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Training + 1… Single Parent Ironman Training

By on April 23, 2014

Every week I get several emails, comments, questions asking one specific question, “Dustin, how do you train for these full Ironman events and Ultra races as a single parent, work your job, keep up with social media stuff, and write?”  and it’s a good question. I am a father first and from the beginning of my journey my training had to be shaped and molded around being a dad or else it was  not going to work. I train a lot of athletes and many seem to always want perfect conditions for training, racing, life, and everything that comes along with Ironman training. The fact is that it will never be perfect and you can’t wait for it, you must work with what you have and make the best of things, push through it, and in the end you will be better because of the adversity. You have to be creative, dedicated, and also accept the fact that you will not get to train in the traditional ways that other athletes get the convenience of partaking in.

“Honey can you watch the baby while I take a 4 hour bike and 8 mile run?” does not get to happen, I don’t have a honey… The luxuries of a “normal” Ironman family training life becomes VERY clear when all of the pre written internet training plans get thrown out the door. I remember my first long run with Boston, it was a 14 miler with a stroller and it hurt like hell, lots of pee breaks, lots of “stop and get snacks” breaks, and lots of “this sucks now dad” breaks, and even the “can you hold me for a little bit now daddy” breaks (when he was younger).

When running with your kid, especially long runs, make sure you come prepared. I have learned the hard way and added things to our backpack over time.

  • Snacks (like Picky Bars, bananas, apples, granola, etc.)
  • Water bottle (fill with ice in case someone gets a booboo)
  • toilet paper (duh)
  • towel (trust me)
  • blanket (when it’s cool in the early mornings)
  • books and stickers (let them put stickers all over the stroller.. trust me it works. Let them go crazy)
  • Sidewalk chalk.. This has saved me a million times. Somebody gets bored and cranky and we just stop right where we are and draw pictures on the sidewalk with chalk. It breaks up the day, I can eat a Gu and take a drink, then we can start back up with a full reset. Also, the chalk washes away with rain. (Plus it’s just cool)
  • iPhone with plenty of iphone games or movies. If you have an iPad that would work too.. Or any tablet or smart phone.



The first thing I learned was that I had to do almost 90% of the bike training indoors on a trainer. He could handle running in the stroller for up to two hours but unfortunately there is no way to take your son on a  nice leisurely zone 2/3 six hour bike ride at 5:00am on Saturday morning. So what now? Well his bedtime has always been around 7pm-8pm, so after I put him down I would jump right on the trainer and ride until 12am/1am, slam my recovery smoothie, and then get to bed. Also, when I am doing shorter rides I can simply throw on a movie, get out the coloring books, and while I am riding right next to him we can still hang out and talk. He can also ride with you on his trainer 🙂

I sneak in my swims while he is at school and then we  run together with the stroller. Stroller training is amazing and if you are looking for improvements in your running game I would recommend throwing a kid in there and running 10-15 miles. I promise your running will get better and on race day you will feel like you are cheating (you’ll also constantly feel like you are forgetting something).

Strength training ends up being the easiest of the disciplines because it also means you get to play at the park and on jungle gyms. If you really need weight training then the good old public park is the best option for the training parent. Also, if you have a local rock climbing gym you can get all the weight training you can ask for PLUS your kid will have SO much fun. On top of all of this just remember that you are doing this together and trust me when I say this, “They watch every single thing that you do!!!”. Plant the seed…




Then something amazing happens, they want to start running and racing! (scream!! yes I know how cool is that???) Embrace it, let them, short races of course but let them run it out!


So what would a typical Ironman training day look like? Let’s take a look…

  • 5:30am – Coffee/water/Banana, ride the trainer for 1 hour followed by 20 mins core, mobility, and stability.
  • 6:50am – Shower, get Bostons clothes ready (and mine), cook breakfast, pack lunch, prepare for the day ahead.
  • 7:00am – Time to wake up Boston, Good Morning! Cartoons, breakfast, hugs and kisses.
  • 8:00am – On the road to drop Boston off at school, pep talk about him having a great day and listening, let’s work hard, tell him I love him, etc.
  • 8:30am – Head to work, call mom and catch up with her.
  • 9:00am – Arrive at work
  • 10:30am- Nutrition alarm, eat a smoothie or power oatmeal
  • 12:00pm – 45 min swim / 15 min lunch (eat quick and get back to work)
  • 4:45pm – leave to get Boston
  • 5:20pm – Pick Boston up
  • 6:00pm – Eat dinner and play at park (decompress)
  • 6:30pm – Boston baseball practice or game
  • 7:15pm – Drive home
  • 7:50pm – Home work
  • 8:30pm – Bath, Book, Bed time
  • 9:00pm – 3 Hour trainer ride (First 1.5 hours: nice and easy 148 BPM – Second 1.5 hours: interval training 5min easy/5 min hard, then push to 5 min easy 10 min power, rinse and repeat, last 10 mins out of the seat)
  • 12:00am – Smoothie and shower
  • 12:20am – Finish up writing, emails, replies, social media.
  • 1:00am – Eat dinner and watch big bang theory.
  • 1:30am – Bed time
  • Rinse and repeat… Have fun 😉

I love my life, my situation, and everything about my schedule. Is it freaking hard? Yes… But who cares. Everyone has it hard in some way and you must find a way, work through it, adapt improvise, and overcome. Ironman has taught me to enjoy the sweet suffering that comes with the lifestyle and now I crave it everyday. I love training with my son because I feel like it’s a legacy that I honestly want to leave. Does it mean I want him to be an Ironman? No… I want him to be whatever his “Ironman” is. Maybe it will be, maybe not, but either way I want him to see that nothing can stop you if you just want it bad enough, you work hard enough, and you always remember to pay it forward.

Here is the reward



Swim, Bike, and Run Y’all!! Cheers, from Boston and RunDustin


p.s. – Here are some pictures from our journey so far.