My goal for Ironman Texas this week isn't to podium or beat so-and-so. It isn't to break any time or power goals. All of this would be wonderful and I would love for it to happen, but my main goal for Ironman Texas is to walk away with greater self-knowledge and self-respect that can only be found when you push your body to the limit and hold on.
I recently read a book by Matt Fitzgerald that said "there is a temptation to hope—perhaps not quite consciously—that your next race won’t be one of those grinding affairs. This hope is a poor coping skill." I honestly don't hope that. As much as I have to brace myself for the pain in races, that "grinding affair" is part of the reason I LOVE my job. I want to see how far I can push myself against the best. I want to find my limits, push past them, and find myself a new person on the other side.
I went into this race last year with the goal of winning it. I know what winning feels like now and it's wonderful, but it's not nearly as wonderful as the feeling of pushing yourself hard and seeing what can happen on that journey of self-discovery. I learned so much from the race last year where I ended up finishing despite passing out .5 miles from the finish line with a little “time out”. I have felt my body completely give out under me.
Because of my experience last year, one might think there are physical limitations to your body. While there must be a physical limitation somewhere, I don't think I found it last year at IMTX. There were other mental factors that went into the prep and execution of that race that affected me physically. I think I'll be able to eventually find that physical limit or at least push closer to it, but it will require fully embracing the idea that the greatest limitation to human performance is our mind.
I have read countless books these last few months on mental fitness, fortitude, strength, training, etc. I have continued to try to develop that inner strength to push beyond my mental limits. I think this is where the biggest gains can be had at the professional level of competition. The race, then, is often decided not by who has the best physical fitness, but who has the most mental toughness. I’m looking forward to seeing who that is in a couple days!