I recently had the opportunity to participate in the Ironman 70.3 in Old Orchard Beach. What an incredible event and location.
The conditions could not have been better and everyone was in a spectacular mood.
The race coordinators did a terrific job organizing the event - everything was super smooth, especially the aid stations, an incredible turn out and such an important help to everyone who participated.
When I entered this race, I was nervous - I’d had a couple races in a row where I didn’t perform very well and I was scared that it might happen again. I thought about the typical things people think about when competing in a race.
I hope I perform well.
I hope that I give it my all.
I thought of all the little details of what I need and when I need it.
Then the questions start… Will the water be choppy? Will my bike tire pop? Will I forget to eat food and hydrate at the proper times? What will I forget?
There is so much to think about, you can sometimes forget about taking it all in and being mentally available to see things and learn along the way.
So for this event, I switched my mindset from freaking out about the details and the conditions and set my intention. My intention for this race was just to learn.
Participating in an IronMan is such an incredible learning environment. You have 70.3 miles of challenge - 1.2 mile swim, transitioning to a 56 mile bike ride, transitioning to a 13.1 mile run. That is a lot of miles to think, to break through mental blocks, and fight through many challenges along the way, all while being surrounded by an incredible community of people all working towards a common goal - to get over that finish line.
I want to share with you the 6 things (okay 7) that I learned from just being aware of those around me.
The importance and power of gratitude.
The night before the event I had some time to myself as my family was at Fun Town Splash Town USA (while I’m freaking out at the hotel about what I am trying to accomplish in the morning).
So, I sat down on the little deck at the motel and started writing. Here’s what I wrote:
“....I will be incredibly grateful tomorrow. I will trust that no matter what happens, it is meant to be. My body may not be as prepared to push a pace or even finish, but my mind is ready…...I will be grateful for the opportunity to do my best.”
It was just a short paragraph and it only took 10 minutes or so, but it changed my entire perspective for the challenge ahead.
As soon as I closed that journal I was ready to rock. I let go of all fear and realized that I have this awesome privilege to swim, bike, and run in an awesome location with some pretty cool people and my family was there to support me.
I was grateful, incredibly grateful for the opportunity and it carried through to the event the next morning. Typically worried about every detail (and trying to hide it), I was excited to get started.
When I was tired and ready to give in, my gratitude for being in this situation shined through and pushed me towards the finish line. My gratitude pushed me through the most challenging portions of the event.
It does not matter what size, what shape, what age - it doesn’t matter what you look like.
After the race I was talking with Katie (our senior trainer) and a few of the other people from the gym that did the event with us. We just couldn’t believe how many people who, seemingly, would never be considered a triathlete by appearance, just flying right past us throughout the entire event.
We all had so many stories of people 20-30 years older than us cruising right along, running right past us.
I had more 60 year old men and women shoot right past me as I was giving it my all than I would have ever guessed. It was just incredible.
Then, there were people who were overweight, underweight, short, tall and everything in between. It was just remarkable to see so many walks of life working through the same challenges - swim, bike, run.
We joked during the conversation that if we had seen some of these people in a restaurant in plain clothes we would have never guessed that they could (or would) whoop our butts at this event. But they did and it truly doesn’t matter what you look like as long as you compete with yourself and enjoy the process.
It was just fascinating to see all the different people out there doing their very best. And that is what life is all about - just doing your best in any given moment regardless of the level you are at.
Mental games are pretty funny.
It’s a pretty long day when you are completing an Ironman 70.3 event. Typically it takes the average person between 5-7 hours to finish.
That’s a lot of time to be in your own head and boy are there a lot of mental games going on in there.
For me, most of my mental games come during the run - my most challenging event.
But, I started playing those games in the first half of the bike. It’s a 56 mile bike ride and at about mile 15 I’m like, holy crap, I still have 40 more miles to go.
5 miles later, singing a different tune, sweet 20 miles in, I’m almost halfway.
