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Meet Ashley Jones
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Meet Makeda Benjamin
Meet Ariana Twitchell
Meet Kirsten Haug
Monty Python and the meaning of Fitness
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Hard As A Rock
Heaven and Hell have the same address...
Walking the Labyrinth
Meet Holly Powell
Ironman: All in Your Head
The 10 Step Rookie's Guide
Train Like a Woman!
By Matt Mizenko
The Ironman is not a physical race; rather, it is primarily a mental one.
Do I have your attention? Good. Whenever I write a post-race journal, I try to focus on the most important lesson I learned that particular day. Plus, it's more useful and certainly more interesting than hearing about how disgusting my bike shoes smelled. While the above statement may strike many as pretty bold, it is nevertheless the most valuable lesson I learned in my first Ironman race, Ironman USA in Lake Placid, NY. Allow me to elaborate.
An Ironman is a long day; some call it "The Longest Day." Depending on how you choose to view it, it certainly can be. For me though, with the exception of the last minute it actually went very quickly. (Not quickly enough to get me to Kona, but quickly just the same.) This is due in large part to the way I "see" or better still "visualize" the race. I don't view the race as 140.6 miles. I don't even view it as a triathlon or three separate events, per se. Instead, I break the race down into a number of much smaller micro-phases; e.g. the first 800 meters of the swim, T1, the rollers before Keene Hill, the out and back in Hasleton, the "Cherries and Three Bears," T2, the crazy guy with the megaphone and so on. Key to this approach of course, is doing your pre-race homework, something that I wrote about previously. Another way of putting this is I race "in the moment." Nothing can wreck your day faster than worrying about what happened 5 minutes ago or will happen 2 hours from now. That's important, because like I said earlier "It's a LONG DAY." There is no point whatsoever in worrying about anything other than WHAT YOU ARE DOING RIGHT NOW. Viewing the race in this manner helps you in a few ways.
First, it forces you to stay focused on the task at hand. That could be putting your bike in the proper gear before the race even starts, making sure to sight on the swim, remembering to fasten the chinstrap on your helmet on the way out of T1 or removing your HRM chest strap in T2 before the run and not having to dump it with your coach on the side of the road at mile 2. Staying focused on the task at hand allows you to execute each task with the focus and intensity it deserves and can possibly save you significant mental anguish later. Two of my mantras are "Go slow to go fast" and "Race fierce." Isn't going 5 seconds slower to focus on checking your helmet worth the 3 minute penalty it will save you?
Second and of equal importance is the way this approach allows you to assess, deal with and overcome obstacles. You WILL have obstacles during an Ironman. If you are lucky they will be minor, but they WILL show up just the same. How you deal with these obstacles is absolutely the most important thing you will do during the course of your race, and it has absolutely NOTHING to do with the state of your physical conditioning. When the slick road caused me to go "endo" off the bike and over a guardrail I didn't let it get to me. I got up, brushed myself off and focused on WHAT DO I NEED TO DO NOW. "Am I okay? Yes. What's next? Get the bike off the guardrail." Ditto for when I realized my bike was now stuck on said guardrail. "How do I get this off? Is the bike rideable? Do I have all my nutrition and hydration? Do I have my tools?" The point is I didn't let myself worry about the effect on my race, I didn't let it psyche me out, I got on my bike and literally left the obstacle on the side of the road. Plus, by "going slow to go fast" I also didn't leave behind crucial items such as my Hammer Gel or my tire levers, the loss of which would've cost me far more than the 10 seconds it took to check for them, pick them up and put them back on my bike.
Third and finally, this approach forces you to be patient. Patience is absolutely key to Ironman racing. While a sprint or Olympic distance triathlon will often demand split second decisions, haste in an Ironman distance race can cost you big time. Besides, you never know what could be happening to the competition just up the road, around the bend, over a hill or even behind you. Some people that I assumed would have been done with massage and eating pizza by the time I got in finished only 5 minutes ahead of me.
Likewise, I actually had to pass people on the run that as far as I was concerned should've been 15 minutes behind me (see above reference to bike crash). The point is you never know what can happen - to you OR to others. To paraphrase the old football axiom "On any given Sunday a triathlete can beat any other triathlete." All you can do is go from moment to moment, stick to your plan, trust in your preparation (you did prepare, right?) and hope for a little luck.
And of course, even with the best mental AND physical preparation a little luck never hurt anyone, right? Plus, it gets you to the massage tent and pizza that much faster. Race fierce and see you soon!
For more information or to contact Matt, please visit: http://www.mattmizenko.com