IN FOCUS: Nailing your first Ironman!

When an athlete comes to you with the goal of tackling their first Ironman, you know you are in for exciting and rewarding ride. Every race, no matter the distance and no matter the goal are as important as the next, but there is just something about Ironman / endurance racing. Something that lights a fire deep in your belly (of coach and athlete!), it creates a higher learning, a commitment to the work load, a dedication above what an athlete often believes is even possible until they actually complete it.

As a Coach you really start to get a deep understanding of your athlete. Conversations form around family and how important they are to the journey, the significance of such a race, the impact it has emotionally and what is required to undertake such a feat.  And always along the way for the athlete, its about learning. What makes them tick, what their default is when the going gets tough, what they revert to and think about over long lonely rides….

The Ironman journey is far more than swim bike run, it’s a journey that takes on a life of its own, and when an athlete goes through an Ironman journey, they come out the other side not only a stronger and more resilient athlete, but  more appreciative of the human body, understanding of the importance of mindset, of recovery, of becoming in tune with their own physical, emotional and spiritual self. Ironman is not just a race….

Some will never understand why others choose to put their body through such grueling and time consuming training “Why would anyone want to do that?Why put yourself through the hours of training? Why choose to sacrifice sleep or nights out in favour of the lure of a race? Why? No one can ever really answer those questions apart from athletes themselves. Everyone has their own reasons…

So we sat down with athlete Scott Salmon who recently completed his first Ironman at Ironman Australia – Port Macquarie. We find out what his experience was like, what kept him pushing, what he found the toughest, and how he crossed the finishing line feeling like a ‘million bucks’!

CPC: Firstly congratulations, Scott Salmon YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!! How does it feel?

SCOTT: The Ironman race experience was absolutely amazing! Definitely up there with the other highlights of my life. It was far more than I could have ever imagined.  I hope this is not arrogance but I feel more like a sense of accomplishment than being proud. Maybe they are the same…..?…. Either way, I could not be any happier!

CPC: Gives me goosebumps just thinking about it! Now let’s take a few steps back, you came across Coach Sarah & CPC after reading one of her articles in Aus Tri Mag. You had been doing some of your own training, and training alongside members in your local club, so what made you want to look at adding a coach to your arsenal?

SCOTT: The desire to learn more about being a competitive triathlete and making the finish line of an Ironman. I didn’t think I could do it justice on my own, so when I read an article Sarah wrote about Ironman racing, her words really resonated with me so I got in touch. And as they say ‘the rest is history’. 🙂 

CPC: You had what I would call a pretty perfect Ironman race lead in. You nailed your sessions, listened and learned, stayed healthy and injury free. What do you think were the key aspects in your build for an Ironman that helped you train while staying injury free, healthy and happy?

SCOTT: The whole holistic approach of my coach Sarah, learning, trusting and putting things into practise. As well as my Wife/nutritionist for supporting me. A few key things that I started implementing that were instrumental was mindfulness – nearly daily, allowing time post session to rest and recover and not just rushing off to whatever is next, along with prioritising sleep.  Oh and listening not only to the Coach, but to my body – as Sarah would say, each of us know our own bodies better than anyone else, so really looking and listening for cues if something isn’t right or doesn’t feel right, and having a Coach can then help you break that down and action whatever is needed.

CPC: When did it get to that moment in your training when you thought ‘yes I can really do this’! (Ironman) ?

SCOTT: A third of the way through my IM training block I felt I could finish an IM , but it wasn’t until about halfway into the run leg on race day that I was confident I could race an IM. SO as long as you have a goal and be prepared for the  commitment and the work, trust that the process will get you there.

CPC: Soooo, talk us through your race? We want to know how it unfolded! How were the nerves? What did you find the toughest? How did you keep focused?

SCOTT: I found I was relatively calm leading up to the start, we were so blessed with ideal conditions, so that definitely helped. But as I said above, I was confident I could finish with the training, with the race plan and the tools in my toolkit, so I was confident on the start line – albeit a little nervous.

The swim leg went really well , I felt my strength was my controlled pacing for my relevant swim fitness. Exiting the water was my first experience of crowd support and wow what a picked me up!

The bike was a great time to reflect on my IM journey with a few moments of tears and joy along the way. I had a feeling towards the turn around point of the first lap that I might of went out a bit hard, but I settled into the rest of the race really well.

The highlight of the bike ride was climbing Matthew Flinders hill the first time, riding through a fantastic crowd of friends and spectators was surreal which I can only imagine what the pro cyclists feel climbing the Pyrenees in the tour! Making my way back into town for the end of the first lap was also another highlight with acknowledgement from the Race commentator towards me personally with reference also to our Maitland Tri Club really hit home of the importance of community. With that lift I started heading back out for another lap and my mental energy was very high which made the trip south seem quicker than the first time.

