I turn 30 in 3 years and for the last couple of weeks I have had this insane idea nagging in my head, do an Ironman, do it. An Ironman is a triathlon that consists of 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bike and then run a marathon. I know that it is a completely insane challenge especially given that I have never even run a marathon. Why do I want to run a marathon after doing a little swim and a little bike ride?
Today I watched a preview of “The James Cracknell trilogy” about his attempt at the Marathon des Sable. It struck me that he is an incredible athlete with an unshakable determination and self belief, I also thought that he was absolutely crazy. However there was a small part of me trying to see whether there were any women competing and wondering how you train for it, errr why? After the program there was a Q&A with James Cracknell, one of the things that he spoke about was limits. He spoke about the gap between where your mind believes that your physical limits are and where your bodies limits actually are. He is an incredible athlete but more important than that he knows how to push up to, and sometimes extremely close, to his limits.
You physical and mental limits are constantly changing, I often think that I am much more physically limited than I actually am. This is because up until 3 years ago I was severely physically limited. Up until this point I needlessly carried around excess fat that had a severe impact on what I was physically capable off. It isn’t just the weight of the fat that is limiting it is also the physical size of the fat. For years I literally couldn’t kick my own ass, I was physically incapable of getting my foot to my ass because the fat was stopping my knee from bending that far. I was physically incapable of cycling a mile. Over the last 3 years I have been pushing the limits of my comfort zone and challenging the limits of my body and mind. Trying to push my limits can be extremely uncomfortable and often isn’t very pretty and can cause fight or flight.
When I am out on my bike and approaching a hill I often think that I won’t be able to get to the top, that it is beyond my limits, that I will need to get off the bike and do a walk of shame. I don’t know where this belief comes from, I have only had to get off my bike twice (ditchling hill + a short sharp unexpected 25% hill). When I do get to the top, still on my bike, it almost feels as if my body says “screw you mind, I will show you where the limits might actually be”.
Pushing the limits isn’t pretty, there are times when I am on my turbo trainer and believe that my legs are turning as fast as they can and yet I dig just that little bit deeper, embrace the pain, relax and this frees my legs to do what they can do and they go faster. In a spin session lead by Team Sky sprinter CJ Sutton, he explained how he is sometimes physically sick during a session, at this point most people would take this as the body telling you it is at it’s limit. That isn’t what CJ does, he gets back on his bike and pushes for one more sprint. Hearing how other push their limits makes me want to push through mine.
However much I try to push my limits, I must respect that there are limits. There are consequences if you push beyond something limits. Elastic bands can be stretched pretty far but there is a limit at which point it loses it’s elasticity. If you don’t recognise that you have gone past this point and stretch it a bit further, it will snap. If an elastic band snaps it isn’t a big deal, you can just get a new one. Everybody only have one body and if you push too far beyond the bodies limits it will break. Just like humpty dumpty sometimes all the kings horses and all the kings men (aka doctors) can’t put humpty together again. I learnt the hard way what happens if you stretch ligaments beyond their limit, they snap, in my case a separated AC joint.
My personality is such that I have to test out my beliefs. What I realised today is that I want to train for an Ironman because I need to know if it is beyond my physical and mental limits.