The halfway mark hits and I can’t believe I have to basically repeat 28 miles, argh!!
So, every 5ish miles my mind would oscillate from dreading to relief to pride to “are you crazy man, what are you doing here!” - that’s when I needed the gratitude to kick in.
Next up is the run and seriously, where is the mile 1 marker….I feel like I’ve run 6 miles already, where is it?
Then mile 3, massive realization - THERE’S 10 MILES TO GO.
I. AM. GOING. TO. DIE.
Then, just 3.5 miles later, it’s like wow I’m halfway, I think I’m feeling pretty good and I got this.
Finally, as I come to the last 2 tenths of a mile I think I’ll be really cool and start to run a little faster as I approach the crowd - YIKES, hamstring cramp - you are not cool, slow down and just get there.
Wait, there’s a little uphill, I’m going to die.
YUP. NOT. GOING. TO. MAKE. IT.
And to the finish tunnel with all the people cheering and my family to support, my mental games are over and time to celebrate survival!
Seeing your friends do their best is an inspiration.
I am lucky enough to have a group of people around me that also enjoy these events. We train together, check in with each other, and keep each other motivated and accountable.
It’s exciting and I think we all know we need each other to stay on a good training schedule.
So, a huge highlight and inspirational lift comes from seeing these friends fight the same battle I am fighting and to see them succeed.
Everyone has crazy schedules, obstacles, challenges beyond just training. We all have lives and it’s just so inspirational to see others sacrifice, overcome, compete, and give it their all.
I left this event more inspired by people thanks to the strong support of our group. We all had great events and had so much fun in the process. I would almost say I’d love to do it again this weekend, but then there is still some chauffage I’m dealing with. And my wife might kill me… the only thing harder than an IronMan is keeping a 4 year old and an 8 month old contained at the finish line to see .2 seconds of the event.
Cheering for others creates motivation.
I found myself down mentally at multiple times during the run. I was certainly tired and feeling some hamstring cramps. I think I was starting to feel a little sorry for myself at times and I would try to shift my focus on to some of the other athletes to get my mind off suffering.
In doing so, I found myself saying things like “great job” or “we’re almost there, you’ve got this” or “wow, this shade feels freaking awesome, you look great! Keep it up”.
After a couple of times cheering some folks on, I realized that it was giving me energy, it was inspiring me, and lifting my spirits. I was shocked at the time, but realize how much that makes sense.
When we cheer others on, it feels good!! So, I continued to give some positive encouragement to those who looked like they needed it and it helped me push through when I was feeling down.
Four-year olds like to race too!
I was lucky enough to see my wife and two children just before the finish line. I made my way over to them, gave my 8 month old a kiss, a high five for my 4 year old and a hug for my wonderful wife for being there!
It was such a relief to see them, to be done, to have finished and just see their smiling faces. It felt amazing and I was really proud of my effort and my result for the event.
But I was tired, legs were pretty hurt, and my knees did not need any more pounding. I made it through the finish line, walked back to see my family and here comes Hazen (our 4 year old) ready to rock and roll.
“Hey daddy, is it our turn to race now, I want to race too?”
Wow, this can’t be happening.
He runs over and starts making a pretend starting line, runs about 20 yards (20 yards farther than I wanted to run at this point) and makes his pretend finish line.
He is very excited and ready to race! Yikes. I, obviously, have no choice.
“Let’s do this buddy!”
He counts it down and off we go, well off he went.
I hobbled behind trying to keep a smile on my face while my body was seizing up.
I love that my son was at the race and had no concept of what I was doing, he just knew I was racing and that he wanted to race too. He lives in the moment everyday, which I know I should do more of.
So, after I completed 70.3 miles, I also raced my son about 20 yards - that’s a great day if you ask me!!
If you are interested in training for a big event, we would love to chat with you. Events have an incredible way of challenging you to be more than you thought you could be and to keep you motivated to train even when the going gets tough.
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