- "Train for your worst possible day, the one you hope to have". My first ironman attempt was the worst possible day. I wasn't prepared for a twenty five m.p.h. head wind nor ninety plus degree heat. Usually I can do much better in racing than training, but ironman is an exception. My long bike sessions weren't fast enough in training to beat the bike cut-offs and my bike speed was worse in the race. You can't fake quality of training in an ironman race.
- "Train to overcome self-doubt and to slay your inner demons." It takes a lot of faith to attempt an ironman-faith in yourself and confidence that events will work out. When you get to dark spots in your training or the race itself, the self-doubt creeps in and it tells you that you should quit, that the pain is too much or that you are not talented or trained enough to get through the race. If you mentally train yourself to resist the voice of self-doubt and weakness that you know will come in a race, you are better equiped to deal with it. You do what you mind tells you to.
- "Train for adversity, as adversity is omnipresent on Ironman day". Things go wrong on race day that you can't predict. Your tire goes flat, you get sick to your stomach. You get a 20 m.p.h. headwind on the bike. You get dehydrated and overheated. If you keep your cool have the will and stubborness to go on, you will.
- "Train to want to be done". Train to want to be done at the finish line, not in the middle of the bike or during the run. Resist the urge to quit.
- "Train to suffer". In shorter races you know that the pain won't last too long, even if you are slow. An ironman race has or seems to have vast amounts of time that you linger in pain especially if you are thinking about how long the race is instead of what you need to do at the moment. You have to tell yourself that the pain is temporary and deliberately focus on the moment.
- "Train for lock-up, as excessive eccentric loading is the name of the Ironman game". When your muscles seize up after racing for twelve hours, you have to know how to deal with it.
- "Train to gut it out". Ironman isn't for pussies. Your mind has to be in it for the long haul. You have to really want it.
- "Train the gut". You have to eat in training the way you will eat in the race or else you will get some unpleasant surprises. Even so a nutrition plan may fail anyway. You have a 30% chance of your nutrition going wrong. Not practicing nutrition will make that percentage higher.
- "Train to resist fatigue". Fatigue is a given. Proper training can help, but if you don't have the mental grit to resist it, you quit.
- "Train for pain". Pain is your friend. It teaches you to be strong. Pain is inevitable in a race. You get cold in the swim; your butt, legs and back hurt in the bike; your feet and legs hurt in the run; you get tired, thirsty and hungry.
I have become well acquainted with pain. In my two year journey to actually finish an ironman, the swim and the bike have been my obstacles. The swim is an obstacle because I am too slow and it doesn't leave enough cushion for my slow bike. The bike is a obstacle because it isn't fast enough to make up for the slow swim to beat the cut-offs. My coach's strategy to remedy this is training hard on the long bike sessions instead of staying in an aerobic zone most of the time, like most people. This strategy has resulted in me having some truly miserable bike training. Riding hard and "fast" is not my normal state on a bike. I have really fight to ride like this. My muscles do not like riding hard. They like moseying along. Hence pain has been my unwelcome companion. It appears on a god-forsaken barren ugly stretch of the Bee Line highway, which is the bike race route. It appears when I am fighting to maintain speed against a headwind. It appears in the fourth hour of a six hour bike ride. My legs scream to stop and my feet hurt and I can't find a bearable way to sit on the bike seat.
Yet I know this pain will be useful. The race may or may not as bad as the training. I remember the last race, where I fell behind on the bike time-wise and I knew that I wouldn't finish the race after the first of three laps. I remember the frustration of not having the power to maintain the speed that I needed to against the wind and the heat. If I train through the pain, at least I have a fighting chance against the elements and the time limits. I remember that frustration when pain comes to visit me. It gives me power or at least what I hope is power. Pain is temporary. Finishing is forever.