I’m not going to lie, when I was training for my first Iron-distance race, I was miserable. I was tired, hungry, sore, angry, and just generally not a nice person to be around. Full credit to my amazing support network who managed to put up with me – I probably would have just smothered me in my sleep or something with the way that I was going.
It wasn’t until about four months out from the start of the race that I suddenly improved. I was happy to be doing the early starts, I embraced the soreness, the fatigue, constantly rushing from training sessions to work and back again. It was a miracle! But why? Why did I suddenly go from bear with a thorn its paw to the model of an age group athlete? Simple. I took an hour out of my life just to sit and think. I was so close to calling it quits, so close to giving up that I thought that something had to be wrong. Surely it can’t be this hard for everyone? I’ve heard of people doing up to 35 hours a week in training – why am I struggling so much with only 20?
After actually stopping for one hour, I came up with the answer to this ridiculous riddle. I had gone in with my mindset completely wrong. I had treated training as if it was jail time, a rite of passage that needed to be completed prior to stepping onto the course. I was viewing it completely wrong. Those early starts, that serial rushing from one place to the next, that fatigue, the hunger, it’s all part of the race. Your event doesn’t start on the day. It doesn’t even start when you sign up. It all starts when you think about what you want to do and where you want to be. The race? That’s the icing on the cake. The lead in? That is a journey that needs to be embraced, not just endured. This is why family and friends are so important, especially having them support your endeavours. They don’t need to understand why you are putting yourself through it, they just need to accept that this is happening, and it’s not going away! As soon as I came to this conclusion, everything became slightly easier. I talked about my journey in a completely different way, and my family then were even more supportive – they even dared ask questions about it. Yes, the training still hurt, and there were mornings when I wanted nothing more than to just roll over and go back to sleep – but once I was out there, doing it, it no longer felt like torture to simply get to a start line. It felt like an adventure.
I simply cannot undersell just how important your support networks are. Friends, family, colleagues, they all form part of the journey – whether you want them to or not. My suggestion – talk to them about what you are doing, especially if they don’t get why you are doing it. Enjoy being called crazy, embrace the mockery, because at the end of your race I can guarantee that each and every one of them will be proud of what you have done – not just on the day, but for the months and years leading in. Triathlon is a lifestyle, more so than a lot of other sports. And it takes the truly dedicated – or truly crazy – to commit to it. Remember that next time you are up before dark and freezing yourself half to death. And enjoy the fact that you are the only person out there. Because when you cross that finish line, knowing that you gave it your all, those are the moments that you will reflect upon and be thankful that you didn’t roll over and go back to sleep. That’s what this lifestyle is all about. Now go out there and embrace the choices you have made.
Love the pain.
Ben Shepherd - Ambassadaor