So about that argument that race car drivers aren't athletes ...

Tony Kanaan will be traveling 140.6 miles this weekend, but he won't be behind the wheel of his No. 82 KV Racing Technology -- Lotus. He'll be in Hawaii, competing in the Ford Ironman World Championship.

Keep your jokes about when the blubber meets the road. The 14-time IndyCar winner prides himself on his extraordinary physical fitness and has been swimming, biking and running to stay in shape his entire life. On Saturday, Kanaan will push himself in all three realms in the world's most grueling triathlon.

So how is life different preparing for the mega race?

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"Now I eat carbs at night," he says.

Kanaan has small meals every three hours and exercises twice a day. Before he began training, he didn't eat any carbohydrates after 6 o'clock, preferring a dinner of lean protein and vegetables. Now though, he needs all the energy he can get -- he burns more than 4,000 calories a day.

That doesn't mean his diet isn't regimented. Kanaan, who was born in Brazil, has been eating the same way since he was a teenager. He sticks to what’s healthy, doesn't eat anything fried and keeps his sodium intake low. Once a week, though, he allows himself to splurge.

"Sunday night it's a Brazilian tradition -- we have pizza," he says. "And then I have an ice cream. You can't be so restricted."

But how does he hold up among the endless grilled meats of his homeland at a churrascaria?

"I grew up around them. It's like when you work in a chocolate factory, you don't eat everything that's in front of you," he says with a slight laugh.

Kanaan is well aware just how different his chosen profession is from the upcoming Ironman. Sitting in a car for a few hours seems like a cakewalk compared to a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile marathon that will take half a day. But it's the individuality of the feat that he's most interested in.

"In car racing you're depending on the equipment and the crew," he says. "If you don't do well at the end of the day, you can say someone else was responsible. With triathlons, it's all on you."

Even though Kanaan has traveled the world -- from South America to racing in Italy -- he has never been to the Aloha State before.

"I promised myself I would only go to Hawaii if I was doing the Ironman," he says, noting that he plans on trying to enjoy the views of the Big Island during the race.

That is, if he's not suffering too much.

The good news is he's only competing against himself. Kanaan has no intentions of trying to win; he simply wants to finish. He has completed two half Ironmans, but getting to the tape would be his biggest accomplishment to date off the track. In fact, he might even break one of his diet rules to celebrate.

"I don't drink at all, but I might have a glass of Champagne," Kanaan says.

And maybe a slice of pizza too.

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