Just about everyday I get asked the question of how do you do what you do? I ask them initially what they are talking about because I don’t consider myself special and certainly don’t have some super human powers. I wake up early to train because I want to be home in the evening with my family. I plan out my day/week to maximize each and every minute so that I don’t feel like I wasted any part of my life. I live life without regrets so thinking that you could have, should have, would have BUT is just not in my DNA.
If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you know that I have flatted out on long bike rides only to get picked up by my wife, repack my car and continue that ride. I have also ridden on a flat for 6 miles to finish and follow that up with a 40 minute run. Why do I do that? Because I don’t want to waste a moment or have regrets.
As the conversation continues to develop I get to the crux of the matter and that is typically the person I am speaking with has all their excuses lined up. For example, I was speaking to a person about my couch potato to marathon program (Marathon Makeover) and was asked time/place/cost. I told him we start at 6a-630a in the Winter and Fall but at 5a in the summer as it can reach 105* here in Texas. First response: Oh that’s too early. We meet in Irving, which is about a 15 minute drive from where I live. Second response: Oh that’s far. The program this year was $300 for 40 weeks of training plus other items. Third response: Hmmm, that is expensive.
I am getting tired of these excuses and responses. In the past I used to say that when you are ready we will be waiting. The truth of the matter is they will never be ready because of these excuses. The excuses have to stop and action has to take place. My response to these excuses has become: It might be early and far and costly but compared to the alternative of leaving your family forever, or paying for diabetes care or not being able to ever leave your house this is actually a drop in the bucket.
Couch potatoes to marathoners is one thing, becoming a triathlete is another but to each and every one of you I say You Can Do It. I say it’s time to step up your game and get moving. I say that today is the the day you start and that tomorrow is the day for the next workout. I have close to 10 participants in my marathon program, but now you are saying that a marathon is one thing, but a triathlon is another.
Anyone can do an Ironman
After the Ironman, I wrote a post which was titled with the one statement about Ironman I firmly believe: “Anyone Can Do an Ironman.”
If you sit on the sidelines of an Ironman finisher’s chute long enough, you’ll believe this statement, too. There’s such a wide cross-section of Ironman triathletes, from chiseled studs to 80 year-old nuns. After sitting at enough finish chutes, I decided I didn’t want to be a spectator anymore. I wanted to know what it was like to be on the other side.
The next time I saw an Ironman finisher’s chute, I was running down it.
When I made that resolution to run my first 5K, I had no idea I’d complete an Ironman 20 months later. I was a couch potato who was trying to quit smoking (again). Ironman triathlons were something crazy people did, and though I was happy to spectate with a beer in my hand, I never saw myself as one of those people.
Besides, training for a 5K was hard enough. Training to run 3.1 miles was difficult and time-consuming.
Covering 140.6? No freakin’ way.
The 9 things that helped me do it
It was a series of bold choices, hasty mistakes, happy accidents, and – finally – focused planning which took me from couch potato to Ironman in just 20 months.
Key #1: Start small
For those people who think “I’d like to do that someday,” don’t make Ironman your first goal. Start small, like with running a 5K, and then gradually build from there.
Key #2: Commit
If you’re thinking about doing it, stop.
Plenty of people think. They have dreams and ambitions and goals, and they’re beautiful… but you need to become a person who stops thinking and starts doing.
Key #3: Find those who know
No one expects you to be an expert in triathlon before beginning your training for Ironman. But what is expected is that you’ll be willing to seek out those experts.
Key #4: Build gradually
Focus on the next race, weeks away, not on the Ironman months away.
Key #5: Make mistakes
You will make mistakes. Lots of them. Too many to count.
Anyone who says they didn’t make at least one mistake while training for an Ironman is a liar. Mistakes happen. It’s the people who are willing to admit and learn from those mistakes who truly succeed in moving past them.
Key #6: Balance, not sacrifice
Triathletes, by nature, are exaggerators. They’ll look at a short rolling course and declare it mountainous. They’ll loudly complain that a bad race was not their fault – it was always something (or someone) else. They’ll brag about sun-up to sun-down workouts and ravenous buffets to refuel. They’ll tell you they spend more time with their bikes than with their spouses.
Such declarations are extreme. (Okay, not the ravenous buffets. That part is actually true.)
Key #7: Have a support system
Having people to support you goes hand-in-hand with finding balance. A support system will know when to say “Quit being a baby!” and when to say “Oh, you poor baby!” They’ll understand why you fall asleep during the afternoon matinee, and will happily give up their French fries when you ask, “Are you gonna eat all that?” They’ll smile when you have a good training day, and give you a hug when you have a bad one.
And when you finally do run down that finisher’s chute, they will cheer louder than anyone there. In a way, it’s their big day, too!
Key #8: Blinders on
I hate the word “impossible.” Hate it, hate it, hate it.
Anyone who does an Ironman needs to learn to hate that word, too. You’ll hear it a lot during your training, and it’ll sneak into your thoughts now and then, after a bad run or when you panic during your first open-water swim start.
“Impossible” is your mind’s way of tricking your body into quitting. “Impossible” is what you say when you’re too scared to keep trying. “Impossible” is the easy way out when you begin to doubt yourself.
I won’t lie: I had a lot of “oh, <bleep>” moments, especially in the days before the race. But I also had a lot of really good people who were able to talk me down before I gave up altogether (see #7, above).
Key #9: Enjoy it
Most people sign up for one Ironman, finish it, and then rack their bike in the garage, never to be ridden again.
I’m not that person. I love this sport, and have continued to train and race since last year’s Ironman. If there’s one thing I learned in going from couch potato to Ironman in 20 months, it’s that 20 months can change a lot.
And I enjoyed every single second of it. I still do.
I don’t mean to oversimplify the sport. If I’ve given you that impression, I apologize.
It’s work. It’s dedication and commitment and perseverance. But it’s still fun. I wouldn’t do this sport if it wasn’t. Race day is one day, the culmination of many days of training, each of them bringing their own little victories and joys.
Is it for you?
Many people train for much longer than 20 months before even thinking about registering for their first Ironman. My path just seemed to be a little shorter. It’s not the path for everyone, but it worked for me.
I still stand by my assertion that anyone can do an Ironman. It’s just that most people won’t. Many are content to let it be a fantasy, always on the “maybe someday” list; or worse, they’ll focus on all the reasons why they won’t instead of all the reasons why they can. They stand on the sidelines of the finisher’s chute, watching but never acting.
Don’t get me wrong — the sidelines are pretty cool.
But actually being in the finisher’s chute?
You’ll never understand what it’s like until you find out for yourself.