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From Pumping Iron to Ironman, Part II: Jake Lockert Reflects on the Ironman Chattanooga

November 23, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Jake Lockert
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CrossFit has long been heralded as a fitness methodology for creating well-rounded athletes prepared to face any challenge. But what if that challenge was a 14+ hour endurance event with 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and 26.2 miles of running?

One big thing: Over the years, hundreds of CrossFitters have taken on the challenge of the Ironman, utilizing CrossFit as one of their primary training methodologies. While many have proved successful, the race does not come without its unique challenges.

Remind me: One month ago, we sat down with Mayhem Athlete Director, Jake Lockert to talk about his and his team’s experience preparing for a full Ironman. 

  • According to Lockert, their training was largely comprised of CrossFit training alongside some supplemental endurance training.
  • “We were not training even 10 hours a week for most of the year until the last couple of months,” he said.

This week, we sat down with him again to talk about the actual race itself and some of the lessons he and his team were able to take from the event.

The highlights: 140.6 miles of swimming, biking, and running was certainly a challenge, Lockert also highlighted some of the high points of the race.

  • “It was a really good experience. Overall, I’m super glad I did it,” said Lockert. “One of the coolest parts was that basically the whole city shut down for the routes along the bike and run,” he continued. “There would be people sitting out in their driveway cheering us on all day.” 
  • “When you see people it’s amazing how much life it gives you, especially the transition areas,” Lockert added noting that his friends and family came to cheer him on throughout the event.

The lessons: While there were highlights, there were also lessons from the day, especially when it came to pacing and nutrition.

One of the most important lessons Lockert learned was in carb loading the week before. “I don’t think I hit it,” said Lockert referring to the volume of carbs he had to eat prior to the start of the race.

  • “I love eating, but I was sick of eating,” he continued.

Lockert also admitted that he learned some lessons in pacing when it came to racing 140.6 miles. “I felt good on the bike. Looking back, I went faster than I should have gone,” he said.

  • “I could tell my legs were more fatigued than they’ve ever been getting off the bike,” he continued. “I hadn’t trained enough intensity on my bike. I’ve done echo bike workouts, but not hard fast road bike workouts,” Lockert added.
  • “The second half of the marathon, I walked probably 80% because my legs were cramping so hard,” he continued.
  • “I drank plenty of water, but I had just pushed it too hard on the bike,” Lockert concluded.

“The whole time I was thinking I would die before I DNF,” he laughed remembering his struggle through the final marathon.

What translated from CrossFit: Post-race, Lockert reflected on a number of things that translated well from his CrossFit training.

  • “CrossFit definitely prepared me because I had a great aerobic base from all the machine work and doing CrossFit in the past,” said Lockert. “My power output and lactate threshold itself is really good,” he added.
  • “My tools were there, I just had to adapt them to the sport of triathlon,” said Lockert.
  • “My volume was good enough. I trained minimally. I trained as little as possible,” Lockert added emphasizing that he really felt like CrossFit provided a solid foundation for his training volume.

Lockert also emphasized the way that the mental toughness CrossFit creates translated into completing such a long and difficult event.

  • “You learn to grind and suffer in CrossFit,” he said. “Long, low-level suffering is different,” he continued. “But if you’ve done high-intensity suffering in CrossFit, you can make it through that.”
  • “If you do hard things in CrossFit, you get better at doing hard things all around,” he added.

What he would have done differently: While many elements of CrossFit from a physical and mindset perspective translated well, there were a few additional elements Lockert wished he had been able to dive into more.

  • “I wish I had done more intensity training on my feet and in the saddle. I had just done a ton of zone 2 training,” said Lockert.

“I should have done more threshold training,” he added, noting that coming off the bike made him wish his legs were more adapted to higher-intensity bike workouts.

What’s next: While Lockert admits that his Ironman career might be a one-and-done, he did say, however, that this experience has sparked his interest in other long-distance endurance sports.

  • “The big takeaway I learned was I love running,” said Lockert. “I still run a lot of days,” he continued adding that he was looking into potentially running a 50k next year.

While he still loves CrossFit, he noted that running gave him a special space to clear his head.

  • “Getting outside has made it more fun,” Lockert concluded.

The big picture: While certainly not an easy task, Lockert and his team’s journey to finishing the Chatanooga Ironman this year is proof of CrossFit’s versatility and adaptability. Even with minimal endurance training, Lockert was still able to utilize the base he built through CrossFit to power him both mentally and physically through a unique and difficult challenge.

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