Last weekend I raced my first triathlon, actually by the time the weekend was through I had done eight of them. The Weekend Warrior at Blenheim challenges you to complete the course as many times as you can over the two days of racing. With 7 Sprint Tri’s and 1 Super Sprint, I clocked up 11hrs30mins of racing and totalled 5 km Swimming, 150 km Cycling and 40 km Running (add an extra 10k if you want to include getting back to the start & transitions ;-) and for most of it with a smile on my face.
Being 6’6’’ and 100kg isn’t too much of a problem in the water as you have a wet-suit for buoyancy, and your ape-like arms can power you along. It becomes more of a challenge on the run and bike when suddenly all that height and weight just gets in the way. For this reason I was against doing any long distance stuff. However I listened to a Tough Girl Podcast featuring Chrissie Wellington (Multiple Ironman World Champion) where she talked about most important thing in endurance sport is having a ‘capacity to endure’. This is the ability and determination to just keep going, through the pain, discomfort, or boredom. This really resonated with me as it offered a solution - I didn't necessarily need to have confidence in my physical ability, because for this race it would be predominantly mental - and I was confidence I had some mental toughness left over from my rowing days. So with 6 weeks to go until race day, I signed up.
As I expected the swim part was grand, the cycle was challenging, but the run was flipping horrendous and my ‘capacity to endure’ was really tested here. It came to the point where I had to rely on my mind being tougher than my legs- which after 2 triathlon decided they had had enough.
I think anyone can develop their Mental Toughness. For me I like to establish my purpose and work out a reason why I would never give up. If you can work out your ‘Why?’ then this will keep you motivated when it gets gloomy. And finally with any sporting challenge you need to tackle it with a positive mindset. Self limiting beliefs need to be cast aside and any self reflective thoughts during the race must be positively framed e.g I can, I will, I am and NOT I can’t, I won’t, I’m not. Simple but effective stuff.
As my friend Jenny (Celtman / Marathon Runner / Offshore Rower) would say - "Its 90% mental and the other 10% is in your head"