Forging Steel: Becoming Mentally tough on your Ironman bike
Forging Steel: Becoming Mentally tough on your Ironman bike

Forging Steel: Becoming Mentally tough on your Ironman bike

Forging Steel: Becoming Mentally tough on your Ironman bike

Being the longest, time wise, of the 3 Ironman disciplines, it’s important to improve your mental fortitude in order to improve your Ironman bike times. Meghan Fillnow shares her tips to get faster on the bike.

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BRAD BROWN: Let’s chat some biking here on The Kona Edge. We head back to North Carolina to catch up with Meghan Fillnow.

Meghan, welcome back onto the podcast. You mentioned that your bike handling skills left a lot to be desired earlier on in your triathlon career. You had to really learn how to ride a bike, but you’ve gotten a lot better. Your bike has improved over time hasn’t it?

Riding on an injury

MEGHAN FILLNOW:  Yes, thank you. My first half Ironman, I actually got in a bike crash. I was on the 2nd mile of the bike and some girl ran into my back wheel and I flipped off my bike and fractured my wrist. But I kept going and I ended up passing out across the finish line. So, that was my first major experience.

But I’ve definitely put in a lot of work on the bike and I’ve learnt to enjoy the bike. There was a time where I took a year off from cycling and triathlon training because one of my sisters’ old team mates, she was an elite triathlete and one of the best runners in the United States. She tragically got in a bike crash and died and that year I just took a break. I was really scared to be back on the road.

Indoor trainer helped me overcome my fear of cycling

Eventually I got back to cycling and I did a lot of trainer work. I think the trainer really helped and then I got comfortable back outside, and I really do love being outside riding through the country.

BRAD BROWN: North Carolina is a great place to ride bike. There are some beautiful landscapes. You’ve got some beautiful mountains too to get some good hill work in.

MEGHAN FILLNOW:  We do for sure. Just a couple of hours from Charlotte we have Ashville Mountains and they’re awesome.

Tough and challenging Ironman bike training rides

I like to do a couple of those trips in the build up to an Ironman because I think those strength rides are awesome. One of my teammates lives in Georgia and there’s the Six Gaps that are really tough and challenging. And that’s fun to do.

BRAD BROWN: You mentioned in our first chat that if you could go back and start your triathlon career again, you would have got yourself a Power meter a lot sooner. Are you very scientific with your training when it comes to analysing the numbers and what you should and shouldn’t be doing on the bike?

Power helps gauge your Ironman bike

MEGHAN FILLNOW:  Not really. I kind of balance that, I like to go by RPE and feel. Although I also like to have the Power meter to have those specific watts. But I’m not a slave to it.

Even in my last Ironman, I know this is crazy, but my Power was 20 watts higher than what I was supposed to be riding and then I sort of stressed out about it. I know I wasn’t over biking, I felt fine. And I was like ‘oh, I hope I’m going to be able to run off this’, but it was fine.

So, I’m not a slave to it but it’s just a helpful tool and I use it simply as a tool or just another way to gauge how you’re doing out there.

BRAD BROWN: Talk to me about the mental side. We spoke a lot about the mental side in our first chat but you talk about taking time away from the bike just because of outside circumstances. You mention about falling and fracturing something and then riding through that pain.

How mental strength helps you appreciate Ironman training

How do you lift yourself up from a setback like that? From a crash or where something happens to someone you know and you’re then nervous to get back on the bike? It’s difficult and again, it’s that whole mental side of things.

MEGHAN FILLNOW:  That one year when my sister’s teammate died, I was like ‘is this sport even worth it? Is it worth your life?’ I was over stressing and I think I just transformed my mind-set. It is such a gift to be able to do what we do and to ride outside. And so I transformed my mind-set and saw it as such a beautiful gift to be able to do that. That’s what I’ve actually done before I got back on the bike and I know that riding a bike is a lot like life. You’re going to go through the valleys and you’re going to go through the mountain tops.

Embrace the blissful moments in life on your Ironman bike

So, I just love it because it goes parallel to life and you’ve got to keep grinding it out and pushing through and then you’ll have moments that it’s just pure bliss and you’ve got to embrace those moments. And then there are moments where it’s just like ‘is this mount ever going to end, and you just have to stay relentlessly positive and push through.

It’s good to have the camaraderie out there and that helps you get through and enjoy the journey.

BRAD BROWN: I think that’s an important point to make because we’re all in the same boat. I don’t think it matters where you live in the world. There are dangers about riding a bike on the roads wherever you are. But the truth of the matter is you could be sitting on your sofa watching the television and the roof of your house could cave in and kill you.

You’ve got to put things into perspective and balance the risks. Don’t be stupid about where you ride your bike but also you can’t live your life with the fear of ‘what if’. You’ve got to get out there and experience things.

Enjoying the gift of your Ironman ability

MEGHAN FILLNOW:  That’s so true. And I think that’s what really helped change because I was living in fear instead of living. That’s not the way to live so I transformed that and like you said you just have to enjoy what you’re doing and not be afraid that something bad is going to happen.

Even today, I was out running and I did a couple kickups and this guy who was limping, he was probably 80 years old and he was walking his dog. He was like ‘I wish I could do what you do’. And that just made me think it really is a gift to be able to swim, and bike, and run. So, we can’t take it for granted but you don’t want to live in fear of the what if’s and everything.

BRAD BROWN: Favourite bike workout? What do you absolutely love? Or should I say what do you hate to love, on the bike?

Reward yourself when reaching the top with your Ironman bike

MEGHAN FILLNOW:  One of my good friends lives out in Tucson and I love going out Mount Lemmon and then eating a cookie at the top. That’s my absolute favourite but it doesn’t happen very often because I can’t get out there very often. And I don’t like descending so it’s fun if you can have someone that can drive us down.

But I would say on a day to day basis when I’m working hard and training for a big race, workouts that I like to do are those VO2 Max workouts where you’re really just crushing it for a short amount of time and then you have good solid recovery.

So, I’ll just grind it out and I’d be sweating profusely on my trainer and I’m such a dork, I’ll read. I’ll read a book for those 3 minutes to recover. Just to get out of the mind-set of what I’m doing, and it’s time to go again. Then I push-push-push. I like those workouts.

BRAD BROWN: Awesome. Well, I look forward to chatting about your run next time out. Meghan thank you so much for your time on The Kona Edge today. Much appreciated.


About Us

Brad Brown is a 40 something age grouper that dreams of one day qualifying for and racing on the big island (He may have to outlive everyone in his age group though).

Morbidly obese in 2009, Brad clocked in at 165kgs (363lbs) at his heaviest.

He's subsequently lost a third of his body weight on the way to a half Ironman pb of 5:06 and a full Ironman pb of 12:21.


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