Blog by: Todd Gilmore, Ironman Coach
Embarking on the Ironman journey is more than bucket list item.
It changes an individual for the positive. Every finisher will have their own reason, and need those reasons to push through the dark moments. Some of the most valuable lessons The Endurance Academy can highlight are captured here.
Our bodies are not instant. In today’s world of instant gratification patience is fast becoming a lost skill. Our muscles adapt 2 – 3 times faster than our ligaments. Our internal systems (energy, digestion, immune, metabolic, etc.) can take significantly longer. Failure to understand this will undermine an athletes result or worse, their long-term health.
An Ironman should build fitness and health, not tear it down. Classical volume and distance rules of 5 – 10% duration increases per week are applicable to all athletes. Dr. Phil Maffatones’s philosophy of base building in zone 2 is very applicable to patience. It is in this patience that the groundwork of success is laid.
Training for any event is much more than training the muscles. A patient athlete is training their mind, muscles, ligaments and internal systems. They are giving their body time to adapt to the training stresses. These adaptations take time and critical to longevity. It is a process that must be learned.
Follow A Plan
Two old sayings from professional career come to mind with respect to planning. “Failure to plan, plan to fail.” Or the 7 P’s, “Piss Poor Planning, Plan for Piss Poor Performance.” The source of the plan is another subject, but failing to use a plan, is failing you as an athlete. Especially when you consider the fact participating in an Ironman is no small time or economic commitment. An amateur athlete will invest significant hours and dollars to collect an Ironman finish medal and towel. These are two more reasons patience is a significant part of planning.
Any plan for an Ironman should involve a minimum of 10 months of training. Even for very active athletes, to do well, it takes time to adapt. Build base, then peak in endurance on 3 disciplines prior to getting into race specific work. The sooner race specific work can occur (testing across 3 disciplines) the better the athlete will be prepared. In this respect, race day becomes a long training day.
It is a long discussion, but planning and practicing nutrition is an equal part of training. After all Ironman is actually 5 disciplines (swim, bike, run, nutrition and recovery).
Who is Competing
Many an amateur athlete or club athlete advertise their goals. They may even go so far to challenge colleagues over a finish time. Ironman is not about beating your mate. It is about bettering yourself. Becoming a better you is a process. Following this process and learning from qualified individuals can be life changing.
Becoming a better you means commitment to the plan and potentially trust in qualified individuals to assist in the process. If the race is your first attempt at the distance, race day should be stress free. Stress free since regardless of the result it will be a Personal Best (PB). In having said this, Mark Allen stated a long time ago, “Respect the distance”. This equates to following a plan, starting that plan with sufficient time prior to the race to prepare and finally having the patience to stick to the plan.
Be cautious of who you listen to. Within the Ironman competition there will be naysayers. They will start with yourself doubting you can do it. It may be your spouse, training partners, work colleagues, or club members. However, if the athlete adheres to and understands what is written here, they will go through the process where those doubts will slowly disappear as the body adapts. With these adaptations will come quiet confidence and belief that they will achieve the goal… and just maybe surprise themselves about any “goal” finish time.
Establish the correct foundations for the correct reasons, and anything is possible. Erode the foundation, and desire and or motivation deteriorates. Relationships are the most valuable commodity in life. If an individual wishes to cross the line to become an Ironman athlete, the foundation must be a pyramid, with a broad base in many areas.
The foundation has roots in fitness with links to your personal relationships, career and capital resources. The physical foundation is base training period. The patience, understanding, knowledge and time commitment, months before an event, to do the “slow” and often “boring” work which prepares the body for that to come. This foundation is essential to success, as much as the foundation of trust laid at home and work is. Without a foundation the race is that much harder in every aspect. The athlete doubts fitness and commitment to the point the result is sacrificed.
An ironman is a long day. Even for the best it is an “8 hour” shift of non-stop motion and emotions. The average human is putting in a 12-hour day of non-stop motion and emotions. Pending the above, patience, planning and foundations, the competition within ones mind can lead to a failure to finish, or a long walk to the end beating a 17 hour cut off.
The mental strength to push on when you are tired, or hold back when you are not tired (respect the distance), is an ability that is often learned the hard way, through failure. However, if an athlete has understood the above, they will have a quiet confidence to push on through the dark moment(s). Their ability to “run the run” will lead to the most satisfying accomplishment of their individual athletic life. This confidence often spills over into other aspects of life, thereby completing transformation process.
The Ironman becomes on race day a mental strength test. The “one and done” athlete within weeks signs up for another Ironman because of the transformation process. The foundations laid, the relationships built, the patient process, contributes to making the athlete, “a better you”.
Todd Gilmore, P. Eng.
Todd is an IRONMAN Certified Coach and LILA WRT Master Trainer. Professionally he is registered Professional Engineer in his home country of Canada.
Todd has been involved in endurance sports since 2009. In his first triathlon he was nearly last out of the water. He found a passion plus a cycling and running enjoyment that carries through to all he does today. Todd is an adult who learned to swim efficiently. As a child swimming was not a priority. However, through repeated practice he now completes Ironman swims in under 1:05 with a goal to improve further. Todd’s cycling passion has lead him to cycle the length of Vietnam through the inland mountainous route. His running habit is fueled by bike fitness.
In 2016, Todd adopted a novel training plan with light weight resistance training, Lila. www.lilamovetech.com is a compression garment permitting all your workouts, regardless of sport, to be conducted under light loads. By conducting your training under light load, at your speed, you become stronger and faster.
Athletically in Triathlon, Todd has won 3 smaller Triathlons in Vietnam in 2012 and 2013. 2016 was by far his best year. It did not start that way however with a DNF at his first 70.3 of the year. Patience, a plan and experience to execute a good plan, resulted in 2 Age Group wins, an Age Group Podium and Personal Best Ironman time.
The first of the 2016 wins was the Ironman 2016 70.3 Asia Pacific Championship in Cebu where Todd won the 45-49 age group. He followed this up by winning the 45- 54 Age Group at Challenge Nha Trang (Half). The peak came in Hawaii at the 2016 Ironman World Championships. Todd smashed his personal best Ironman time by 38 minutes. This resulted in a finish time of 9:56:37, on a race 115th fastest 3:21:07 marathon. (A side benefit was that this run time also qualified Todd for the 2018 Boston Marathon, in an Ironman.) Five weeks later, with a goal to return to Kona in 2017, he started Ironman Malaysia in Langkawi. Fatigue was an issue, however Personal Best Swim and Bike times with a 3:32 marathon resulted in his second sub 10 Ironman at 9:58:35 and a 3rd place in his 45-49 Age Group.
These results were a product of continuous improvement coupled to a strong plan. Todd seeks to instill this consistency, planning, patience and work ethic into his clients. Making you a better you then a better athlete.