Training for (or even entering) your first Ironman can often seem like you’ve set yourself an impossible target but as long as you’ve given yourself enough time and continue taking steps towards your goal anything is achievable. When you start out on a journey that seems insurmountable there are a couple of simple things to do to help you deal with the often overwhelming size of the project.
Read on for more…
There are a couple of simple guidelines we use when coaching either first timers or even more experienced athletes who are looking to hit an ambitious goal.
You’re not doing the race today so you don’t need to be able to do all or even any of it today. Don’t let lack of fitness or technical ability (being able to swim for example) stop you from starting on your journey. Every ambition starts with a desire and then turns into reality by taking single steps towards your goal. The first step is entering the event, there’s nothing like the motivation of a deadline to get you started and keep you going.
Don’t wait for all the lights to be green.
If you were driving across the country you wouldn’t wait for all of the traffic lights to be green before you start your journey, otherwise you would never get going. There will be obstacles to overcome along the way but that shouldn’t stop you from starting. If you want something badly enough you will figure a way through, over or around the obstacles you come across.
Eating an elephant.
There’s the old joke, parable or whatever it is that asks how could you possibly eat an elephant? The answer; one bite at a time. Ironman or 70.3 is exactly the same. Everyone from the top pro’s to first timers can only do one session at a time and take it one day at a time.
Most people never show up, in fact most never even start. Being the one who just shows up puts you streets ahead of the rest. Showing up for a training session is more than half the battle. During my first attempt to qualify for Kona I was so tired during a particular block of training that I couldn’t face going out for the hour’s run that the coach had prescribed. He just happened to text me that day to check in and I told him I was too exhausted to go out for the run hoping he’d feel sorry for me and tell me to kick back and rest. He replied saying just to go out and run for 15 minutes and see how I felt. If I still felt that bad to stop but that surely I could manage a 15 minute run? So I went out and was surprised to feel good after 10 minutes so went on to finish the session. It was a valuable lesson learned. That day just showing up was by far the hardest part of the session.
Don’t become overwhelmed Keep taking steps. It’s just one foot in front of the other
When training for my first ultra marathon I really struggled to get my head around just how I could possibly even finish it. My confidence wasn’t helped by the fact that Ais who was a very experienced ultrarunner referred to it as a “short” ultra. At only 69km it was going to be one of the shorter races she had done but it would be almost 30km longer than I’d ever run. I was terrified of failure not to mention the horror stories I’d heard of how much it would hurt. One evening driving home from I admitted to Ais that I was afraid of the ultra. She asked what I was afraid of and I told her I was afraid of failure. She asked me what would I do if she stopped the car and left me at the side of the road (we were about 40km from home) how would I get home. I answered that I would run.
And when you cant run anymore? She asked.
Well then I’d walk until I could run again I answered.
Then that’s what you do in the race, she said. You just keep moving, putting one foot in front of the other. Keep taking steps forward.
Training for your first big event can often seem terrifying but the key is just to start then keep taking one step at a time towards your goal and you will eventually get there.
Focus on and enjoy the process as well as the outcome
We can often be driven by a huge goal, finish an Ironman or a 70.3, qualify for Kona, run a marathon, set a pb. While we can derive great motivation from the goal it’s important not to loose sight of why we are doing it. For most of us we get into triathlon because we love to swim, bike and run. The danger in focusing on only the outcome like hitting a particular time in a race is that we often overlook the enjoyment in the process whether it’s the individual sessions or the race itself. A couple of weeks before my first Ironman I was talking to a friend who had just finished his first one. He was gutted because he had missed his time target of 11 hours by about two minutes.
11 hours didn’t really mean anything it was just a number that he picked as he got close to the race. He wasn’t racing for a Kona slot or an age group place it was just a target he set himself and as a result of missing it it soured his whole day despite the fact that six months previous just finishing would have been considered a massive achievement.
I resolved that no matter what the time I did I was going to enjoy the feeling of finishing my first Iron distance triathlon. I wasn’t going to end up being dissapointed with the biggest sporting achievement of my life because I didn’t hit a specific time goal. I tell all first timers to just enjoy the experience and sense of acomplishment that comes from your first time crossing that finish line, getting that medal and hearing the words “you are an Ironman” A time target may be taken away by weather or mechanical problems but that’s no reason not to enjoy the biggest sporting day of your year or possibly your life. Enjoy the process as well as the outcome.
I have written a report examining how 5 of the most successful Irish Ironman triathletes have qualified for Kona an incredible 29 times. You can access it free here.
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