13 months. That was how long my 2018 season lasted. Last time I took some time off was back in August 2017 when still in London and after Ironman Bolton. Having moved to Dubai and with the Middle East season in full force during the normal European winter, I kicked off the season back in September 2017 and never really stopped for more than a few days since then.
I knew the season was running a bit long but I still wanted to race one more Ironman before calling it a year. I know I did a good built up this season, however for different reasons I was never able to showcase it, and I wanted one last chance to do it, so I scheduled IRONMAN Italy, hosted in Cervia in the Emilia-Romagna providence, to be my last official race of the season.
I embraced another hard prep leading up to the race in a hope that my body and mind would come around the signs of fatigue they were showing already. My wife has been present for the past 8 weeks, which is always a blessing as she helps me with all the logistics around Ironman racing and training.
To be totally honest, and looking back, I guess I was making somewhat of an effort to stay motivated and excited about this race and still I woke up on race day ready to give it my best shot. I even saw a few of those motivation youtube videos to get me pumped for the race.
With the water around 25C and 26C the swim was a non wetsuit race for pros and for safety reasons a wetsuit legal for amateurs. Safety reasons – I assume – because the water was full of jelly fish! For those who don´t know it already I hate those damn things… I really do. I survived the swim without any panic attack despite the basketball sized jellyfish floating all around, but did a not so good swim time of 52’ min.
On to the bike I was right on the tail of (what was) eventually second place finisher, Michael Ruenz, who was riding very smart while a few guys took off on the first 20k like bullets. I know better than to try to hunt anyone on the first half of the bike and with Ruenz setting the pace I was ranging between 260 and 280 watts which was what I knew I could hold for a while. I was good, never felt really comfortable but I was good. However, at the end of the first lap, we crossed paths with the guys in front, and I realized that I was more far back than I would like. I didn’t know how many guys were in front until then as on the first turn around (at 45km) you couldn’t really see. And in that moment I let my guard down and allowed self-doubt to take over. Even though I know Ironman is a long day and a lot of things can happen, good and bad ones, in that moment my head just gave up, way before my body. I saw my wife at the turn around for the second lap (90k in) and called it a day. No injuries, no mechanicals, my head just ‘left’ the body.
Ironman training and racing is more than just physical training, a lot of mental mindset comes into play as well. And like the body sometimes your mind just gets tired. As an athlete you’re constantly testing your limits, comparing your fitness and ability with others and facing the tough reality that not always you come in first. But at the same time you need to keep your self-confidence, that presumptuous ego that makes you belief, beyond doubt, that you will do it, you will chase that guy (or guys) in front of you before it’s all done and that all the pain is worth it. At the end of the day we are all only human, we all doubt ourselves occasionally, and this time it was my mind that wasn’t there.
I love racing and that´s one of the reasons I do it so often, but because I race so much sometimes the attention to detail leading up to races dilutes a little and there are less butterflies in the stomach. I loose focus and let emotions take over. Racing always seems to boost motivation and the challenge, for me at least, is to find that motivation within the training, when I’m alone and becomes boring and painful. It’s not an easy task, but then again, I didn’t sign to be a long distance professional triathlete for easy.
Giving the body and mind a well-deserved month of vacation and I’ll be back for 2019.