I just finished Chris McCormak's new book, "I'm here to win" and I have to say whatever your opinion of Macca (good or bad) if you are a triathlete you need to read this book. I've never been a Macca fan, he comes across so arrogant and cocky that I just couldn't stand listening to him. Triathlon is a tough sport and Ironman is the toughest event in triathlon, you don't need to boast or brag and call people out, do your talking on the race course. However after reading his book I realized that Macca is really not like that, he's a confident guy that's for sure but he's a humble champion who loves his family and loves what he does for a living. His 'persona' when he's racing is totally different from who he actually is. At the professional level he understands that physically most pros are only separated by a 1-2% difference in physical ability so the mental game becomes much more important. By calling out an athlete or by making them race mad Macca is actually creating an environment where other athletes are thinking about him instead of thinking about what they need to do during the race, brilliant! He's one of the most successful athletes in the sport and his results speak volumes.
I'm not saying that I can use this strategy as an age group athlete but after being a triathlete for over ten years I thought I knew almost everything there was to know, not even close. There are some great insights and things to learn from this book, for example; most athletes will drink a lot of water for the week leading up to their goal race, smart right? Not if your training for an Ironman, if your doing an Olympic or Half Ironman race then you probably won't have a problem but during an Ironman, big problem! The thing is the body will hydrate itself in two ways, plasma hydration in the blood which comes from drinking a lot of water (and inevitably peeing a lot) and muscle hydration. Macca always cramped in the heat of Hawaii and he couldn't come up with a solution until he started learning more about the difference between the two. He found out about the difference not from sports physiologists or PHDs who were testing him relentlessly but from a French bodybuilder. He taught Macca about a well known process bodybuilders do before preparing for a competition, by drinking an element based water (water with zinc, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium) your body will store this in the muscles through osmosis for later use. That's great for a bodybuilder but how is it going to help me in an Ironman, I'm swimming, biking and running for hours. Well after a few hours of being dehydrated your blood plasma becomes thicker and the only place to draw from is the muscles, sure you can drink and try to re-hydrate and if you're a small athlete you may not have any issues, but for a big athlete training in the heat, cramping is inevitable. So prepare your muscles by drinking an element infused drink for the weeks leading up to the race. Once Macca started doing this, he never had an issue with cramping in Hawaii and he won two, placed fourth in one (because of a bad swim) and had a mechanical in the other.
There is also a lot of great info on an athlete's mindset and preparation before a race. I'm starting to realize how important getting yourself in the right frame of mind is. I always knew I felt very fit before before an Ironman but I just attributed that to all the training I was doing leading up to the race, and that does play an important factor. However I'm learning that training your mind to be in that place where you know you are about to complete one of the toughest events you will probably face in your life is even more important. I'm reminded of last year when I wasn't doing an Ironman and I went out for an open water swim with a buddy of mine who I usually don't have a problem swimming away from and how easily he pulled away from me. He had the 'mindset' of an Ironman athlete, he knew he was going to do an Ironman and his body responded in training. He said his arms were moving with little to no effort and I was doing everything I could just to stay close to him. I got out of the water after 45 minutes completely exhausted and he kept going for well over an hour. Mentally preparing yourself through training is so incredibly important and as much as we think we are preparing our bodies for the punishment to come, preparing your mind is even more important.
The training so far this month has been great, other than a terrible open water swim in Musreau on Monday (but I'm attributing that to the very cold water) I feel great. My running has been right on track, I've had a couple knee issues on the bike but after a bit of rest it seems to be getting better and in the pool I'm moving very, very well. Now I need to equate that to feeling great in the open water but I've still got a couple weeks to sharpen up that skill and it won't be a problem. Mentally I'm prepared for what's coming and I'm happy and relaxed about getting back into the Ironman ring again this year. Two more weeks and we'll see if all the hard work has paid off, I'm confident I'm going to have a terrific race.
Monday, August 1, 2011
August long weekend holds a lot of great memories for Amber and I, many, many great summers are spent on our bikes or on the trails. A couple of years after we met we planned a bike trip from Calgary to Banff and when we reached Canmore I asked Amber to marry me. She was having a horrible ride but seemed to perk right up after I asked her this weekend four years ago. She's the perfect partner for me and she understands my motivation and drive to continue to do this crazy sport of Ironman. There is a lot of suffering that goes into not only completing an Ironman but preparing for one. Weekends are not spent drinking on the deck with friends and lounging at the lake with family but pushing yourself beyond what you thought you were capable of on your bike, in the pool or running the trails and pathways. Many hours are dedicated to one day at the end of August when you are swimming, biking and running for 9-12 hours.
Why do I do this sport? The only answer I can come up with to that question is that after an Ironman (including preparing for an Ironman) everything else in life is easy. Ironman teaches you discipline, patience, planning, preparation, and how to break down a HUGE accomplishment into manageable parts, all things that have helped me tremendously in my life. When most people who don't understand the sport first hear about it they can't fathom doing something like that all day long. The truth is that anyone can do it with the proper preparation and race discipline the problems happen when you change your discipline or you don't adapt to changes in your conditions, just like in life.
This weekend was filled with fun things, Saturday Amber, Robert, Annette and I planned to ride from Grande Cache to Grande Prairie; 180kms over some tough, tough climbs. Unfortunately Amber woke up not feeling well so she had to take a day off but the three of us loaded up and went out to practice our Ironman ride. The first 95kms to our drop box went fairly well, I was keeping my heart rate under control on the climbs and although my legs could tell they have been pushing for 2 hours and 40 minutes I was ready to keep going for another 85kms. By the time Robert and I hit the 140km point we were both hurting but we kept each other honest and pushed the remaining 40kms to finish in 5:31. We even jumped off our bikes and did a 20 minute run just get that start of the Ironman run feeling.
Sunday Amber was feeling better so we headed to the pool and put in a solid 3kms with some 500m sets and I felt pretty good. After lunch we did a little family run for an hour and I didn't give myself enough time to digest so I was having a tough time but held on for 15kms.
Today Amber was determined to get in her 180km ride but the wind was absolutely screaming!!! It was a 40km/hr wind with gusts up to 70kms/hr! It was not a safe day to ride but she did not want to call it off so we planned for her to head east with a tailwind most of the way. I would drive out and do my run every 40 or 50 kms and provide her with a refueling stops. Things were going along pretty well until I saw how much construction there was on the highway, I didn't realize she had about 20kms of chipseal riding with loose gravel everywhere but by the time I reached her she was through it. In the end she had a fantastic ride doing 180kms in 5:24! and I managed to run 38kms in 2:38. I went through some tough periods when I decided it was a good idea to eat a couple pieces of pizza after running 21kms... bad idea. I felt like I was going to throw up for the next 8-9kms, lesson learned.
All in all it was a great weekend with friends and family and after 180kms riding, 3kms swimming and 58kms running I feel closer to being ready for Ironman. Bring it on.