It’s always a valuable experience watching an Ironman as a coach. These days I like to simply pay attention to what I observe, and see if I can add some value.
We are at a point in the sport where technology is making a massive difference to the process for nearly everyone. The bike tech, nutrition advancements, analysis options and shoe technology are stunning.
But here’s the thing, Ironman is still the same beast!Sure, we might get faster through these advancements, but the bare bones of the suck remain the same. An Ironman is still a formidable challenge and so it will always be.
So here’s some reflective observations for your consideration.
Much of what I witnessed at Ironman on the weekend when people were in trouble was people disembodied from their process, all up their heads wrestling with the enormity of the race.
The point here for you, the athlete, is to keep in mind that this is happening in your body, not in your head. That disconnect is destructive, so it’s to pay attention to what is happening in your body and stay with that, not the story.
The story will tell you how big this is, and realistically, it’s only as big as the piece you are in right now. The second you project out of this moment is the second you start to bleed your own power.
The perceived enormity is all tangled up in how far out you will allow your fearful story to wander. Truth is, it can only wander if you are standing outside your process. If it’s embodied, you are directly with it.
Seriously, most of the suffering that takes place in Ironman is taking place in peoples heads, not their bodies, it’s blatantly obvious. So here comes one coach’s reflective advice for all those who are prepared to listen.
The truth is, you are inviting things you may not want to feel or experience. You gotta get on board with that. Set it, don’t forget it!
It’s your sessions that cause your disconnect, not the race. On race day, you are a simple byproduct of what you practised. The more you can allow yourself to feel what you feel, the more power you will be able to apply to the process over time and subsequently on race day.
Your specific sessions are basically an invitation to work on the embodiment of the process every time you saddle up for a session.
The invitation you put out there puts the resistance on ice, you are moving towards the suck, rather than away from it. What I saw on the weekend was a lot of people who farmed things out to pace, speed, power and heart rate. If it doesn’t marry up, what ya gonna do now?
People can tell me anything and everything about output, but can tell me virtually nothing about the input or even what it felt like.
That's very disempowering as an athlete. Being a true athlete is a state of being not doing. I know that sounds paradoxical, but speak to any great athlete and you will hear it in them. Eventually, when all the bullshit drops away, you are left alone in the wind with the feeling in your body and the thoughts you are having about what’s happening.
That's where the race really starts folks.
I watched it play out in real time as the wind on the run cranked up the pain meter on the weekend and put people's mental resilience to the test. I heard all sorts of excuses escape peoples lips.
Resistance and acceptance are so obvious, of course, one is disassociation and the other is invited pain.
Those who invite are in pain, no doubt, but they are still engaged and in flow. You can't escape the pain and you can't escape yourself.
The suck must become your invitation!
The more the conditions suck, the more you relax and lean into it:
So it pushes you back, so what?
The capitulation is a mental one, because you are in resistance to the conditions, it’s got virtually nothing at all to do with what you can cope with physically.
So, the proactive choice we make is to stay present with it regardless of what happens.
Always' has been, always will be.