At the weekend Ian Graham competed at Challenge Wanaka, a full ironman distance race. In his race report below he explains how he raced angry. Check out the feedback too from our coaches and members.
…Was a really interesting day at Challenge Wanaka and would be curious to know other peoples experiences about racing angry and what effect its had on performance…
So onto the race…plenty of positives and negatives….overall feeling of frustration has prevailed my thoughts but i am trying to keep the positives front of mind.
Swim: 1hr 2 mins….2 mins quicker than my time last year. AG place was 5th vs 4th last year (but improved from 14th amateur male out of the water last year to 13th this year). I suspect what let me down here was my navigation…my Garmin showed total distance swum of 4.25km and average pace of 1.23min’s/100m. i thought i was having a great swim…really enjoyed it and felt strong.
Bike: 5hrs 34 mins…8 mins quicker than last year. AG place was 6th vs 7th last year (but improved even more from 16th amateur male ride time to 9th!). over the moon with the result and continues trend of riding well at PoT and Ashburton. the irony is that everyone seemed to think the course was actually HARDER in perfect conditions (ie no wind) rather than the usual strong Nor’wester that blows across the course. Without the wind, the ride was just relentless – not a single easy km. and i rode completely alone – there was a loose “bunch” of the top amateur men and back half of the female pros about 5 mins up the road but i just couldnt bridge up…so even though i rode really well it was just a BRUTAL 5 1/2 hrs mentally. and i think this was the key to what unfolded on the run…..although i got off the bike in good shape physically i was angry and frustrated mentally…i was in a really bad head space.
Run: 3hrs 54 mins…13 mins slower than last year. AG place was 5th vs 3rd last year (but surprisingly improved from 12th amateur male to 11th). a tale of “two halves”!!! mentally i got the first half of the run soooooo wrong – like i said, i got off the bike angry and just couldnt stop thinking…”how the fuck am i going to run 42.2km – i really dont want to do this”. instead of saying i have “4x10kms to run” or “its just a run between 14 aid stations” i tackled it as 42.2km and it just broke me emotionally. i was seriously just going to give up at 17km when i ran past my house (which is on the course)….i was within a whisker of walking but i KNEW if i walked that would be the end (i only let myself walk the aid stations). somehow i made it back into town for the 21.1km turn and got my first lift from the crowd…got to my special needs bag and nailed a Red Bull then someone said something to me that just completely changed the day…a friend called out “you are running for home now” which, at face value made no sense, given the course was a big loop and i was just starting to run away from the finish line! but obviously the statement was true…although i was running away from town i was indeed running for home. so that was the turning point…i stopped the rot and even-split’ed the second half (which i dont think i have ever done in any triathlon over any distance!). i was deliriously happy for the final 8km…i just couldnt stop smiling. The temperature got up to 31 degrees (with absolutely no wind) and was considered the reason none of the pro’s broke 3hrs (Dylan ran the quickest time with a 3:00:30). for whatever reason though i dont mind the heat and was never a feature playing on my mind. Just like the ride, i was on my own for all of the run. the top handful of amateurs, including three of my good mates, were either running shoulder to shoulder with each other or were nearly always in eye sight….what a treat that would have been!
FEEDBACK AND COMMENTS
Racing angry is how Chris McCormack won most his races. This is what fueled him to many victories
Also check out Chris discussing in detail during this podcast …
I have always said at the end of the day IM distance racing is more about the head than the physical. We can all get ourselves physically prepared for it but being mentally prepared is a whole different thing. I have so many stories about things I have done in the marathon to talk myself in and out of a race. The best one is my 10th year at Roth. I had a solid swim and bike and just wanted to run my usual run and finish in around the top 5. I knew I was good for it and had done it so many times before it was almost a no-brainer. Started the run feeling fine and said to myself ‘this is your 10th, just get it done as best you can’. By 4kms – right when you get to the canal and turn left I just had this overwhelming feeling of ‘I don’t want to be here anymore’. Of course then I started feeling like shit, a couple of girls passed me and I no longer wanted to ‘play’. I started walking and cheering on the girls who were passing me, giving them splits up to the next girls and pushing them to not give up and to run as hard as they could. Then I just stopped and out loud I said to myself ‘what the f$&k are you doing!!’ Seriously I yelled this our at the top if my voice. Here I was pushing and spurring these girls on, telling them to not give up when that was exactly what I was doing. I kept justifying it by saying it was my 10th time racing there and I could always come back next year and get my 10th one done….blah, blah, blah…nothing but pathetic excuses. At about the 18km mark I finally gave myself an ultimatum- I either walked off the course and called it a day or I finished it off properly, giving it everything I had left. No more stuffing around, making up excuses and feeling sorry for myself. I chose the later and went for it and I was angry- angry for being so soft, angry for wasting so much time, angry for not doing what I trained to do- to race and give it my all. It was the best 24km I had run in a long time and I managed to pick up all but 2 of the girls who passed me. I remember thinking about it the day after, wondering how I would be feeling if I had of chosen the first option and having a big fat DNF next to my name- destroying my perfect record at Roth. It would have crushed me. It doesn’t matter who you are or how good you are, WChamp or not, we all experience these moments in IM distance racing- of the 52 IM distance races I have started I have let the ugly monster win twice- if you were to ask me if I had any regrets in the 25yrs I have been in the sport- those 2 dnf’s are my only regrets.
Here’s my 2c… Unlike the pros (Belinda, Chris, all you rockstars) and AG kick-assers like Ian Graham who race to podium, I do races mostly because I really, really love it. I have a great time out there, even if in pain. So any time something happens that is outside of my control – mostly the elements, but sometimes things like a poorly organized race (not enough aid stations, ran out of water, etc), I get angry. And when I get angry, I’m no longer happy. And when I’m no longer happy, I’m not really having any fun out there and then I’m asking myself, WTF, why am I even here – then things of course get even worse. This happened at my first (and last!!!) 50K last year, the North Face Endurance Challenge in SF. A crazy-difficult course with all the climbing, but I was planning on having a fab day out with beautiful views… instead, it rained like hell the weeks before the race, the course was basically 32 miles (51.5 km) of MUD – and yeah, they changed it last minute because of wash-out and made it 1.5 km longer. Total WTF. Anger at everything and, as a result – no fun at all. 7 freaking hours to “run” 32 miles – you can bet I’m never doing that again. I’m really glad everything was perfect at my first ever tri, because otherwise who knows – I could’ve said, Never again. So anyway. I think for us mid-of-the-pack AGers anger can be a very spoiling thing, the question is how to get over it. (I ran/ walked/ sloshed through part of that 51.5km with a friend and she kept telling me, Just embrace the mud!! Which I thought sounded eerily familiar, I guess the whole point is to embrace the suck and relax into it.)
I guess the difference between my anger, and the anger Chris used to win so many races like Aaron said, was that I was angry AT THE RACE, the distance that was still in front of me and that despite giving it my all on the ride i hadnt bridge up the gap. It was an unhealthy angry that worked against me, not for me……