The next item in my list of things that helps you get through the incursion of reality in your Ironman race day (or any race day for that matter), is what I call the Ember (as of last night 8-)). In my head the ember is that thing down deep inside you, something that you can’t really describe to others, and may even have a hard time describing to yourself. It’s that part of your soul that harbors the real reason you are out there racing, a deep, dark, powerful, possibly evil secret. Something so capable of driving you that your mind protects you from it – least you do some really dumb day-to-day things.
When the shit hits the fan on raceday though, your broke, 10, 15,20 miles to go until the finish line – with no idea how to get you there. Knowing what that deep secret the drives you, telling your mind to let it out – that is when you hit the jackpot and will find yourself able to put yourself in the hurt locker. It’s a single coal that burns hot enough to restart a forest fire and get you to the finish – happily.
The secret to being able to open that up and let it drive you, is knowing what it is. To know what it is takes a lot of soul searching and [self] honesty. For me, I find that the shallow things rarely drive me – beating certain person, doing a certain time, etc. Those fail to drive me because when that person blows by me, or I see my target time slipping away because of conditions, mistakes, flats, etc – it’s a bit depressing. Why continue to hurt yourself if you’re going to be beat, not perform well?
My race at Pleasant Prairie is a prime example of making a conscious decision to not “hurt” because my bike was having mechanical issues. Why put out FTP level power, when it only results in slow speeds on a day with great conditions?
So what is it for me, what is my drive, my secret? The best I can it in words is – “I’m better than this”. Do you know yours? If not, I think it’s worth the time to sit down and think about what drives you. Don’t settle for the first answer that comes to mind. Get the first answer and ask yourself – “Why that?”. Eventually, you’ll find it. It may be petty, it may be simple, maybe a little vain – but it will give you the power to ignore all the pain in the world.
Note: There is an article in the most recent Triathlete mag that talks about this a bit, worth the read IMO.