I like to think of the “II” in the above title as representing the two lines that end up governing a significant part of your life as you train for an Ironman; the START line, and of course the FINISH line. For the endless hours you spend swimming riding and running, these are always in the back of your mind.
So, what’s the third line? I hear you ask. Well I’ll get to that later.
The Start Line
We’ve all heard people say, “I just have to get to the start line”! It’s an indictment on just how severe the training can be. The stress of the sheer volume of training, it takes your body to its limits and beyond. At the same time though, your mind is also being trained and hardened to the task that lies before you. The Ironman is an extreme test of your body, but it’s your mind that will get you through it. You simply will not give in to it!
I think this in some way explains why so many of us who have done an Ironman, don’t stop at one. To get to that start line in top shape, with a seamless training build, and then execute the race according to plan is a rare feat, and so we try and try again to see if we can actually fulfil our capabilities and be able to say afterwards, “yep, that’s as good as I can do it”, and let it rest there.
I have stood on that start line five times now and I get the same feeling each time. A calmness descends, and you feel like you’re staring into infinity. The training’s done and now it’s time for the real work to begin. You clear your mind and focus on the job at hand. You take the emotion out and simply, “go to work”. One step at a time, remember your training, don’t panic, don’t get excited, be clinical and methodical.
We’ve all had training days that have turned to s—t for one reason or another. We deal with it, and get through it and this is actually a good thing. There’s a significant chance the Ironman will test you on the day, but hey, you’ve been there, you’ve gone down that road and come out the other side! Whenever you’re training you’re thinking of what could go wrong, and consequently, how you’ll fix it. You see, you’re training more than just your muscles!
The Finish Line
At what stage do you let yourself contemplate crossing the finish line? This is a hard question and when I think back, I’m a bit hazy about it. I know you’re thinking about it a long way before you get there, but you only really let yourself start thinking “you’re going to make it” quite late in the piece. Maybe half way through the marathon. We’re all probably different here, but I bet none of us ever take it for granted! How many times do you see athletes cross the finish line in an Ironman and either fall down or come pretty close to it?
From my own experience, I know that once I’m over that line, THAT IS IT. Not another step further. This is testimony to what I was saying before, it is the will, the power of the mind that has driven you to get over that line. Your body had had enough a considerable time earlier, but you kept going.
You may have leant over your handlebars exhausted, but you kept riding (I have)!
You may have stopped to a walk, but you walked on (I have)!
Again, it’s happened in training. It’s nothing new. You know your mind will not let you give in to it, so you keep going ….and going ….and going.
The Third Line
Probably the hardest, and most important of all! It’s the one you cross, or put yourself on, or however you want to look at it, the second you enter an Ironman race.
You see, as soon as you do, you set yourself up for a fall. You’ve announced to the world you’ve just taken on this massive challenge, and there’s a chance you won’t succeed. Whether it be to just finish the race, or to gain a qualifying spot to the world championships, or to do a PB, it doesn’t matter, you may not achieve your goal, you’ve taken a step into the unknown. It takes courage to do this! It takes courage to try, and to try but fail, and then to try again! And again, and again!
I hope this provides encouragement to you all, whether you’re doing your first, your fifth or just contemplating entering one. The Ironman is an emotional trip and once you’ve done one, maybe some of these ramblings will begin to make sense to you. Just thinking about it makes me clench my fists and grit my teeth, and yes, I get a bit emotional (Greg). It will take you through some fantastic high’s, and some pretty low low’s, it will bring you close to the people you train with, and it will make you take a close look at yourself along the way.
To those of you going to Busso, I don’t say good luck; I don’t think that’s what this is about. You are primed and prepared. It’s time to go to work.
Your body may be of Iron,
But your mind will be of steel!
Good luck anyway:) Gaz