Question of the week: I am signed up for IRONMAN Arizona in a couple of weeks and am worried about repeating a tough time I had in the middle of the run last year. I had had an excellent swim (for me!), and a solid bike, all setting me up for a great personal race if I could simply stay consistent on the run. I came off the bike and felt great, with the first 15 miles of the marathon feeling super. At mile 16 I cracked. My legs started shutting down and I lost all motivation, feeling dizzy and low focus. I tried to take coke and get my energy up, but at mile 18 I began slowing more. I walked off the course. I deeply regret it, knowing I could have carried on, but I walked off. It has haunted me and I am fearful that I hit the same scenario again. Any advice?
It is quite simple. Before you step up to the line you simply cannot allow yourself to contemplate defeat at the same time as victory. As soon as that becomes an option, you are attacking the subconscious and feeding the pathway to defeat.
The indigenous people that live in the arctic have a saying about the battle of wolves. Each person has two wolves, one who will make you stronger, and the other who weakens you and sets you up to fail. Only one voice can win, and the one that wins will be the one you feed. Don’t feed the wolf of failure.
The first thing you should do is acknowledge and appreciate that every person in every IRONMAN is destined to go through periods of extreme darkness and anguish. It will not be easy and the challenge is not only anticipated, but it is a part of the journey to the line. You will be faced with similar sensations, or worse, this year. Your success is going to come about via a few critical things:
- Mindset. Start the event with a commitment to finish the project no matter what happens (outside of medical). Walking off is not part of the deal -- it is non-negotiable.
- Preparedness. Begin to visualize. Seriously, it is powerful. Every day from here to the race, begin to practice parts of the race in your mind. Close your eyes and imagine everything through your eyes -- the smells, sounds, sights, and feelings of the marathon. Navigate through the challenges. You then repeat the process as though the eyes of a spectator looking at you -- yes you -- successfully managing the marathon. Go through and repeat last year, but with a positive outcome. There is strength in overcoming.
- Action. What actions are you going to practically take when energy falls, when the legs feel rough? Success isn’t just about commitments and visualization, it is problem-solving. Last year you were shutting down with mechanical fatigue and energy drop off. Repeated again you will load on calories, maintain hydration, and integrate walking breaks as needed to retain a simple thing: locomotion.
- Find a Reason. The final one is the most potent. Whenever you are in a place of extreme fatigue, duress, and pain, the body is literally screaming at you to stop. A simple action will make so much of the duress disappear: stopping. It is tempting and an almighty allure. When in this mindspace, you must do a simple thing -- simply find a single reason why you should keep going. Anything. Just one reason. You then follow that reason to take 20 more steps. Do those 20 steps. Then find a reason to do 20 more. Pretty soon you will be at the end.
I cannot promise it will be easy and I don’t doubt that you will step toward the cliff of failure in this very upcoming race, but I also strongly believe you will conquer. The challenge is what is going to be the very thing that makes it worth it, and you will realize that last year's experience is going to be the very thing that makes this year so special.
Don’t F*$k it up.
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