With Ironman Canada just a few weeks away I a lot of you are starting to wind down your training and enter the taper period. If this is your first Ironman, this will probably be the time for an anxious sort of calm. After months of long rides, recovery runs, technique swims, more long rides, and maybe even a rest day somewhere in there, you’re finally in the home stretch.
Here in Part I of my Ironman Canada Prep series of blogs I’ll give you a few things to do and to keep in mind over the next few weeks as you get into your taper.
Tranquilo is the Spanish word for calm, or relax. If you listen in on the peleton in a pro tour you might hear it between teammates or from a coach when its time to ease the tempo a little bit and save your energy for later. That’s probably the best word to describe what you should be doing between now and August 26. Right about now you’ve done about all the work you can do before Ironman so now its time to grip the bars a little looser and change your focus from physical preparation to mental preparation.
In the days leading up to the race you’re invariably going to start building up the nervous energy and anxiety that hopefully gives you an edge on the big day. The problem is that in those final days leading up to the race you get so caught up in the complicated logistics of triathlon that you may not have time to focus in on what you need to do on the day of.
The best way to prepare for a day as big as Ironman is to have done the race a hundred times in your head, and now is the time to start doing that. Imagine yourself moving calmly and smoothly through transition oblivious to the panic of the hundreds of athletes around you, or climbing Richter with the steady cool professionalism of a mountain climber scaling a vertical wall, or hitting kilometer thirty of the run knowing that your heart and mind is going to have to get you across the line when your legs say they can’t. Last but not least visualize the feeling of crossing the finish line as the sun slowly approaches the horizon in Penticton and thousands of people reel you in with their cheers.
Play though every moment of the race in your mind, even moments that you hope to avoid like getting a flat tire. Changing a tire is a routine, boring sort of affair that we’ve all done many times before, if you get one on race day its just a few minutes out of a day that’ll last over 12 hours for the vast majority of finishers. Play through every good and bad scenario in your head and you’ll have the confidence necessary to execute a perfect race on the day of.
You’ve been preparing for this day for months. You’ve sacrificed time from your family, your friends, and yourself. Now that you’ve got more time on your hands and the tempo of your workouts is easing up a little bit, show your thanks to your support team by inviting them out for a coffee, or maybe even a recovery bike ride or short run. Tell them what has given you the drive to come so far towards reaching this goal. Share your fears and hopes with them and bring them into the sport that you’ve given so much to, and hopefully will soon give you something in return.
Its also important to look at how far you’ve come and be thankful and grateful for what you’ve done. In less than three weeks you’ll be racing through the course and you’ll no doubt have some tough moments. On the Ironman marathon, in the baking heat of Southern BC, and after covering 183.8km on the swim and bike, you’re going to hit some very tough moments. Every step you take on the run becomes a decision to keep moving forward and you’ll need a special level of grit to have the will to push the pace a little and give it your everything. You have to be thankful and grateful to the you that got you there on those long training rides, the you that was in the pool at 5:00am before work, the you finished your workouts exhausted and empty when you knew the only satisfaction would be months away. When you’re thankful to that person, you’ll realize owe it to yourself to grit your teeth and push a little harder and dig a little deeper to get across that line to hear that you are an Ironman.
Give a little
You may not realize it, but if you’ve come this far, you’ve become a source of inspiration to those around you. I know that sounds a little far from modest, but its true. People look at the sacrifices and long days that athletes give with a little bit of wonder and that’s why its important that you recognize that you now have an opportunity to share what you’ve done with others. When you tell someone about what you’re training for and they say “I could never do that”, tell them that they can. By sharing you love of sport and encouraging others to push themselves and step a little beyond their comfort zone, you can give so much more than you could possible imagine.
With that I’ll leave you with some words that inspired me before my first Ironman.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson
On a personal note, its been a whirlwind few weeks for me and in less than three weeks I’ve found myself waking up in four different time zones, in five different cities, and through seven different airports. Going from a weekend of rest and relaxation in BC, to London and Spain for the Olympics and triathlon world champs, to a long weekend of partying in Las Vegas has certainly left my head spinning but has made it a summer to remember, and I’ve still got so much more to do!
Thank you everyone for all the well wishes in Spain!