I got a message today from a guy that I am coaching for the Cairns Ironman, the basic gist of the message was a simple one:
I am over it.
He had just been out for a long ride, about 180km to be exact and his feedback was that he had pretty much hated every minute of it. His dislike didn't stem from miserable rain or killer headwinds, he simply didn't want to be out there. I assured him that what he was feeling was pretty much normal.
From what I have seen a lot of people hit a point, often in the last few weeks of their Ironman training, where they reach their limit. It usually isn't a physical limit, but rather it is a mental and motivational one.
By the time you are in your last few weeks of Ironman training you have been at it for months. Getting up early, logging miles, not seeing family, missing out on events, being tired, being hungry, basically disappearing down the Ironman vortex. In those last few weeks the end is so close that you can taste it, but you just aren't quite there yet. You are still motivated for the event and the race, but the thought of slogging through a couple more weeks of training before you can do the race turns you cold. That is exactly where this guy found himself yesterday.
I am sorry to say that I didn't have any great silver bullet solutions for him. If we were a week closer to race day I would consider starting him on a two week taper, starting to build the physical and mental energy required for racing. I am not a huge fan of two week tapers, but sometimes when people hit the motivational wall it can be better for them to start the taper early. Spending time rebuilding the motivation necessary for race day can be more productive that simply whipping a dead horse over training they don't want to be doing. However, unfortunately for my athlete we are currently three weeks out and in my view that is too far away to begin winding down. He still has at least one week of work to do, which is pretty much what I told him.
The reality is that Ironman is kind of tough and the toughest bit of it is the training. On the whole this guy has had a very smooth Ironman build. He is running great and over all his fitness etc is where it needs to be. He has had a few bad weeks, but generally he has done the work and he is basically ready to go. But we aren't there yet and my message to him today was that we have to finish this off. There is no point dropping the ball in the last few weeks given the amount of work done in the last few months. Deep breath, stick with it and get through one more week of work.
After this next week relief will be in sight. Given where he is at mentally and physically we are going to go for a stepped two week taper. Week one won't really be full blown taper, but it will be reduced training which will help on the motivation side of things. Week two we will be in full taper mode, really getting rid of the fatigue and building up some energy and focus.
Feeling flat and tired at some points during Ironman training is perfectly normal, and is even to be expected. What matters is how people handle that flatness, whether they roll over and give in, or whether they get out the door and do the work, right through their race preparation. It doesn't take a genius to know which approach will give a better result on race day.