|The unbeaten four time Ironman world champion,|
Chrissie Wellington came into the sport of Ironman late at 30. She had never even realised her potential in triathlon until then as she only stumbled upon the sport by chance. Her natural talent is almost unbelievable. Inevitably when she did impress one of the best and most respected triathlon coaches in the industry, Brett Sutton, the other girls training with him began to get envious. Within nine months of trying the professional triathlete lifestyle she had won her first Ironman as the nobody. Throughout the years she definitely became a somebody and is now probably one of the first names people would relate an Ironman to. She has competed in nine Ironmans, winning every one! She retired in 2012 with no Ironman losses to her name and has been world champion four times. She did what most athletes fail to do, retire at their peak and never be beaten. I would definitely recommend her autobiography.
Anyway, as an exceptional athlete I have naturally read some of her advice and want to take on some of her methods. As this post is all about the mental side of an Ironman these are about strengthening that important organ, the brain. I shall give three that I believe will be important for me.
- Improve capacity for boredom
- Find a motivational poem/saying
Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it!
Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it;”
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.
There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure,
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.
- Store memories
When during the Ironman fatigue sets in and the body begins to think about quitting it is the mind that has to over rule this thought. In order to try and make your body be relieved of pain it is essential to be able to turn the pain off by thinking of something else. I need to have a vast amount of good memories banked in my head that I can draw on to get me through the bad times. For me these will include my friends and family, the places we have been together and the laughs we have all had. Even a future memory of crossing the line may come into the mix. It is important for me to have some images in my head that I can think of to keep me going.
I know this is all starting to sound dramatic, but the mind plays such an important part in endurance racing, especially Ironman. As you can probably tell completing this Ironman means everything to me. Just reading about reaching the finish brings me to tears, so imagine what I will be like when I finally do it?! (Poor Dan!). This journey is so important. Reading about Chrissie Wellingtons achievements shock and inspire me, I still cannot phantom the speed in which she is going and yet when she crosses the line it all looks so easy. However, her natural talent got her to be a pro and tough training made it her job but the majority do it as a hobby. She takes inspiration from people like me. An Ironman requires a lot of training and to make that commitment as well as having a full time job is hard work. Moreover, if it is tough for an average healthy person then it is the real inspirational stories that put my attempt at an Ironman into perspective. These are the types of heroes I will have going round my head when completing mine. I shall list a few.
I mentioned this amazing and inspirational father and son team on my first post. Their story brings a tear to my eye very time and if you still haven't seen this clip I urge you to!
|The inspirational father and son; 'Team Hoyt'|
Rick was born in 1962 to Dick and Judy Hoyt. As a result of oxygen deprivation to Rick's brain at the time of his birth, Rick was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. Dick and Judy were advised to institutionalise Rick because there was no chance of him recovering, and little hope for Rick to live a "normal" life. They refused to believe this and developed their own way of communicating with their son.
In the spring of 1977, Rick told his father that he wanted to participate in a 5-mile charity run for a Lacrosse player who had been paralysed in an accident. Far from being a long-distance runner, Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair and they finished all 5 miles, coming in next to last. That night, Rick told his father, "Dad, when I'm running, it feels like I'm not handicapped. They have now competed in over 1000 races including marathons, duathlons and triathlons (including 6 Ironman events).
In a triathlon, Dick will pull Rick in a boat with a bungee cord attached to a vest around his waist and to the front of the boat for the swimming stage. For the biking stage, Rick will ride a special two-seater bicycle, and then Dick will push Rick in his custom made running chair (for the running stage).
Dick is 72 years old and there is no sign of him stopping.
On May 2, 2005, at age 33, Jon Blais was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known motor neurone disease, an incurable and progressive disease in which the nerve cells controlling voluntary muscle movement degenerate and die off. He was permitted to enter the 2005 Ironman in Hawaii, a lifelong dream. As Blais put it, "Finishing the race is huge for me. No one is beating ALS. No one has done anything but walk away and die." His resolve to finish the race was unwavering as he stated, "Even if I have to be rolled across the finish line, I'm finishing." After a total of sixteen and a half hours of agony, just over half an hour before the cut-off, he "log-rolled" across the finish line and is the first person with ALS to finish this race. He died on May 27, 2007. Some international triathletes, including Chrissie Wellington, continue to honor Blais and show their support for the fight against ALS by doing a "Blazeman-Roll" across the Ironman finish line.
|Chrissie Wellington doing the 'Blazeman' roll across the finishing line|
This story just astounds me, it is so moving.
In 1986, aged eighteen, Scott had been riding home from work with friends on the back of a pick-up truck in Georgia, when the truck was hit by an articulated lorry. He was dragged hundreds of yards beneath the trailer. He suffered third degree burns up his back, his right leg was severed and his left was left barely intact. Nearly twenty years of pain and despair followed. After twelve years of operations and treatment, Scott decided to amputate what was left of his left leg. He suffered from depression and prescription drug addiction.
In 2005 he had an epiphany and set himself the target of becoming an Ironman. In 2007 he did just that coming in a quarter of an hour short of the cut-off time, at 16hr43min. During the marathon he’d had to stop every few miles to empty the blood and sweat from his prosthetics.
He now has his own foundation and inspires people through public speaking and counselling. Just his story is inspiring enough.
Rudy Garcia Tolson
Scott Rigbsy is the first double amputee to complete and Ironman, and in 2009 Rudy Garcia Tolson became the first double-above-knee amputee to complete one. By then at twenty-one he had already competed and won medals in the pool at the Paralmpics in Athens at fifteen and then in Beijing.
In 2009 he raced in Ironman Hawaii, but missed the 5.30pm cut-off time on the bike by eight minutes. It is no wonder that he struggled to make the cut-off time. I cannot conceive how anyone could ride 112 miles without any hamstrings or quads. In propelling his bike forwards, Rudy can only use his glutes. He can't stand up on the pedals or shift his weight around, which robs him of yet more strategies to ease the pain.
He tried again in Ironman Arizona six weeks later.
Rudy was born with numerous genetic defects, the worst of which were in his legs. He required fifteen operations as a child, before, aged five, deciding to have his legs removed altogether, so that he could get on with living on a pair of prosthetic limbs.
He is an example to us all.
There are many more heroes within Ironman but these few put everything into perspective and prove that the 'impossible' is possible.