by Coach Mathieu O'Halloran
In February, I participated in an EPIC 10k ocean swim with some local age groupers. Even though I haven't swam over 4000m in many months, it didn't feel so "epic" to me as I have done much uglier workouts and races in the past. But I did observe all the participants before, during and after this EPIC swim. And then the coach in me got thinking - what are the benefits of these sessions for typical triathlon age groupers?
Sure, on a physiological point of view, the benefits are minor. It's done very slowly, you stop regularly and break your rhythm only to then it hinders the consistency in your training block as takes a while to recover. It's also grand production, expensive and may even risk injury or illness!
Putting those obvious and cynical realities aside - what about the psychological benefits? What did these "weekend warriors" gain mentally last Saturday?
PERSPECTIVE: From the time they hit the beach at the finish - their overall outlook towards their next IM swim or 4000m pool work laced with quality aerobic work will be different as it will be shorter. Then the "I've done worst" mind-set is now set and priceless during their next preparation as they work towards "lifting" their performances on race day!
OVERCOMING: I heard so many of these athletes say after the swim how they thought they wouldn't make it all the way, but they pushed through and persevered through these pressure points. They will go to bed with an improved self belief in the face of physical adversity!
NUTRITION: At all our stops in the first half, the others in my group would go for the "liquid foods" such as gels and electrolyte drinks! But I preferred to chew on my fudge Cloud 9 bars. Then at about 8k we had a pit-stop and I suddenly heard "REAL FOOD!" A lesson had just been learned! That "chewable" food with more substance is much more important in the first half to allow more time for the stomach to digest the "solids" and then in the 2nd half - as the metabolism becomes more strained, now comes the time to hit the quicker absorbing but less palatable liquid nutrition!
BREAKING DOWN MENTAL BARRIERS: This was for some, DOUBLE what they had swam in their longest ever swim workouts. They had not specifically trained for it nor built up to it in an accurate and measured approach. And since long distance triathlon is an event almost impossible to exactly simulate in training - the confidence now gained and self-belief that their bodies are capable of so much more than they initially thought and prepared for is now embedded in their ego.
BRAGGING RIGHTS: Come on we all do it! Its part of being a triathlete, to boast about your achievements and these sessions allow just that. To intimidate your competitors or to simply talk yourself up prior to a race knowing that you have done the work and your body is capable of going long - very long!
RAISING THE BAR: I heard one athlete right on the beach at the end, still in his wetsuit exclaim "What's next?" as he's now ready to challenge himself a bit further and a bit harder with a new adventures!
SENSE OF COMMUNITY: This swim was divided into several groups. Very few within each group were of the same abilities. But nevertheless, they started and finished together. They encouraged and supported each other as they all experience the same tedious journey! They are now closer to each other and will be talking about this for years and years to come!
So think about it. Talk about it to your coach or training mates. Plan it carefully and believe in the best and plan for the worst. Because one thing is for sure, that the longer the race, the less genetics play a factor in the end result as more of the human spirit to "press on" takes over!
Because it will be clear if you're strong or if weak mentally. And you can be sure that MENTAL FORTITUDE is not reinforced over night by reading a book, nor through meditation or visiting a sport physiologist - but rather by putting yourself in the fire to test your mind, body and soul to thus learn from both successes and failures.
I can tell you that at teamTBB - a key part of our success is to consistently eat for breakfast these seemingly "epic" sessions on regular and strategic basis!
So tell me, what's the most EPIC session you have done?
Mathieu is a teamTBB coach and can help you get Epic too!