Some thoughts going into Ironman Arizona

Heather here. Has been awhile since I’ve written a blog. In a way it’s a good thing – I’ve been training hard and spending my down time doing stuff like stretching, reading, finding my happy place and generally trying to avoid stressing myself out with triathlon magazine reading, or blog following. I get so competitive and driven that I have to be careful to stay within myself sometimes and just have faith in the work that I’ve been doing. Social media is cool, but I think that we can get a bit scattered by knowing instantaneously that X did an epic ride today or Y did a 7 k swim and oh, shit, I had an easy day… maybe I need to do more…

I just finished reading the fantastic book – “The Perfect Mile” by Neal Bascomb about the quest to break the 4 minute mile and there is a section where Roger Bannister starts working with coach Franz Stampfl that really stuck with me (p.160).

Physically Bannister was already very close to being capable of the achievement when they met. Stampfl just needed to push him a little further….  As the coach wrote, “Training is principally an act of faith. The athlete much believe in it’s efficacy: he must believe that through training he will become fitter and stronger… He must believe that through training his performance with improve and continue to improve indefinitely for as long as he continues to train to progressively stiff standards.” Stampfl simply helped to set these standards.

But Stampfl’s greatest contribution to Bannister’s attempt to make history was his ability to inspire the miler. Although Bannister had the scientific understanding to refute the notion that the mile barrier couldn’t be broken, believing that you were the one to do it was altogether different. “The great hurdle was the mental barrier,” Stampfl said. The Austrian’s experiences as a coach and a survivor of great hardship had proved to him that no obstacle was insurmountable. His unwavering belief was infectious. He loved sports and what they symbolized in life as a whole: the ability to overcome.

I love those lines. So much about success is about belief, and so much of what I love about sport is the ability to overcome: injury, doubt, your own mental hangups, fatigue, negative factors/people in life that seem to want to drag you down or make you feel like you can’t achieve your goals.

I think that one of the hardest things about tapering before a big race is that you actually have more time in the day and mental energy – our brains are glycogen burning machines after all – to reflect.  This can lead to confidence and to doubt, and you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t harbor negative thoughts.

As Johan Bruyneel put it in his great book “We might as well win” -(I am just going from memory here; it’s something along these lines) strength and weakness exist in everyone and you are a fool if you look at a competitor and do not see them both.

The field for Ironman Arizona is deep. There are so many phenomenal athletes toeing the line, and as always, there are so many things that can happen on race day. Some suffering is self inflicted, some is not, but there is always suffering! That’s what part of makes us feel so alive. It is also an especially interesting time of year: near the end of the season, with a lot of racing in the books. Mental and physical fatigue from a year of hard work will likely cause more carnage than it does at most races.  For me, all that’s left to do (outside of the million minutia that crop up race week) is get rested and excited about racing and finishing the year off right!

I will sign off with a great one from Goethe:

Whatever you can do,
Or think you can, begin it.
Boldness has power, and genius,
And magic in it.

~ by trevorandheather on November 13, 2010.

3 Responses to “Some thoughts going into Ironman Arizona”

  1. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are


  2. nine hundred two thousand ninety-nine smiley faces are awesome

  3. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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