Digging Deep to Your Best Ironman Marathon
by Sue Aquila
Having your best IM marathon starts with training. Let’s assume you have done the training and you made good choices in the race to not be “one of those guys.” You know, the guys who look in great shape and are describing to their marathon walk buddy how they crushed the bike. Five hours of walking should give you plenty of time to realize crushing the bike was probably not in your best interest.
I was fortunate to have mostly highs at this year’s Ironman Louisville culminating with the fastest marathon in my age group (40-44) and the 6th fastest amateur women’s marathon. There were some low points in the marathon (the quads were very painful the last 10 miles) and I applied the following strategies to dig deep:
When all else fails I resort to blackmail. I think, “Sure you can walk it in but imagine how long it will take and how much more your quads will hurt.”
The simplest way for me to dig deep is to use the data. I always wear a Garmin/heart rate monitor but in the last year I switched from running by the mile to kilometers. Kilometers are short and psychologically work for me. It helps me break the race in chunks because I know the marathon is 4 x 10k plus change.
Finally, I remember that my brain can deceive me (Study A and Study B). The brain’s job is to preserve the organism but it gives me a huge buffer. Training helps me to learn how to close the gap on my buffer of self preservation without crossing over the line into annihilation (or the medical tent).
After my race, as is tradition, we go back to the finish line to watch people achieve their dreams. What is most interesting is the people who have walked most of the marathon suddenly find a second wind when they approach the hype of the finish line. Many had great speed, good form and a huge smile. They were able, when it truly counted, to ignore their brains and run. It is amazing to watch.
As you consider your upcoming race, think carefully about what you can do to respond to your lows. Make sure your training provides enough rough patches to practice overcoming them. Make discomfort your friend, welcome the hardship and prove to yourself that when the going gets tough that it is your time to shine.
Sue Aquila is a USAT Level 1 coach who balances her ironman training with running a successful business that she built from the ground up. She blogs regularly at fewoman.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @fewoman.