"Endurance athletes are not regulated, identical, fine-tuned precision race cars competing in a organized race and seeing who wins…rather they are a motley of different and individually unique compilation automobiles competing in a demolition derby, and seeing who is the last car still running at the finish..." ~JM 2011
I composed a shorter, leaner version of this quote to one of the athletes that I coach, on the fly earlier this year in an attempt to help try explain that its not the event (IM, 70.3, marathon, walking to the bus stop, etc) that is actually the challenge, but the training that is truly the test. Anyone can do an endurance event.
I firmly feel and believe this with every fiber of my being. That having been said, I actually think that the numbers that can actually successfully survive the training to get even to just the starting line is a drastically smaller number.
The time commitment alone is mind boggling, never mind the physical aspect. I have coached allot of different caliber of athletes in many different ways, to a silly amount of different types of events and goals...but there is one constant: only the mentally tough survive. When its all said and done, no one ever feels truly like they get to the starting line completely ready, not even the pros. They may say that they do, but I think its hogwash. We all immediately in our minds go right to the day(s?) that we slept in. the session we just "skipped". the flat tires (hey wait a minute there!). The days that we WISELY listened to our coach's and mentors, and took a break in spite of the 5 hr brick that was on the training schedule. The most important thing we can do in those situations, is breathe....(oh and remember that recovery is not the absence of training, but rather PART of our training.) and get out of your head! Just being at the staring line of any of these events is a testament to the commitment you have had mentally, and that is what will pull you through. no amount of physical training, muscles, or nutrition can compare to the finely tuned and prepared mind.
I have a former athlete who shall remain nameless, who upon looking over her training plan that I had laid out for her in the early stages of her IronMan training said, and I quote "Wow, this is really going to require some effort"...and the risk of sounding like an ass, no kidding! :) The interesting thing is the effort that was going to be the hardest for her she was already in the "hole" with, her "head". It wasn't in it. She hadn't laced up her shoes once yet. Not clicked on her helmet. Not put on her swim suit once to head to the pool at 5am to stare at a line for an hour or two. Yet here she was, already talking herself out of the goal. Thinking that she had not the ability to get it done. You must always remind your self that you have the ability to do it, always. if you do nothing else training wise everyday, remind your self that YOU CAN DO IT.
I have athletes everyday ask me if I think they can do one event or another, and I honestly hardly ever say no. This is not because I am looking for job security, or am trying to falsely empower someone with delusions of grandeur. The last thing I want is to get someones hope up unrealistically, and possibly get them disappointed or worse hurt or injured. No actually its because I firmly feel that ANYONE in spite of there possible physical limitations or lack of experience, has the ability to train their mind to accomplish anything...anything. Endurance sports are more mental then physical any day of the week. I swear to this. Anyone who has done an event like this will say the same. Yes, you must be physically prepared, and yes the more trained you are the better and smoother your event will go. But when it comes right down to it, when you are out there in the dark, by yourself, on the back half, of the second loop, of a marathon, on the tail end of a couple mile swim and 100+ mile bike...the only thing that separates you from anyone else is your mind. And you can be ready. Are you?
Sorry, got really "coach-ie" there for a minute.
Going back to my quote. I want everyone who reads this to keep this in mind: We are all different, unique, special. We can all get to the finish line of anything we truly want to. Whether its quiting smoking. Or losing pesky pounds. Or tackling an IM. there is nothing we cannot do. Also, because we are different, we all require different types and amounts of training. No pre-fabbed, one-size-fits-all approach will ever truly work. Finally I want you to remember that in my analogy, I wanted to help you understand that it will be difficult, and its supposed to be. If you get to the start/finish line of your "event" unscathed, clean, and looking pretty, you have truly missed the opportunity to grow. And you are not truly prepared. Its some of that whole "life's a journey, not a destination" bit. You will training on average will be over 100 times longer in duration cumulatively, then the event itself! ONE HUNDRED. You really think you need to train for the event? It's the event that is the reward for the training. The goal is the be ready when you get there to enjoy the fruits of your labors.
I could go on forever, and I honestly shouldn't (because you should probably be training!)...but here's the bottom line:
So you pulled your hammy, great. You tweaked your tricep, sweet. You broke your foot, awesome.
Congratulations, you have truly become an endurance athlete. And you are more ready then you think.
Welcome to the "derby". Its nice to have some company :)
ps. and remember...its all in your "head" ;)