You can train as much as you wish for an Ironman triathlon. But there will come a point in the race where all the training won’t block out the fact that Ironmans require much more than physical fitness. Here are 5 mental tricks to get you through an Ironman triathlon:
You’ve been here before
By the time you stand on the starting line of an Ironman, you’ve covered hundreds or thousands of miles in training. You’ve spent early mornings swimming laps in the pool. You’ve pedaled miles through the countryside. You’ve run down lonely streets and up big hills. Your training has given you the experience of confronting physical pain and exhaustion.
Draw on these prior experiences of physical difficulty to spur yourself through the tough parts of the race. The pain of an Ironman triathlon is no different than the pain you experienced in training. You made it through the training. There’s no reason you can’t also make it through the race.
Your opponents are hurting just as much or more than you
Don’t think you are the only one who is finding it difficult. All the competitors surrounding you in the race find it just as much of a challenge as you do (and maybe more). If the opponent breathing hard right next to you did not find it challenging, he would have sped off into the distance. The fact that you’re right there with him means he’s finding the pace and effort just as taxing as you find it.
Others have done this who weren’t as good as you
Remember that many other athletes have completed an Ironman. Although some of them may have been elite athletes, the greater number were athletes just like you. They aren’t professionals. They’re not blessed with superhuman genetic ability. They get tired and exhausted just like you. Just like you, they feel tempted to quit or drop out in the middle of the race. And yet many hundreds or thousands of these athletes managed to drag themselves to the finish.
If they could realize this achievement, without having any more talent or natural ability than you have, then you can finish the race too.
Take the race one step at a time
There is a famous Chinese proverb that says, “A 10,000 mile walk begins with the first step.” An Ironman triathlon may feel like a 10,000 mile walk: 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, and 26.2 miles of running. But if you break this immense race into smaller steps, it will become manageable.
Many great athletes, and indeed many who have undertaken any arduous task, break their goal into smaller steps. When you hit the bad patch of the bicycle ride, try simply to get to the next mile. When the bad patch is even more intense, break the goal into even smaller steps.
If you’re wondering how you’ll possibly be able to finish a marathon after already swimming and biking so far, try to make it to the next street sign. When you reach that landmark, aim for the tree down the road, or another competitor a few hundred yards away.
By breaking the face into small pieces like this, the miles will pass by imperceptibly. Soon enough, you’ll look up and see the finish line.
Pain is temporary
The pain and suffering you feel during a race is temporary and will soon pass. But the achievement of finishing an Ironman is a lasting memory. You will remember the triumph of crossing the line long after the memories of the pain fade away.
Keep your eyes on the prize
During the worst parts of the race, you may wonder why you ever wanted to train for and race an Ironman. Try breaking your race into smaller steps, remember that you know how to handle fatigue, and recall that the achievement of finishing outweighs the temporary discomfort. With these 5 mental tricks, you too can get through an Ironman triathlon!