Wow, here I am on the other side of Ironman New Zealand 2004 - 9hr 40min, 30th overall, stayed focused through the event and pushed hard when it hurt at 32-36km on the run. 11 years on from my last Ironman NZ and I've finally come back. I've got to be happy with that right? Well I'm your typical athlete, never fully satisfied with what I do, always wanting more. If I hadn't punctured... if I hadn't dropped my drink at 40k... maybe if I had changed my 2nd last week of training and started training a bit earlier... maybe too if I had of done more cycling. sound familiar? It's the typical 'Type A' approach, always looking for perfection. OK, STOP right there and make sure you have taken the time to embrace being a finisher, that is way cool!
Failing to take the time to enjoy the accomplishment is, in my opinion, often a major cause of post race depression, when the reality of general life hits, "hmm, I'm still not happy, better do it again". It's often about 10 to 20 days post race that a number of people get depressed - at this time, the pain of the event has passed and it's easy to forget all the hardships and sacrifices you made whilst doing the required training and other additional time for recovery. You are at a moment of weakness and signing up again seems like the best option. Factor this in when considering a return. Consider what other areas of your life you might wish to put energy into. For example, have you always wished that you studied for a new career? Gained better qualifications in your present one? Maybe you'd like to concentrate on a single discipline? After training for multisport, training for one discipline is a breeze. After focusing on and working towards Ironman an MBA should be a breeze!
For those who have completed Ironman, the key to a successful return is an appropriate new goal. Generally a lot is learned in the process, mistakes are made that can be avoided next time. Experience cannot be completely bought through a good coach.
Returning to Ironman this year, I wanted to see how well I could race an Ironman. I've coached a lot of people over the years who have done well, I've seen the mistakes others have made, could I put that into practice? I also wanted to see how well I could stay focused on the job and pushing all the way to the finish. I was not focused on my final time. If I was, I would have been disappointed, as it was a harder day than we have had at Ironman NZ for a while and I have a PB of 8:59 back when I was a Pro. Additionally, I wanted to remind myself what it feels like to train for and compete at Ironman - as an additional benefit completing Ironman adds value to my coaching.
I also was not concerned about my placing, sure it would have been nice to have finished higher up, but my race goals were focused on getting the best out of myself on the day in the conditions that I encountered. That was critical when I flatted on the bike, because I just calmly went about changing it and getting back onto my pace. Sure it pissed me off, but that's what I got dished up. Nothing I could do about it afterwards.
Having said all that I cannot emphasise enough how much a professional knowledgeable experienced coach can make to your Ironman experience so if you did not use a coach last time, seriously consider this for your next go. Compared to the total cost of doing Ironman, a good coach is probably the best money you will spend.
We have also found that utilizing a group approach at key times is also of great value. Our two training camps were very effective this year. Our participants found it very easy to get the sessions done. Indeed the biggest challenge was getting people to hold back enough, which we managed this year. Socially the 'boot camps' were also great. Shared common goals and experience, athletes learning from athletes, and direct coach input. Plus it was a lot of fun! Next year we are modifying the camps, they will be even better.
One of the cool things about having done Ironman is that you have so much more time for everything when you stop. It's almost scary, "oh what do I do with all this time"! Hey that's one of the big bonuses of having completed the Ironman training, I've gained a real appreciation of my time, now that I've got all that time back, it's easy to do my 'normal' day to day activities.
Well obviously you need to decide what you want to do next. What is the next big goal in your life? Your next major goal does not need to be a return to your last goal. It does not even need to be a sporting one. Consider what you want to do personally, how do you want to use the remainder of your life? How could you use this next year in that process?
Here are my new goals post Ironman:
1) Start a family (way more scary than Ironman if you ask me!).
2) Spend more time working on my business ( I enjoy this!). It's been hard to find the time and energy while training for Ironman.
3) Help the Olympic Athletes I work with compete to the best they can in Athens.
4) Undertake some personal development, specifically to improve my coaching.
These are all valid and exciting goals for me. Wow this years going to be huge. I got to do Ironman AND now I get to work towards the above. My life is not solely about Ironman and neither is that true for 99% of Ironman participants.
Ok so you can see that returning to compete at Ironman in 05 is probably not on my personal radar. I will however, aim to keep fit and probably aim for a few smaller triathlons and running events - by looking at the big picture of what I want to do in this period, I've been able to work out what might be an appropriate sporting goal.
If you are contemplating doing Ironman again, think very seriously about what you will have to put off in your life. You see I don't ever want to be the coach that always pushed people to come back and do another Ironman just because that's what they do. Make sure you have a good reason for returning. When it's time to dig deep and push on in next years race, you need a good reason.
Examples of good reasons and goals for returning for another go at Ironman:
1) Did not meet your original goal(s) and still want to
2) Wanting to Qualify for Hawaii World Champs or aim to finish on the podium of your age group
3) Was injured in the last buildup and want to get it right
4) DNF or DNS (6% of the starters DNF, Another 12% DNS)
5) Seeing if you can run the whole way (A lot of people are capable of this but most don't!)
6) Would like to set a PB if the conditions allow
7) Improving a weak discipline to make the whole race better (usually this is running!)
After the tough conditions on the bike at Ironman Taupo this year, I'd be certain that a number of people want to return just to go faster. Maybe consider another Ironman event, there are so many to choose from and they all have their own unique additional challenges.
Don't be afraid to consider skipping a year or two and revisiting Ironman further down the track. I'm not saying that it's better to skip a year, just don't discount it without some thought. If you wish to take that approach, you should still look to race endurance events such as a ? Ironman, or a Marathon or a long bike race such at Round Taupo next summer. Keep your hand in, you can do so on far less training if it's organized correctly. I know that a lot of people want to continue on to another Ironman because they enjoy the company of the group they train with - this can still be achieved by training for shorter triathlons, marathons or long bike races. In my opinion, this alone is not a good enough reason to take up the challenge again. If you are undecided at present but want to keep your options open, aim for a Marathon or a 1/2 Ironman 3-4 Months out from your potential Ironman goal event. Having done Ironman you will be able to step up from there. A short term goal for the next period should then be a single discipline block, preferably working on your weakest sport out of cycling or running.
For those who have decided that a return to Ironman is definitely on the cards for next year, a solid block working on Running and another working on Cycling through the next 6 months is generally a good idea. The more serious athletes could take on an overseas ? Ironman or Ironman. Everyone should consider taking in an early season ? Ironman. Your approach should also consider the lessons learned last time. If you did this years Ironman again what would you change in your preparation? Looking back what do you think was essential? Looking ahead what do you think you need to do to go better?
Hmm, I sense a plan being hatched. Bring it on!