Attack Life Like An Ironman
The pollen is in the air – at least in Georgia. That means triathlon training is starting to ramp-up.
This year I’ve decided to qualify again for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in my age group (old guys). I know… why?
Well it’s easier than golf… Which gives you an idea what kind of golfer I am.
What I really like about all this is competing with my daughter. Over the years we’ve done marathons, century rides, and triathlons at every distance – Sprint to full IM 140.6. This year we’re doing two IM 70.3 races together.
Talk about a father daughter bonding experience!
We’ll be doing Chattanooga 70.3 in May and Augusta 70.3 in September. I may also do some shorter races and the new Hilton Head race 70.3 in October.
I’ve been doing crazy endurance events for years. It all started when I was stationed with 12th Marines in Hawaii. I have stories…
Through all this I’ve learned a few thing that apply to personal and business success.
Flexibility. Adaptability. Sticking to the plan. Monitoring along the way. Recognizing hold-ups and compensating. Having alternative tools available. Having a support team. And one of the most important, understanding human behavior.
Let’s go. Here’s some thoughts from an IM Florida 140.6 race I competed in a couple of years ago. So we don’t go overboard, I’ll just touch on some similarities:
- Flexibility. Ironman racing is kind of “all or nothing.” You train for months for a one day event. The only thing you have any control of over is yourself – your training, nutrition and mental prep. There is no “do over.” That means you need a plan A, B and even C. Because things seldom go as planned. In Florida I had a plan for weather extremes, flat to boiling surf, mechanical breakdown, and anything else I could anticipate.
- Adaptability. There’s an old saying I learned in the Marines. “Planning stops as soon as you’re engaged.” The night before the race the surf at the swim start off the Panama City Beach went from challenging to, “Why the hell am I here?” As much as I hoped for flat water, I faced 5 to 6 foot swells, strong currents, and a mob of 3,000+ swimmers – many of whom had never even seen conditions like we faced. So I had to adapt. I was confident in my training and comfortable in the surf – thank you Marine Corps. Whining about it wouldn’t help. So I looked at the conditions, adapted my strategy to the conditions and pressed on. I went wide, dove under the waves, and avoided the swim scrum. I ended up having a solid swim. Some didn’t even try…
- Sticking to the plan. Long course triathlons require a plan. Not just for the race but for each stage. One for the swim, one for the bike, and one for the run. The key to a successful race is having the mental fortitude, confidence, and experience to follow your plan. Obviously you have to be trained and in shape. However, there are a lot of well trained physical animals who fail – sometimes spectacularly. Why? Because they: 1) Did not have a plan, 2) Had a great plan that was not “right ” for them, 3) Tossed out a good plan when things got tough, 4) Got over confident and pushed too hard on one of the three stages and destroying their race. I can’t tell you how many people blew by me on the bike leg that I passed on the run. As we like to say, “Your race begins at mile 18 of the marathon leg.”
- Monitoring along the way. I know my numbers – heart rate, power, and ideal pace. I watch these numbers – they don’t lie. Some are leading indicators, and some are trailing indicators. The leading indicators are key – heart rate and power. Speed is relative and really irrelevant. Sometimes you have to slow down to go fast. A personal record for any one leg is meaningless if you don’t finish the race.
- Recognizing hold-ups. This is all about having situational awareness. I call this racing in a “bubble.” I know what’s going on around me. I anticipate what other swimmers, riders, and runners are doing, or going to do, and adjust accordingly. I know where the danger areas are on the course (swim start, bottle exchanges, and aid stations) and have a strategy for each. This is the only way I can “control” my outcome.
- Having the right tools. This is easy. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Have the right equipment for the event – this is not always the best or most expensive. Know how to use it – practice in training. There is no perfect piece of gear. Everything has both strong and weak points. Know them. Remember, things fail – usually at the worst time. I change all batteries, tubes, and get a bike tune-up before every A races.
- Having a support team. You can’t do long course racing alone. Build a support team. This starts at home. Make sure everyone who matters buys into what you are doing. They need to be as committed as you are. There is a reason top athletes have a coach. A good coach will make you better, not cost you money. Triathlon is an individual sport. But having training partners, and other athletes to commiserate with is invaluable. I had a network of crazy like minded people going through the same experience – together. Priceless..
- Understanding natural behavior. I’m human. I will always behave as such. So will the other 3,500 participants, and thousands of support folks and spectators. Don’t fight it. Have an open mind, a sense of humor, treat everyone with respect, and race like hell… You’ll be changes by the journey and amazed by the outcome.
What’s you journey? What’s your quest? Are you as prepared as you think? Are you in for the long haul? Or will you drop out of the race? Become an Ironman!