

When Standford medical resident, Stephanie Go, decided to take on the challenge of an IRONMAN, 10 months ago, she knew she needed guidance. While Stephanie had a background in marathon running, her highly irregular work schedule and the prospect of training the multiple disciplines of triathlon prompted her to seek a coaching company to prepare her for IRONMAN Boulder. Stephanie signed on with the purplepatch coaching program in November 2016. This past June, she heard Mike Reilly say the magical words, “You are an IRONMAN!” 

The Seeds Of Change 

As a result of completing eight marathons, including qualifying for the prestigious Boston marathon, Stephanie had suffered several stress fractures. As these injuries continued to accumulate, Stephanie came to the conclusion that tackling a triathlon represented a new challenge with a lot less impact on her body than running alone.

“I was looking for a new goal, and I knew I needed to introduce some kind of non-weight bearing cross training, so I figured why not do an IRONMAN?”

However, juggling a Radiology residency at Stanford, including a sub-specialty fellowship, Stephanie initially questioned whether it would be possible to tackle the long distance event, which included picking up swimming and biking in her limited and erratic schedule.

“After my on-boarding call with purplepatch coach Michael, I felt he totally understood how crazy the rest of my life could get, and also what my goals were. He convinced me it was still doable!”

Taking Control Of Her Training

As Stephanie dug into the training, she appreciated the clear hierarchy of the purplepatch workouts so she knew exactly where to focus her energy each week given her work schedule. Each workout session is labeled “key” or "supporting" to eliminate the guesswork for athletes and underscore where to place the focus when life becomes unpredictable.

“I learned how to take ownership of my training and knew how to make adjustments without compromising the integrity of the workout objective. It’s a key difference between purplepatch's approach and just blindly following a cookie cutter plan.”

In Stephanie’s case, she spent a few minutes every weekend reviewing the plan for the week ahead so she would be prepared for the meatier workouts and also understand where there was flexibility if she got delayed at the hospital one day. In addition to the training plan, Stephanie leveraged many of the purplepatch resources to learn and stay informed as she trained towards her first IRONMAN race and a 70.3 race along the way. As a newcomer to the sport of triathlon, she had a lot to learn and therefore maximized the educational content, including the weekly coach’s bulletin, the website and the private purplepatch Facebook group to get answers to questions as well as connect with fellow purplepatch athletes. She also had regular contact with the purplepatch coaching team.

Plan support has been an ongoing life saver when I have specific questions about managing my weekly schedule, training plan adjustments, and goal setting.”

Season Planning & Results 

Stephanie raced IRONMAN 70.3 Santa Rosa as preparation for IRONMAN Boulder a month later and attended the pre-race meeting in Santa Rosa to hear Matt’s advice and tips for managing the course. It also helped settle her nerves ahead of her first major triathlon event. At the pre-race meeting, she got all kinds of great information specific to the course and the weather and went into the race feeling both mentally and physically prepared. After a solid training race at Santa Rosa 70.3, Stephanie toed the line at IRONMAN Boulder in June feeling confident that she had done the work necessary to succeed. She completed the course in just under 13 hours, exceeding expectations for her first race and is already thinking about where she could shave time the next go around!

“I keep signing up for races because I always like to have some sort of project on the horizon. It's a good motivator and I do best when I have a routine with some structure.”

In Stephanie’s case, the purplepatch program offered a practical, real world approach to training that was varied enough to keep training interesting while also adapting to her hectic lifestyle of juggling medical residency and training with the rest of life.

“A plan with intention and specificity that accommodates a busy life is a more realistic and sustainable in the long run rather than chasing new PRs regardless of the personal cost… In medical school patients would ask me, ‘what's the best kind of exercise?’ Ultimately, the best exercise is the one you'll actually keep doing. A perfect training plan isn't perfect, if you can't realistically follow it or if you're not having fun!