Go Into Race Week Like a Fighter
by Alex Thompson
Ironman is a tough sport, but for the many-time ironman finisher the race in itself doesn’t provide motivation. Motivation has to come from within. What is more, the experienced ironman knows it’s just a race, it’s not life and death, and a terrible race isn’t dangerous. And this is what sometimes makes preparation hard, especially compared to other sports… Muay Thai for example.
In Muay Thai, motivation is easy; every training session you do, you’re reminded that right then and there, there is a guy in another gym training his ass off to knock you out. In that respect doing that little bit extra is easy. Also If you go into a fight either unprepared or thinking you’re are unprepared, you’ll suffer.
For those who have never seen a Muay Thai fight, here is a quick guide to why every fighter knows the importance of doing everything possible for a positive outcome. In Muay Thai, a form of kick-boxing, the leg kick, where the attackers shin hits the same spot on the defenders ITB four to six inches above the knee on the same leg is common. It is very effective as repeated leg kicks can not only end a fight as the fighter cannot stand but I’ve seen people win fights and spend four weeks in a wheel chair afterwards because of receiving leg kicks.
Muay Thai also allows you to hold an opponent and drive your knee in the opponents ribs, or grab the back of the competitor’s head and drive your knee into his or her face. However, the most feared weapon is the elbow; every fighter shudders at the thought of elbows. I have watched dozens of fights where a fighter who is winning convincingly on points, drops down unconscious after one elbow strike.
A good fighter knows this and prepares accordingly. As you can imagine, the week before a fight is a serious time without compromise.
Before entering triathlon, I was a Muay Thai fighter. Leading into a fight I’d have easy sparring sessions with people superior to me where they went easy and I’d “win.” I’d practice favourite combinations on pads. I’d be encouraged by trainers and there would be happy smiling faces all round.
Before a fight I’d have long baths where I repeated mantras for an hour or more to give me confidence. They also had to be true; you can’t lie to yourself before a fight. I’d know my weaknesses and I would deal with them truthfully and positively.
I’d have to be happy that the last hard session was enough and I couldn’t do more and I’d tell myself that. While Thai boxing lacks scientific tapers, they know how to take it easy before a fight.
This is why despite changing from Muay Thai to ironman, I keep the same pre-fight ritual and follow a similar schedule. Sessions are light, and involve skill and focus on making me feel good about myself. I only train by myself or with weaker athletes during race week. I have mantras that I repeat and when I call on them during tough parts of a race, I’m able to react without thinking.
Above all, I believe in myself, make race week a no compromise situation, and set myself up to be proud of my achievements.
Alex has been a triathlete since 2005 and has competed several ironman and ultra distances races. He is currently working towards making the transition from age group athlete into the pro ranks. He has been working closely with Alan Couzens for the last few years to achieve his goal. You can follow Alex's progress through his blog, TriOnTrack and on Twitter @XIronmanAlexX.