I was listening to a business podcast recently by a guy called Seth Godin where he told this story which I thought applied just as well to Ironman training as his situation.

Seth tells the story of playing ice hockey when he was in school and one of the drills they were being taught was where the coach would throw a puck into the corner (a bit of a misnomer as the ice didn’t have any actual corners) The two players were to race to get try to get the puck and each was then to try to take it towards opposite ends of the ice.

The natural inclination was to race to be the first to the puck but Godin realized that if he took the opposite approach and arrived a second later that the second player to the puck actually had the advantage. He could knock the first player off and steal the puck. He changed the target and the rules and he won almost every time.

It took about twenty tackles before the other players realized what he was doing at which point they too started to try to be second to the puck. This invariably led to a comic slowing of both players as they tried to arrive to the tackle second. In the end it led the the coach to ban Godin’s approach. But the lesson stuck with him. Click on through to read more…

He learned a couple of things

  1. You need to know what to do
  2. You need to be able to do it
  3. You need to care enough to get hit

Related: How to train for an Ironman Triathlon

Unless you’re a Seth Godin fan and have listened to this podcast that list probably needs probably needs a bit more explanation.

  1. He realized that knowing what to do was crucial. Just rushing in to be first to the puck, which at first glance would seem to be the right move was in fact the wrong thing to do.
  2. He then needed to be able to execute his clever strategy. If he couldn’t skate or tackle the opponent successfully then even with the best strategy in the world he was never going to win.
  3. He needed to care enough about the outcome to be willing to get hit. If he didn’t care enough about winning then he was never going to put himself in harms way and risk getting knocked on his ass.

Related: Choose Hardship

So how does this apply to Ironman triathlon?

  1. Knowing what to do is very important. Ironman isn’t just a long triathlon it’s almost a completely different sport to short or middle distance tri. Being good at Olympic distance racing isn’t any guarantee that you’ll be good at Ironman. In fact the opposite often applies as taking the lessons you’ve learned that work for short course and applying them to long distance racing rarely works. Spending six to twelve months or longer preparing for an event only to discover you’ve been doing the wrong things from the start would be pretty soul destroying not to mention futile.
  2. Being able to execute what needs to be done involves more than just being physically capable. It also requires a lifestyle that allows you fit it in and the emotional intelligence and self control to do it correctly. Just knowing how to do something doesn’t mean that you will succeed. Knowledge alone isn’t enough, you need to be able to execute what you know to do.
  3. Needing to care enough to get hit? How does that apply? Ironman invariably involves lots of hard training. Often in bad weather or uncomfortable conditions. Suffering for hours on the bike in the winter mightn’t be exactly the same as getting knocked on your ass but the willingness to suffer and hurt is much the same.

Related: How to train to do a faster Ironman