September 09, 2010
Ironman: The Hardest Component Part 1
It has been over a year now since I last did Ironman in July 2009. I was out running recently and was thinking back to what the hardest part of the race really is. I mean if you dissect it piece by piece, what really stands out as the most challenging?
This really didn't take long to think through. For me, it was the run. And if I break it down further, it's the components of the run including the psychological aspect, nutrition and time of day that stand out.
First, the psychological component seems evident. You just finished a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike and all you have left is a 26.2 mile run. Thought of in those terms, the run seems at first like a picnic. It certainly is when you are at mile 95 on the bike and you and your muscles are screaming to be done already. The run appears very inviting. Anything to get off the bike even running a marathon! When you do finish the bike, pull into transition and relieve your tired feet from those rigid bike shoes, it's a great feeling. First, you know made it through the bike and the race is almost over. Second, it feels incredible to be standing in sneakers and not hunched over screaming at the pain in your back, quads and everywhere else.
You leave the tent and get swallowed by the crowds lining the street calling your name. For a brief moment as you run through town, you are a true rock star. Then after 1 or 2 miles, reality sets in. The crowd dumps you like a bored girlfriend. The muscles start to ache once more and this time all over. (They never really stopped aching!) Suddenly, the thought of running 26.2 miles starts to choke you. The mind begins its relentless campaign of getting you to stop. The little red devil appears on your shoulder and won't go away. It's going to be a long day and night and you know it. You feel it.
Next post, I'll go into the Nutritional aspect of the run and what it means. Nutrition itself could make or break your whole race. It starts the day before, takes hold in the morning of the race, and completes the second act (the bike) in a breathtaking climax. How it turns out is what Act 3 (the run) is all about.