Qualifying for Kona is the holy grail of triathlon accomplishments. Not many people do it, and what they sacrifice to get to that starting line is often more than they ever thought possible. San Diego resident James Adams is one of these people. Like the vast majority of Kona hopefuls, Adams is balancing his Kona qualifying journey with a full-time job, a wife and two children. He’s not a full-time athlete or someone who can put their training before their job, their family or their other adult responsibilities. Over the next year, we’re letting Adams tell us his story, his ups and downs, his training plans, and his advice for others with the same goal. Join Adams as he trains for his A-race, Ironman Coeur D’Alene, in the hopes of getting his Kona slot for the 2014 Ironman World Championship.
I grew up in San Diego in a great family environment, where my parents always supported me in whatever activities my brothers and sister wanted to pursue. For me it was sports – baseball and soccer. I played both every year from when I was 5 all the way up to high school. Playing on club teams, traveling teams, All Stars…etc. My parents dropped a lot of money and a lot of time into me and I was grateful for that because it paved the way for me to be successful in endurance sports both in fitness and in mental toughness. As I was getting in shape for soccer season, my freshman year in high school -I naturally ran xcountry and was introduced to this old man, Coach Wilson who coached xcountry and track. Besides my parents, he later became one of the biggest influences in my life. After running a 5:02 mile in my first race with just soccer and baseball training, Coach Wilson convinced me that I could have a future in running. I finished high school with a 1:57 800 and a 4:19 mile, which was fast enough (at the time) to earn me scholarships to different universities. I transferred around and went where the good coaches were and I ended up graduating at California Baptist University- where at the time, Coach Irv Ray (now head coach at UC Riverside) was coaching. He guided me to a 14-time All American status, 4 time National Champion, 1:51 800, 3:47 1500 (4:04 mile), and a 14:15 5000. After graduating, these times were good enough to land me a spot on Bob Shul’s (’64 5000 Gold Medalist) Olympic Development team located in Dayton, Ohio. I was exposed to some very unorthodox training with influences of Mihaly Igloi which included a lot of speed work on the track (sometimes 12+ miles all on the track). My mileage and intensity were higher than it had ever been and I just felt tired…always. I wasn’t racing well and after battling some injuries and burnout I decided to pull the plug and head back home to CA. I took a few months of recovery and raced an 8k for fun a few months later and ran a 23:47, my fastest 8k by like 90 seconds. Even though that was a huge PR, I was still burned out (and in love with my eventual wife) so I quit racing competitively in February of 2002.
Fast forward seven years and there were a lot of highs and lows. After getting married and having two kids, I gained 44 pounds (I brewed my own beer …). Along with the weight gain I also had to deal with our house burning down and starting a new career. I weighed in at 179 in November of 2009. It was a wakeup call. I decided immediately to start training for the Carlsbad Marathon, which was a little less than three months later. Bad call on that … I struggled to a 4:14 finish, but was excited about getting back in shape. In 2010, I ran into a lot of little injuries and I kept trying to push my mileage up so I could get into shape quicker. However, my body wouldn’t let me, so I decided to give triathlon a try so I could train more and avoid fewer injuries. After losing the same 44 pounds I saw some early success so I started this blog called “Love the Hurt” which became “Adams Racing” where over the past three years I documented my road to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, which I accomplished in 2013.
So now it’s time for the next chapter, my Kona journey with my beautiful family in tow. My Kona journey was inspired from an idea that woke me up at 2 a.m. one night. After blogging over the past several years at “Adams Racing” about my triathlon adventures – I felt like the blog was a little too self-serving which is hard to escape when you’re blogging about yourself every week. I felt like the direction of the blog started morphing into just the “thoughts inside my head” and I really wanted to make a change.
As I lay wide awake I couldn’t think of anything else but how I needed to find a new purpose and have a new goal. The biggest leaps and bounds I made both physically and mentally in triathlon racing were from reading other triathlete’s blogs. It was never the ads, articles or forums that taught me what it takes to be great at triathlon. It was the handful of athletes who gave descriptive details about their training and what was going on inside their head. It was the honest ones; the ones who didn’t have anything to hide.
I thought to myself – what could I do to show serious triathletes the day-to-day sacrifice it might take to qualify for Kona? What about on your first try? Qualifying for Kona is the golden ticket of triathlon. Everyone wants to qualify but very few do. How does a man in his mid-30s who has a full time job/career, support a stay-at-home mom, two kids and lives on a tight budget qualify for Kona? How does he do it without having the 25+ hours/week to train?
Well, what DOES it take? I hope to show you. I’m registered for my first Ironman – Ironman Coeur d’Alene on June 29, 2014. The plan is to qualify for Kona on my first try and I’m going to reveal every single workout that I do leading up to it. All of the numbers, the emotions, the struggles, the time management and the races leading up – everything will be exposed. I hope to show serious triathletes what it takes to get to that level to qualify so that maybe one day you can do the same thing. If you think qualifying on my first go is impossible, many told me that losing 45 pounds, learning how to swim and bike and qualifying for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships would be impossible to do in two short years but I did it. Qualify or not, I’m hoping my coach and I will open some eyes to what it REALLY takes to race on the Big Island.
Stay tuned to see James Adams’ Ironman training plan take shape in the next installment of Love the Hurt.