Reading Triathlete Magazine (a monthly ritual I relish) I was most interested in Maccas article on the mental side of triathlon. His article concludes with ...”if you fear pain, you make yourself powerless against it, so embrace the tough moments” Pain and triathlon are synonymous. Whether it be a 1 hour Sprint or an 11+ hour Ironman you will reach a point of discomfort and pain. In a Sprint you dig deep and hard and push through…how long can it last right? But with a 70.3 or Ironman it can be hours. The question is how long you can suffer and deep can you dig?
Macca goes on to say “start planning in training how you will mentally deal with the suffering...” I like this, address the elephant in the room – it’s going to hurt, how will you deal with it? Now clearly some races hurt more than others we all know that- we have good days and bad days, but sometimes those “good days” hurt more than the bad days because we are digging so deep to get on the podium, secure the coveted Vegas or Kona slot. Do higher level athletes suffer more? Hard to say. Not sure there is a clear answer to that.
For me personally…a Sprint is all out and because I have such poor fast twitch muscles it is hard to get going so by the time I suffer the race is over. Olympic are painful – believe me I suffered to no end trying to keep up with Polly at SDIT last year- but 2+ hours and done. 70.3 the pain comes somewhere on the run….on a good day the last 6 miles are tough and painful, on a bad day the last 11 miles are a suffer fest. Ironman…. Pain can set in on the bike and stay or it can come and go… but somewhere on the run it settles in and does not go away. But no matter the race you will suffer and have to dig deep and this is where race prep is key. If we are tired, over trained, we don’t have the ability to dig- just not there. When rested and fresh it seems I can dig really deep….also for me the outcome makes a big difference- when in contention for a slot or the podium you have to give it all and no regrets… that may bring on puking, walking and worse but when you cross the finish line you want to be sure you did all you could. I think that is the take home for any race…we are all competitive in our own right. It you are looking to place higher, PR or beat your run split – then lay it all out there. Races are expensive and I want to get my monies worth.
This past weekend a lot of friends raced and regrettably few had the days they trained for. But they suffered and prevailed finished the race. Waking up the next day bloodied and sore and coming up short is hard (all too fresh in my mind) but with time the disappointment fades and the desire returns. Magical sport we “play” in.