Yes. I said it, Ironman Triathlons are easy. I’ve always said on race day, from the time you wake up in the morning to the time you go to bed, you will have done something extraordinary and you’ll remember for the rest of your life. It’s one day. Anyone can push themselves through one day of shit that will last a lifetime.
The training however is not easy. For months, maybe even years, you will have signed up for a race, on a particular day, and you have to be ready for it. I don’t even think the physical aspect of training is that difficult. If I told you to run for one minute today, could you? Sure you could. Then, tomorrow we can increase it by 10 seconds. You could do that too. If we continued adding 10 seconds a day, you would be able run for two hours straight in a little under two years. It’s the basic principle of progressive overload. Will it take two years to progressively overload to complete an Ironman? It depends on where your fitness currently is, but most likely it’ll be quicker than that.
The mental aspect of your training is what’s going to separate you from finishing or not finishing on race day. A million things can happen even before the start line. Did you arrive the day before and feel too rushed? Been there. Did you leave one tiny bike part while packing your bike and have to scramble to a bike shop to get a new one? Done that. Did you start cramping and need to quickly figure out what you can do to fix it? Yup, that’s happen to me too. If you have trained at least adequately, the body will be more than ready on race day. The mind is going to be the greatest predictor of finish time.
This training of the mind doesn’t happen on race day either. It occurs during the months or years while you are training for this race. It comes during those early morning sessions when you would rather be in bed. Those bike rides when you get two flats on and have to walk miles to a gas station for a patch. It also happens during those long runs on those days you just don’t have it in you. Those are all examples of some of your best training days. It’s those days that will be more beneficial in the long run than any days where you set a PR in training. Overcoming obstacles leads to success during adversity. You’ll have plenty of hardship to deal with as you swim, bike and run 140.6 miles
Your mind is the most powerful tool in your bag if you train it to be. It takes training just as the body does. Staying positive, using mental imagery, and other sports psychology tools are vital when trying to exercise for essentially an entire day. Thing is, it’s do able. Don’t let the little things get you down, but instead find ways to overcome them. Push through those sessions, it’ll make you stronger in the end. Problems are just opportunities to find new answers. Don’t ever let mediocrity be acceptable.
Sean Spire is the Head Coach of ASL. He was a competitive swimmer who discovered CrossFit and Ironman Triathlons. He has his BS in Exercise Science from Florida State University.