The 7 things that helped me do it.
It was a series of bold choices, hasty mistakes, happy accidents, and – finally – focused planning which took me from couch potato to Ironman in just 20 months.
Everyone has their own way of doing things when it comes to Ironman, and when you train for one, you’ll discover yours. For now, here are what I found to be the nine most important keys in going from zero to Ironman faster than most people think is possible.
Key 1: Start small
For those people who think I’d like to do that someday,” don’t make Ironman your first goal. Start small, like with running a 5K, and then gradually build from there. The race was so much fun, I wanted to run another one that fall. As part of my half-marathon training plan, I started doing some cross-training.
Key 2: Commit
If you’re thinking about doing it, stop. Plenty of people think. They have dreams and ambitions and goals, and they’re beautiful… but you need to become a person who stops thinking and starts doing. I wondered aloud if I could be one of those people. He chuckled condescendingly and patted my shoulder: Sure. Maybe someday. If you want to do an Ironman, the first step is the most important one: Pick a race and commit to it. Nothing lights a fire under your ass like the e-mail confirming your registration for an Ironman… and the 500-plus dollar receipt that comes with it.
Key 3: Build gradually
Focus on the next race, weeks away, not on the Ironman months away.It took me a while to learn, but when you focus on the training that needs to be done for the sprint, then the Olympic distance, then the Half-Ironman, then the Full, you gradually build your distance in a way that won’t overload you, burn you out, or have you peaking too early. Ironman is the big picture, but it’s made up of a lot of little brushstrokes. Focus on the brushstrokes.
Key 4: Make mistakes
Anyone who says they didn’t make at least one mistake while training for an Ironman is a liar. Mistakes happen. It’s the people who are willing to admit and learn from those mistakes who truly succeed in moving past them. I ignored friends who told me I was doing too much, too soon – they warned of, and I certainly experienced it… to the point where one of my friends came over to ride with me one morning, and I was in bed, crying. I would skip rest days, feeling like those were a luxury I couldn’t afford. I only had a short amount of time to prepare, I worried, and every second wasted resting was a second which could have been spent getting stronger.
Key 5: Have a support system
Having people to support you goes hand-in-hand with finding balance. A support system will know when to say “Quit being a baby!” and when to say “Oh, you poor baby!” They’ll understand why you fall asleep during the afternoon matinee, and will happily give up their French fries when you ask, Are you gonna eat all that? They’ll smile when you have a good training day, and give you a hug when you have a bad one.
Key 6: Blinders on
I hate the word “impossible.” Anyone who does an Ironman needs to learn to hate that word, too. You’ll hear it a lot during your training , and it’ll sneak into your thoughts now and then, after a bad run or when you panic during your first open swim start start. Fear and self doubt can be powerful, but the only way to overcome them is to face them head-on.
Key 7: Enjoy it
Most people sign up for one ironman, finish it, and then rack their bike in the garage, never to be ridden again. I’m not that person. I love this sport, and have continued to train and race since last year’s Ironman. If there’s one thing I learned in going from couch potato to Ironman in 10 months, it’s that 10 months can change a lot.
And I enjoyed every single second of it. I still do.