Embracing The Pain
The mental game in triathlon, whether it is in the quest of winning or just getting to the finish line, can be one of the hardest challenges that any of us face. But it can also be a drawcard in testing our spirit and determination. Teaching ourselves to embrace the suffering and pain resulting from training and racing is a big part of our journey through the sport. Having the ability to suffer on race day is a tool that will deliver you a far greater sense of achievement than you thought possible. As the saying goes, ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’.
With this being said, it is important first, to identify ‘why’ we choose to put ourselves through the pain, the suffering of training and racing. Having personal goals – both short term and long term, is the key to giving us the ability to look past the short-term pain that we endure as we know that there is a bigger prize on the horizon. For some, this will be a World Championship and for others, it may be as straightforward as completing their first ever triathlon. What is important is to have these pre-planned goals in the back of your mind to give you a ‘why’ – the reason you need to push through and embrace the pain.
One of the greatest pieces of advice that I have been given in approaching the mental battles that we all face is to embrace the pain and suffering of training and racing. When I am out training I often think that the days that are the hardest to get through are the biggest breakthrough training sessions. Now, these days can be days when you are feeling tired and fatigued or just a race or training session that that presents us with challenges to deal with such as rain, wind or a very hot day. I know from personal experience that those athletes who choose to embrace these challenges are the ones who not only succeed in reaching their goals but also feel the greatest sense of fulfilment and achievement from overcoming these mental and physical battles.
In the weeks of training leading up to my first professional Ironman 70.3 World Championship, I had four weeks of training in a row of training in heavy rain during my key weekly long and hard bike/run brick sessions. With the goal of the Ironman 70.3 World Championship within sight, I chose to get these 5-6.5 hour ride/run brick sessions done outside to endure the elements. Fast-forward to race morning of the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas and it was pouring rain. The training that I had done in these same conditions in the weeks prior meant that I was excited to see these conditions on race day, as I felt like I had done the perfect preparation both on a mental and physical level. The moral of this story – the pain and suffering you go through in training makes you strong and confident for anything that happens on race day.
It’s important to acknowledge going into any hard training session or race that you will experience bad patches, which can be both mental and/or physical.
The key takeaway message is that you have to be willing to accept this fact and have a strategy to work through this, and a goal that is more important than
the momentary pain and suffering.
Those triathletes who are willing to embrace and love the pain are those who will make the most of their journey in the sport of triathlon and in life.