I reviewed Chris McCormack’s book I’m Here To Win previously and on the way home from Rev3 Maine I read an article by him in the September issue of Triathlete magazine titled It’s All In your Head. Having just come off of racing a 70.3 where I had mechanical issues and two other worldly blisters this article spoke volumes to me.
If you can recall, it was just about a month ago that I gave you a recap of the triathlon training camp with Jeff Irvin. During that weekend we discussed how neither of us has really pushed ourselves to the point of breaking. There was always the thought that after the swim was a bike ride, then after the bike ride came a run. We talked about how we needed to compartmentalized the events to race that event without worrying what was next. How this was how the line of demarcation was drawn between the elite age groupers and us. While Jeff and I are no slouches there is a lot of time difference between us and the top 10% of our age groups. If you read Kevin and Jon’s posts about Ironman Mont-Tremblant you can see that it is there as well. Mind you that both of these guys are fast. MattyO raced Maine as well and finished in 5:21 which is fast and still came up short of the podium. Could he have pushed himself harder to get there? I bet you he says yes.
All of this is to say that if I want to get to that next level which at this point is a Top 20% finish in my age-group at Ironman Arizona then I have to ‘Embrace The Suck’. I can no longer think to myself that this Ironman is about pacing myself because it is not. It is about pushing past the pain when it shows up time and time again. Believe me the pain will be there at every corner if I allow it. Keep in mind that the pain is not always physical, but can be mental. For example, saying things to yourself like: this bike ride is soooo long and I can’t wait to get off the bike. You are hurting yourself because you are ready to give into the pain of your butt in the saddle, or pain in your quads, or boredom of being out on the course. You are not special in thinking that, but maybe you can be special in pushing past it while other athletes are giving into it.
When I was faced with a broken spoke I could have given up and nobody would have blamed me. It was a mechanical failure and not much that you can do about that. Had this been an injury I would have pulled out because this particular race was not the A race of the 2nd half of the season. Instead I lifted my bike over my head and walked up the hill talking to myself. I gathered my thoughts and told myself that it was all about the run if I could get there. I tinkered with the bike and was able to ride, knowing full well that I was not going to have the ride of my life. Instead of giving into that I yelled at myself that the race started at the dismount line. I gave it my all and got there and flipped the switch. I was ready to embrace the suck.
I started running with determination. I knew that it was going to hurt but I had a goal and I was not going to question myself at the finish line. I thought back to swim like a swimmer, bike like a cyclist and run like a runner from that training camp. I ran and when the blisters decided to show up I decided to ignore them. When the quads were yelling at me to slow down, I yelled back to them to MAN THE FUCK UP! When my Achilles chose that it was his turn to aggravate me, my only response was you get to rest when I do.
There was no secret sauce being poured over me to push me this far. It was my desire and will to be the best triathlete I could be on that given day. I was fueled by anger of the bike, but also a passion to prove that when the going gets tough quitting is not an option. Taking the road less traveled is not easy, but it is rewarding.
Crossing the finish line with a run split of 1:45 has me excited because my goal for Ironman Arizona is to run a sub-4 hour marathon. Thought 13.1 miles I felt strong and can say I could have embraced that suck for another 13.1 miles. I would have continued picking competitors off the course and hunting them down and not felt satisfied until I got there and then made the pass with authority. This is something Matt and I discussed aft the race. When you pass, no matter how much it hurts you do it with authority and don’t give that competitor a chance to stay with you. You want to hear the air come out of their lungs, their legs wither, and know that their brain just said to them: we can’t keep up with that so slow down.
I am a competitor. I am fueled by my successes and failures. I am learning to embrace the suck more and more. The edge of the table to which I push my envelope has no end.
I will push myself to reach my dreams and goals.