There are about 2,500 nervous triathletes either in Bolton or heading for Bolton right now as I write this. They are heading there because on Sunday it is the 11th running of Ironman UK. This time 12 months ago I was one of them. I am almost as excited today encouraging friends who are taking part for the first time, as I was driving to Bolton myself last year.
In the last few days I have seen lots of Twitter and Facebook post with long lists of advice. But in truth, if any of Sunday’s racers don’t know what they are going to eat or wear, how fast they are going to ride, where they are going to line up for the swim etc. then it’s too late. So no list of advice from me.
I would pass on just one tip learned from bitter experience. Manage the shitfight!
When you strip it back to its most basic, Ironman boils down to a moment when your body says “no more.” At that moment, your mind has to find a way to keep going.
It might not happen in a single moment. It might take hold over a period of time, probably on the run. But is comes down to a moment. A decision.
People cope with it differently. Some people love the pain and embrace it and run straight through it. But for most people, like me, it is the start of a shitfight. A long negotiation between your mind and body.
For some people the negotiation is: “Let’s walk and bit and then run”. For others it’s: “Let’s stop at the next feed station and take a minute.” Or “Let’s walk up this hill and a have a chat with a fellow runner”. It could be something as human as “Let’s follow that nice ass in front” – works for boys and girls!! Everyone will be different.
What is for sure is that it will happen, so whatever else you do, be ready for it and have a plan. Also be ready to ditch the plan and try a new one. I had a plan when I ran the London Marathon for the last five miles. It didn’t work – it made no difference. In the end, after trying a few things, it took my daughter’s voice in my head to push me forward.
Ironman is about a lot of things. A long and arduous winter of training, several weeks of nerves and mind games, a tough swim, a rolling 112-mile bike. But when you finally get into the battle, when you stand in the arena, in my view what will determine your success as an Ironman is how you cope with the shitfight. And when you look back on Monday with your shiny medal round your neck, the part of the race you will remember with most pride and satisfaction is that moment when you reached your limit, stared over the edge and found you had what it takes.
Good luck everyone. The wait is over and it’s time to be awesome. You’ve got a shitfight to win!