So this Ironman thing? Tough.
There isn’t a workout where somewhere in the middle of it, I go into math mode: I’m 45 minutes into a bike workout, and think to myself, “If I were in the race, I'm still swimming right now. And then I have 112 miles to bike. And then just 26.2 miles to run.”
I still get nervous before most races of any distance or sport, but I'm 99% sure, barring flat bike tires, runners trots and other natural disasters, I'll see the finish line. That said, this 140.6-mile adventure in late June? That certainty isn't so solid. Two decades of endurance sports have given me a deep roots, but I'm planting a sapling in Coeur d'Alene and my gardening tools are rusty. (Yes, really bad metaphor there, but you know what I'm saying.)
Thing is, my Ironman could be your 10K or your marathon or your first sprint tri. We are all essentially in the same place: Your body is at point A, and you want to get to point B, which can feel ridiculously far away. Can you get to point B?
No matter what your goal is, you have to lay down bricks, one by one, day by day. Bricks of endurance. Bricks of strength. Bricks of confidence. Bricks of mental toughness. Most importantly, bricks of belief that what you're doing isn't crazy or impossible, but is quite the opposite: very possible and, not coincidentally, very possibly the key to staying quite sane.
Here’s how I've been laying some bricks lately:
**I don’t look more than a day or ahead in my workouts. My coach fills them out weekly online for me, but I try just to look at today's--and maybe tomorrow's. Here's why: If I’m having a tough time with my 6-mile run on Tuesday, Dimity easily morphs into Dramity: “If I can’t even do this, how in the h-e-double-hockey-sticks can I do the much harder/longer/crazier workout I have on Saturday?" And then I spend way too much energy and time fretting about Saturday's workout for roughly four days. Needless to say, I am not the type who studies and compares training plans months before a race; more power to you if you are.
**I find one part of every workout that I really want to nail. I don’t have to thrive during the whole workout, but I do want finish that sucker feeling an ounce a victory. My focus could be something simple, like not flying through my first mile, usually a slight downhill, like I normally do and paying the consequences. (“Oh, look, a 9:00 for my first mile; today is going to be great!” I think to myself. And then I get to mile 3, where I rack up a 9:50 and I wonder what I’ve done wrong.) It could also be something much harder, like staying strong as I run up and crest a hill. (Keep your intensity for 40 steps after you go up a hill: it's harder than it sounds.)
**I’m trying to be more effusive about my workouts, something that doesn't come naturally to me. I texted my coach on Saturday after what was definitely my best workout in weeks (a 50-minute bike with some strength training thrown in, followed by 10 x 1 minute at 5K pace, 1 minute recover). I’ve never texted her before; I just fill in the online log, but it’s usually at least 24 hours--and more like 72 hours--late and by then, I’ve lost some of the endorphinated enthusiasm from the workout. But Saturday, I felt great and wanted her to know right there and then.
**I tell myself I chose to do this race. Not only that, but I get to do this. How lucky am I? (I actually yelled that during a run about two weeks ago to remind myself that I am, indeed, very lucky.) Again, an adjustment to my typical glass-half-empty perspective, but I can't help but be more grateful when I mentally fill up my cup instead of constantly draining it.
I also threw out a question—how do you not mentally defeat yourself during training?—to a FB group of endurance athletes in Colorado, and loved some of their responses on how they lay bricks:
**From Lena; My mantra is "Yes You Can" You have to believe that. Even if your brain gets doubts, your body has it under control. Believe in your training. You can't look at the whole race, just take it one step at a time, one mile at a time, one aid station at a time. My first full IM was in November at age 63. It took me 2:37 to finish the swim. Well of course they pulled my chip, but even when I heard the 2:20 whistle, I kept going because I knew I had trained and I could at least finish the swim. I have signed up to do the same IM next year because Yes I Can.
**And from Sarah: I never think of the race distance during training (well, I *try* not to). Because they aren't the same. Race day is RACE DAY. Training is the hard, slogging work getting prepared, mentally and physically. I think success in a race, any distance, is staying mentally with it, not thinking too far ahead and not psyching yourself out. Sometimes I am scared to go for a long run or workout - literally, I have to talk myself into it. I'm not sure what that's about, but getting out the door and through the workout mentally is just as important as is putting in the time physically. (Note: I too get freaked out by long runs/workouts, hence the don't think; just go motto that works pretty well for me.)
**And finally, from Meredith: The training is the harder part; the race is the icing on the cake. Adrenaline and the fun of the day make the hours go by so fast. I promise it will go by very quickly and then you'll be sad when it's done.
The idea of 140.6 miles going by quickly feels absolutely inane right now. But I realize anything, brick by brick, is possible: Even me crossing an Ironman finish line.
Now you tell us: How do you build your bricks? Believe in your capability? Stretch your confidence and cross finish lines you never thought you'd see?