Meet Chad Solomon — real life Ironman and friend of Ned. In 2020, he biked a total of 5000 miles, ran a total of 1200 miles, and swam a total of 135 miles to train for the most mentally and physically challenging feat of human endurance. All this — after undergoing back surgery! We chat with him about big hairy audacious goals and how Ned helped him achieve them.
Ned: So, I spent most of 2020 at home, baking bread and binging Netflix like a normal person! Not you! You decided to do an Ironman. An Ironman! Whatever possessed you to take on the most mentally and physically challenging feat of human endurance?!
Chad: Growing up, I used to watch the Ironman World Championships on NBC with my dad, and I can remember a moment as a sophomore in highschool where I looked at my Dad and said “I am going to do that one day.” It seemed literally impossible to workout for 12-16 hours straight, especially the part of running a marathon, after biking 112 miles. I really enjoy endurance sports because it is much more mental than physical. In my opinion, anybody can do an Ironman with a training plan, a lot of discipline, and mental toughness. You do not have to be shredded or the fastest guy in the room, just have to want it bad enough.
Ned: Now, training for an Ironman is intense, to say the least, under normal circumstances. But 2020 wasn’t normal circumstances. I know the event kept getting rescheduled and pushed back, so you ended up training for nine solid months, which I hear is not advisable because it really pushes your body to the absolute limits. What were some of the highs and lows of training?
Chad: Yes, I initially started training in February of 2020 for the Santa Rosa Half Ironman in May 2020. At that time I did not own a bike, had never swam more than 1 mile straight, and was in average running shape. Due to COVID, I had a total of four half and full ironmans cancelled (Santa Rosa Half, Santa Rosa Full, Ironman Texas, and Ironman Arizona). The thing with an Ironman is, it is not good for your body to workout for 12-16 hours straight and train at such an intense level for more than 6-8 weeks at a time, especially for a beginner like myself. The training plan was 8 weeks of base building, 8 weeks of a build phase, and 8 weeks a race phase.
To put in perspective, I trained for a total of +/- 37 weeks (I got to week 12 and went back to week 5, got to week 20 and went back to week 18). Some of the lows of training would be brutal wake up calls at 4/4:30 AM to go ride my bike on Pacific Coast Highway for 6 hours by myself. I think the best part of training is whenever you have a personal best. I remember the day I completed my first 20 mile run under a 7:30 pace or the first time I swam the full 2.4 miles. Days where you achieve personal records make training intoxicating and give you the mental energy to keep grinding away at your goal. It is also the best getting out there with buddies, which I was able to do for a few bikes and runs, but nobody really liked swimming in the dirty Marina Del Rey water! In 2020 in total I biked 5,000 miles, ran 1,200 and swam 135 miles to train for the event. Pretty crazy numbers. All in hours was roughly 600 hours across all three disciplines.
Ned: If I’m being honest, my drive to do much of anything had a short shelf life in 2020. What I find so inspiring is that you stayed motivated and you kept going. What sustained you throughout the year?
Chad: I told a lot of people about it, so at that point I felt pretty obligated to do it. In reality, it was having it be a goal / dream for the last seven years. After having back surgery, getting the chance to work from home due to COVID, and having no major injuries while training, I did not think I would ever have that time again nor my body be able to handle the workload. Also once I got 12ish weeks in, I would think how much work and time it took to get to this level of fitness, so I owed it to myself to see it to the literal and figurative finish line.
Ned: You started using Ned in the midst of your training.
Chad: The products were amazing. I used the Body Butter, Sleep Blend, and 1500mg Full Spectrum Hemp Oil. Essentially I was using 2 to 3 different Ned products everyday for about 6 months straight. Ned products are great, because they relieve a lot of physical and mental stress, allowing my body and mind to recover and be ready for the next training session.
The Body Butter I would use after every workout after I got out of the shower. The Body Butter is pretty straight forward, the physical toll your body takes working out 2-3 hours a day, six days a week for 9 months is absurd. I needed to get rid of soreness and let my body recover and that was key in the recovery process. After having back surgery, I have some nerve pain on my right leg and within minutes of rubbing the Body Butter on it, the pain and numbness dissipated which was huge for recovery and mentally relaxing.
I would take Full Spectrum Hemp Oil everyday before I went to work after my morning session and Sleep Blend after my PM session before I went to bed. The CBD was also big for recovery. After a long day of working out, sometimes I literally felt too stressed that it was hard to get my body to relax enough to recover. Ned products were a game changer in my sleep and recovery. In order to have strong training sessions you need to recover, whether that means napping between a 100 mile ride and a five mile run on a Saturday or getting as much sleep as you can before the 5 AM alarm goes off Tuesday morning telling you it is time for an ocean swim.
Ned: Wait wait wait, hold up! You did all this after undergoing back surgery?! I love how nonchalant you are about that not so minor detail! That’s huge and really inspiring!
Chad: My junior year of high school I fractured my tailbone and herniated a disc in my back. I did Physical Therapy three times, had three cortisone shots, and one cortisone pack over a six year period. Most of it did not provide any relief, or if it did it was extremely temporary. I had seen surgeons, but my parents were extremely hesitant to let me have surgery as I was only 18-21 at the time. My dad had a spinal stenosis and has had a similar surgery and his recovery was brutal, but I alluded to my parents that medicine had changed a lot in the 10-15 years since his surgery / recovery. By the time I was a senior in college and had been dealing with the issue for +/- 6 years my parents caved, as my second MRI clearly showed two badly herniated discs at L4/L5 - L5/S1 (right lower back). When I got the surgery in June of 2018, I didn’t have the leg strength immediately after surgery to walk. My mom would have to physically lift my legs from the floor to the couch where I lay for the next 6 weeks. After 6 weeks of nothing, I started with 10 minute walks around the block. 3 months post surgery I started physical therapy to get basic functionality and movement back. After about 1 year I had regular strength back, but was told it was never going to be a good idea to run more than 6-10 miles in one sitting. I really just tuned the medical advice out, because I wanted to chase a f***ing dream.
In the summer of 2019, I started training for my first half ironman and really started ramping up the running (25-30 miles a week). I had to stop training because my back flared up, and I freaked out that I did not want to get surgery again or deal with pain for 6 months. When I started training again in Feb 2020 for the full / half Ironman I had to be very specific with my training, stretching, and taking care of my body. The Ned products, especially the Hmp Infused Body Butter, was clutch for the surgical site especially after your low back feels like shit after riding a stiff bike seat for 6 hours. To date my back feels great, and I had no injuries except for a little bit of shin splints on my right leg at the end of my training.
Ned: In the end, the official event was officially cancelled. That must have felt like a gut punch after a year of intense training. But you didn’t let it deter you. You decided to put yourself through the full course anyway — and I heard you had friends at every checkpoint along the way, that’s awesome! I gotta say, I think that’s even cooler than the official thing! How did it feel to accomplish your goal?
Chad: Easily the best part of a 2020 and a day I will never forget! I remember parts of the run where I wanted to just literally lie down in the middle of the road, but knowing how much work had gone into it, along with the family and friends I had biking and running with me gave me the fuel to keep going. It also is crazy because I got in the water in the pitch black and finished the run in the pitch black.
Ned: Wow! That’s savage! So, what’s in store for 2021?
Chad: In April, I am going to run a 200 mile relay with 3 friends (each of us taking 50 miles), although COVID may interfere with that. Whether in 2021 or not, I would love to break 3 hours in the marathon and qualify for Boston. And the last dream (probably not in 2021) would be the Catalina Classic Paddle. I have no board or paddling experience, but paddling the 32 miles from Catalina to Manhattan Beach would be one hell of a day.