You’ve experienced this too.
I know you have.
Remember back when you were young, maybe during recess or P.E., you had to run against other kids. Who was fastest? Let’s see. Ready… go!
And like any kid with a young, indestructible body would, you start out as fast as you can go, running! running! running! And then… oh man, my legs and arms won’t move anymore!
Funny how grown adults, even professional athletes, do the exact same thing. And nowhere does it ruin you more than an Ironman-length triathlon. It’s generally understood that an Ironman is won or lost (finished or not) on the bike.
Why is the bike so critical?
After those long months of grueling workouts and anticipation, triathletes get out of the water after the swim portion, jump on their bikes and GOOOO!!!!!! And man, do they go fast! The thrill of passing, moving fast through the morning air, using your finely-tuned body to JAM! And then, somewhere about midway through the 112 mile bike ride, their legs are done. That’s called Bonking. It’s hard to come back from, and people who don’t finish an Ironman usually quit halfway through the bike portion.
When Training Begins – Part 2
Training for the Big Day is the same as racing on the Big Day – start too fast, and you’ll burn out early. And it is hard stuff! The training, yes, but going slower, shorter and easier the first few months is almost as hard as the speed, strength and endurance workouts later on.
Out of fear of the bonk, I’m carefully planning my next six months. I don’t want to start out bold, strong and confident, only to be injured, sick and exhausted by July. But I never would have guessed how hard that simple planning is!
My training program, by Joe Friel, is a 23-24 week program. Have you ever tried counting out 23 weeks? It’s hard! I had to print out my Google calendar for the rest of the year and label each week backward from October 15th… and I’m still nervous I didn’t get it right! So I thought my “Prep Weeks” ended this week, but I don’t start until May 1st. Already I’ve ramped up too fast!
The Struggle Is Real
But what really has me nervous is – this past week has been difficult physically. I may never understand how some weeks can be energetic and satisfying, and other weeks are painful, slow and exhausting. This seems to be the way of life as well. We have good weeks, good days, good months, and the opposite of each just as often. The real challenge of an Ironman is not the day of the race. It’s those bad days, weeks and months that you push through anyway.
More and more, I’m seeing that as analogous to life. You can give up and not be part of it, or endure when it’s tough, thrive when it’s easier and know it’s going to hurt. Just don’t give up.