I think everyone starts out gungho. It's a little frightening at first, thinking about the daunting task of training ahead. No one really thinks about how daunting the race will be, just how great the finish line and party will be. But it's a year or so out so you don't really have to think about that yet. Then a few months go by. Training finally starts increasing. You are feeling good. Getting fit.
And the WHAM!
You hit the training wall. The "holy hell this sucks right now" wall. It might be that you are fatigued. Or that you feel like there aren't enough hours in the day. Maybe it's that you usually run x:xx miles and now it's xx:xx minute miles, no matter how hard you try. You might hear that someone else training for the same race as you did a million hours of training this week and felt great and you've done what your schedule calls for... but it's not a million hours and you didn't feel so great. Are you doing enough? Is your plan right?
Then you get a second wind. Someone reminds you that you are on track. You might have a breakthrough workout. You are gaining strength, speed, confidence. The race is only a few weeks out and now you are thinking about it... what will the swim be like, how fast can you transition, what will you eat and drink on the bike, can you run the run. And still, how great the finish line and party will be!
Then it might happen again. Another wall. But it's closer to the race so you really freak out. You can't make up the fitness that you feel like you don't have. You're crappy and sleepy and hungry all the time. You snap at people, but they don't get it. They aren't going through what you are putting your body through.
Race day comes and for the first time in MANY MANY months, you are fresh. Your legs are ready. You're rested. You are nervous because, the thought of 140.6 miles in one day is in fact daunting (and you didn't really think of that a year ago when you signed up). But as you stand at the start line, you know that in less than 17 hours, you will be part of an elite group of
You've swam, you've biked, you've run. You've been down. You've been up. You've questioned your own sanity, you're own abilities, you're own reason for doing this. You've conquered your inner demons. You've proven what you are made of to yourself and anyone that cares to listen.
I wrote this email in response to a few friends the other day that are at the first and second wall and were asking for some insight. I think it's a perfect bit of advice from someone who's been through it a time or two. And if you are training for an IM... know that this letter is to you too.
"I wish I had a magical answer, but I'm training for my 4th and just yesterday, I got 2.25 miles into a 10 mile run, walked home (only after getting in a huge fight with Tom), then decided that I wasn't into Ironman training, it was defining me instead of being part of me, and that ultimately I didn't know why I keep putting myself through this. I decided I was going to switch my registration to the half. I simply had nothing in the tank.
Let me just tell you that it happens. IM training is like nothing else that you've ever put your body through. You are never "fresh". Not until race day. The fatigue, both mentally and physically just builds and builds. Yes, you take a rest week, but that only means that your workouts are only an hour or two a day and at a lower intensity instead of 3-4 hours, going long and hard.
I personally think that another rest week isn't going to do anything but good things for you. Ramp it up this weekend... if you feel like it. You aren't going to lose any of the fitness that you built. If you don't feel like you are ready at the end of the week, keep the full week a rest week and start fresh next week. Burnout is so easy in IM training.
You have to realize that you have the fitness right now to get through the race. All 5 of us do. It would hurt some of us more than others at this exact moment and it wouldn't be pretty, but we could get through it. Don't get discouraged by a bad workout, or a bad week, or even two. It happens to all of us and we just need to regroup.
You'll think back on these weeks when you are racing. I told Jeff many times that you earn the title of an Ironman much before the race... that day you just go pick up the hat, tee shirt and medal that shows everyone else what you are made of. If it was easy, more than 1/10th of 1% of world would attempt it. You are in a league of your own. You are a badass!
You aren't doing anything wrong. And it will get better. And it'll probably get bad again. This is where mental toughness is built. Be smart. If your body is slugging through, ask yourself if you are getting better with each workout or do you need the rest.
And just so you know, after telling Tom that I wouldn't do Cedar Point, he looked at me, said "you aren't a quitter" and we went off to run 5.5 miles at an 8:20 pace (which is really fast for me). I'll be there on September 11th, to pick up my medal, hat and tee shirt. :) "