Hank and the Road to Ironman Wisconsin

By September 9, 2016Fresh Air Blog

CIM’s very own Team Member, Hank Devos is competing in the Wisconsin Ironman this weekend, alongside a bunch of other T1Ds with Riding On Insulin’s Endurance Team! We caught up with him to learn a little bit more about the race, what his training has looked like, and how he’s feeling as we inch closer to Sunday – Race Day!

Interview by Jen Hanson with Hank Devos  |  Photos by Mike Last

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JH: Tell us a little bit more about this whole Ironman thing? What is it that you’re going to be DOING on Sunday? 

HD: For those that aren’t familiar, Ironman is what many consider to be “the” triathlon. It is a 3.8km swim, a 180km bike ride, and a 42.2km marathon all in one day. It’s a pretty epic undertaking.

JH: Epic might be an understatement! What do you do to train for something like an Ironman? How does your diabetes play a role? 

HD: Training for an ironman is a big time commitment; you start off training 6-7 hours a week, working on your base fitness level and the intensity and duration steadily increases as you get further along. The last few months of training are anywhere from 12-16 hour weeks of training. Thats time at the pool swimming laps, or heading out for a 100km + bike rides every weekend with shorter rides during the week. A lot of times you’ll swim and run on the same day or do what is called a ‘brick’ workout where you go for your ride and then immediately when you are finished, put on your running shoes and head out for a run.

It’s said nutrition is the 4th sport of Triathlon, and with diabetes thrown into the mix that’s even more true. It took me a while to really figure out how my body would react to going for a 4+ hour bike ride, trying to maintain a certain pace. I’ve had to adjust my basal rates along the way and figure out what works for me in regards to properly fuelling my body during during training. Diabetes definitely doesn’t make things easier and can throw a wrench in your plans every so often, but it’s just another part of training that you deal with.

MLP-20160710-HankTriathlon-2726JH: Why did you decide to sign up for an Ironman race? 

HD: If you’re familiar with Riding on Insulin, I’ve done all their video content on the youtube channel. As such I was down in Madison in 2015 to cover race day for the inaugural team that did the race under the ROI banner. To say it was an experience was an understatement. All of Madison gets involved and there are people cheering all over the course, I’ve never seen that in a race before. I’ve done several half-marathons and one full marathon and I thought those events were well attended. Ironman Wisconsin is just awesome.
My main reason for signing up is that I just wanted something to challenge myself; I’m a very impulsive decision maker sometimes and not the best long term planner or not the best at keeping up long term goals so I thought shooting for something big would keep me focused and help shift my frame of mind. I was coming off a so-so year personally and figured Ironman would be a good way to push myself mentally and physically.
Being at the finish line was also a huge motivator for me; seeing people come across the finish that you wouldn’t normally expect to see competing in something this insane really hit a chord with me.

MLP-20160630-CottageRED-2612JH: What has been the most challenging part of your training? 

HD: The most challenging part has definitely been just staying consistent and balancing training with work and life. Thankfully I have the freelance lifestyle so I’m not locked into a particular schedule and I can do my workouts whenever I need/want. Thats a double edged sword though, as it sometimes backfires. My weakest area in life is time management and I found that to be my biggest struggle. I’m not a morning person and prefer to do my workouts in the evenings and afternoons, but as you progress, there just isn’t enough time in the day to get a 5 hour bike ride down before it gets dark. I struggled trying to will myself to get things done earlier in the day. With starting training so early (November 2015) I did get burnt out a few times; especially in the winter when you can’t ride your bike outside. Being on your bike trainer for 3 hours gets incredibly monotonous. Thankfully there are two other sports to break things up, but it was a struggle some weeks to get my workouts done. If you were to look over my Training Peaks account (online scheduler) you’d see a lot of weeks where I just didn’t have time to workout due to illness, or work / travel. It can get stressful but you’ve just got to keep plugging away at it.

JH: How are you feeling leading into Sunday? 

HD: I feel quite confident in my swimming abilities and I’m not worried about that. Although starting with 2800 other people all at the same time will be totally new. I had an opportunity to ride the bike course earlier in the summer and it really helped me mentally prepare for that challenge. The Wisconsin course is known for being really challenging, and I can attest that it lives up to that. It won’t be easy by any means, but I at least know what to expect going in and thats a huge bonus. The run is always the wild card for me. I’m not really a runner, but I’ve done the distance before and I’m confident I can finish it. The run is going to be the hardest part for me. I just have to remember to pace myself and keep moving.

JH: How can we follow along with you on race day? 

HD: There are several tracking apps on the app store / google play store you can download. Some are free some are few dollars. But you can track me via my bib # 1572 as well as keep an eye out on social media for the ROI hashtags #roit1d to see some real time photo posts.

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Best of luck to Hank and all of the other T1D athletes competing in Ironman Wisconsin on Sunday! We’ll be cheering you on!

  • Adam

    Hi Hank,

    How did it go? I’m thinking of doing a half Ironman in Racine next summer. I’m Type 1 since 92

    • Hendrik DeVos

      Hey Adam,

      It went really well. If nearly 17 hours of grueling exercise can be considered ‘really well’. 😉

      I ended the race about 20 min slower than I had projected but I finished with 16 minutes to spare. It was a hell of a day and pretty damn amazing.

      • Adam

        Wow, great work!!! Any suggestions for excercise and pump use. Specifically balancing excercise to insulin carb ratio? Any pro tips I guess outside of the trail and error and figuring out how hard various workouts hit you through trial and error?