Yesterday's Port Macquarie Ironman re-ignited a discussion I have with fellow coaches and athletes about training for this kind of racing. We're often asking ourselves if we've done enough training or what is actually enough training?
With the rain, wind and cold that turned on athletes yesterday another layer of difficulty was added to the event, on top of the task of completing 226k of racing. And that is toughness.
This is a trait that not all people possess but can definitely be learnt. As a coach I know instantly whether an athlete has this or not. Athletes who shy away from new things whether it be a skill, riding route or inclement weather are generally the ones who are going to have a rough ride come race day.
So how do we add this into our training? Firstly, the athlete needs to 'buy in' to the concept. He/she needs to fully appreciate the difficulty of the task that is Ironman. Until this is known, adding in toughness training into the program just doesn't work. Toughness training can come in many forms. Small things such as getting the athlete to change a tyre prior to setting off for a training ride or even getting him/her to do it mid ride when it’s an inconvenience. To larger scale methods such as 'shock' cycles where you challenge your athlete with training that is far beyond what they think they are capable of but that you know as a coach they can do.
And this is the scary thing about Ironman. The unknown of what's going to happen on race day and how will you respond? I think if you've had some hard challenges during your training that you will be better off on the day, knowing that when things do get difficult that you've been through worse and have the confidence of being able to react positively to unexpected circumstances.