From - "Stepping Up", by Stu Downs.
Chapter 15 – "A Fresh Start".
The Ironman will try and psyche you out and wear you down over the course of the year. If you know what to expect then each swing Ironman takes at you will have less effect. The way ironman can beat you is with self doubt. If your self doubt gets to a point where you decide not to take on the challenge then Ironman has beaten you. This is where it beats most people even before they even get close to the start line. The first self doubt weapon is in the form of other people. They will constantly either tell you or imply that “you can’t do it” when they have no idea if you can or not. They will tell you “it is a long way” which is not rocket science. They will tell you they had a friend who has done Ironman and make them out to be much better than you. If they have done it themselves and are really self absorbed they will even imply how much better they are than you. The other even more deadly weapon is Ironman intimidating you directly. This will be you telling yourself you cannot possibly do something like that. What where you thinking? Are you insane? Don’t tell anyone or they will laugh, your not good enough, etc. This is all Ironman trickery and not true at all. Be ready for it and know that this is what prevents everyone else from taking on the challenge.
With just over 200 days until the 2010 Ironman I saw the time to be right to revisit my much loved Taupo and test the legs on the cycle circuit. This point in time brought about the first real step towards my new goal, but what I thought would be a physical journey towards next March (via 90kms of road) ended up being more about a realisation of who (or what) I am up against. It was also a chance to reflect on the last 18 months of my life, with endurance cycling having seemingly had enough of me for now.
So it was that once again I would travel to Taupo. Not November, but eager none the less to embrace whatever the Great Lake had in store for me. This time I would be traveling alone too, with a flying 1 night visit for the trip planned, and flying it was, with a $120 speeding ticket awaiting me the following week. Foiled by the sneaky speed camera in Sanson!!
This trip though was different to all of the others to Taupo. This time not a single km of the Taupo Challenge circuit being ridden. In fact, the decision to not participate in the Taupo Challenge had been made weeks earlier. So this would be Taupo, but not as I would have experienced it before, as my new goals would well and truly leave behind those memories of last season. Clinical and unemotional, the task head is to big to stand on the sidelines pondering this and that. I will be jumping in the deep end and will get through this challenge…doing whatever it takes.
My thoughts on the trip up did allow for some reflection however, mainly due to there being about 90 minutes of no radio reception whatsoever. This allowed for some closure on last season. I recall several nights after completing this years Graperide Ultimate, waking in a cold sweat and saying out loud, "Only 2 laps to go!!". I was still seeing the darkened road ahead of me while sleeping, and in many ways still do...when I want to recall the rides that I overcame last season. Utter madness, but I loved it. The hunger for a new goal became stronger than the endurance cycling that had become such a large part of my life. So part of my off season break was allocated to occasionally thinking about what I wanted to face through my sports.
With a new goal being sought, I reached a point at which my life transformed in many respects. What is a true challenge?? Speaking as someone who was literally a non-swimmer as at mid-May, I suspected something that included swimming would be ideal, thus it could be said that Ironman is a natural choice. But as with cycling, I suspect that I did not choose Ironman, no the Ironman chose me.
The bike circuit at Taupo. There are 2 laps of 90kms each.So after 10 weeks of training I was off to scope the bike course at Taupo. It is safe to say that I’ll never look at a pair of running shoes (or a swimming pool!!) quite the same again, but the bike is not to be taken for granted. No epic riding would be taking place on this particular weekend, but instead an opportunity to look ahead, with an emotionally detached view of the task Taupo would have for me this time.
I got through torrential rain and side winds along the desert road without incident, and arrived in a peaceful and quiet Taupo. So quiet in fact that I was asleep by 8:15pm. This left me feeling good on the Saturday morning. (10 hours sleep will do that!!). I ate breakfast, got the bike ready, and locked up the van - All the time keeping an eye on the wall of rain rapidly heading my way. Sure enough, my much loved 'head wind and showers' was to be the outward leg.
After completing 7 laps of the Taupo Challenge in the last 3 years I anticipated the worst in terms of hills on the course, so was pleasantly surprised at the time trial circuit. After a technical departure out of Taupo, (both up hill and seldom in a straight line), the road simply opens up and you can get into a good rhythm once on the course proper. The course suits a powerful rider, with the ‘mountain goats’ who may have enjoyed other hills around Taupo losing much of their advantage on this circuit. Apart from part of a sofa on the road (which I moved), the trip out to Reporoa was surprising straightforward. I was also about 5 minutes ahead of schedule, and this was into a head wind.
Turning around and heading back towards Taupo I maintained the same heart rate (80% of max) on the way back. With a tailwind this had me comfortably sitting on 40kms an hour at times, and I really wondered (and have since) about the time that could be saved sitting on a time trial bike. The last 15kms also got me thinking that pushing the pace a little, I could easily go under 3 hours for the 90kms. The eventual time for the 90kms was 3:12, and I can honestly say that I never went into the 'red zone'. With no endurance training or speed work this is very pleasing. My day was not done yet though.
Quickly packing the bike away I popped on my fuel belt and head off for a 15 minute run. This was all about keeping form, but this was made easier by the occasional glance at shop windows, with my reflection reminding me that in a full Hammer tri kit (including skull cap and wrap around mirrored glasses), I either kept good form or would look like a complete poser.
My work was done for now. I packed up, and departed, but knowing I would be back scoped out available accommodation. It is sobering to note (for those who have not booked), the Taupo Challenge and Ironman weekends are $275 for the basic cabin. I was informed that there was just 1 left, with the inference being that this was a bargain. Some say I was mad to cycle overnight, but it was certainly cheaper!!
The journey home seemed quicker than normal, and I guess I knew that I was closer to both the Half IM in December, and also the IM next March. Maybe though I was just happy to cycle in Taupo and have a course that was a true pleasure to ride. The trip back home also got me thinking about the journey towards next March. That is, the training ahead of me.
At the start of my triathlon training I wondered, "Which would be harder, IM or the Maxi Enduro". After training for a month it changed. Then I wondered how I would fair as a triathlete in an endurance cycling event. “Would I be better than I was”?? Then I thought about placings, times and other factors that I shouldn’t be thinking of. (Not until after the event anyway). Those pointless thoughts are all behind me though. Finally, I find myself in a good place and accept it doesn't really matter.
Ultimately I will be facing my challenge head on. As a IM newbie, my aspirations for specific times or placings on the day won't count for much if the basics haven't been done. The process of learning (and mastering) swimming, cycling, running, nutrition, and my mental approach is the key to this journey. What will be remembered 20 years from now?? Finishing the course or doing a sub-"XX" hour event??
Those I start with will have their own demons to face on the course, and each of us will have just 1 true enemy. Sitting, waiting, and watching. There is a single entity we are all up against. At weaker moments appearing in some form and tempting us to give up. But we will not, as there is always hope. For those who make the start line, it will be known that all of the work counts for nothing if we let go of what we have strived towards throughout our training. At the start line I will remind myself of a single fact, a fact I will have recalled everyday of my training. I have 17 hours to finish the course...and defeat the Ironman.
“For the good man is not at home, he is gone a long journey”.
“For the good man is not at home, he is gone a long journey”.