After the turn around it was back into being in and out of the saddle which I found was a blessing for my backside. Coming into the section of the race which was flat, I found myself concentrating and reassessing to stay focused. Coach Sarah gave me lots of tools for this, so I started concentrating more on form, breathing and positive thoughts. It worked a treat , as for the first time along the flats no one passed me (LOL) maybe they were tired.

Back into the outskirts of town and the thought of climbing the Matthew Flinders Hill again felt daunting and it was. A fitting moment towards the end of the bike leg was to ride down the main street (draft legal of course) with a true legend of the IM circuit and our club Sensei Pete Hodgson. (Maitland Tri Club)

Setting out on the run and the hardest thing was to slow down to a Marathon sustainable pace. Coach Sarah warned me of this, so I was diligent. Further in and the mind starts to want to take control and once again from the things I learnt from the coach about feeding off the crowd,  acknowledging volunteers, soaking up the atmosphere and trusting in my training really helped me to stay focused on the present moment. I was expecting the run to get tough though and it did. But the support I received from my fellow club persons young and old and the desire to finish so I could see my family was a very determining factor with staying focused and positive towards the back end of the race.

CPC: for most athletes doing their first Ironman, I try not to focus too much on the time outcome, but more the experience and having a consistent and well rounded race. How do you feel you went in this regard?

SCOTT: I’m hesitant to say without sounding cocky, but  I think I had the perfect race. Everything went exceptionally well, right down to (with your help Sarah) nailing the key points like nutrition, having no equipment troubles and no injury’s. So in regards to reflect on how I felt when i finished, I felt like a million bucks!

CPC: and the bonus – you nailed the race and came away with not only a fantastic experience, but a race result that reflected all you hard work. Awesome work!

Swim: 1:01.13
Bike: 5:57.26
Run: 4:08.40
Overall: 11:16.58

Check out full race results online:  Ironman – IRONMAN Australia

CPC: And what would you say is a highlight/s from your Ironman experience? What will stay with you forever?

SCOTT: Most definitely the community spirit within Triathlon at a local and national level. The unselfishness and kind acts of the volunteers sharing their time for my enjoyment too. And mostly sharing all the emotions at the finish line with my Wife Sharon and Daughter Lauren. That will stay with each of us forever.

CPC: Oh for sure! And do you have any wise words for other athletes thinking of taking on the goal of Ironman later in life? 

SCOTT: Like everyone with a bit of age on their side, we often reflect on things we have done whilst maturing. These experiences make us who we are, some we are not proud of, but taking on the challenge of the IM has helped me personally draw back on the all my years and filter the experiences to leave the positives and from that I’m confident in saying I am a better person for it.

CPC: Love that – a great way to utilise your life experiences. 🙂
And I always finish with this question…. so – what’s next for Scott Salmon? Would there be another Ironman on the cards one day maybe?…. 😁

SCOTT: I would love to keep learning about the sport under the guidance of Sarah at Complete Per4mance Coaching as well as staying involved with the Maitland Triathlon Club community which my family and I feel apart of and is something I hope does not end soon. Knowing that gang  I’m certain I will be attending or competing with them on that first Sunday in May at Port Macquarie Ironman……

CPC: anything else you would like to add / people to thank?

SCOTT: My wife Sharon who keeps me grounded and is by far my number one supporter.

Coach Sarah  for her above and beyond commitment to all her athletes and preparing this old bloke to a high level of fitness to take on an endurance event.

Pete Hodgson for inspiring me with the love and dedication he has for Triathlon and the whole City of Maitland.

And for everyone else who I trained with and competed against to learn the skills especially, Aaron Hughes an honest true friend.

CPC: So honest, humble and a true gentleman, truly deserved Scott, well done again!

 

Are you sabotaging your racing success?

Why would anyone deliberately do that you may ask?
Don’t we all want to improve and get the most out of ourselves? Aren’t we all aiming to be better than we were yesterday? Heck we train every day (often twice a day), so why would we sabotage that? The problem with self-sabotage is athletes often don’t even know they are doing it. It can creep into our everyday lives, into our training and then that flows on into race day and before we know it we are sabotaging our own racing potential and success.  

So what can self-sabotage look like for athletes?
There are some more obvious ways self-sabotage manifests into our lives such as not eating as well as you know you could – even though you know eating better would improve your recovery and/or performance. Or training when injured for fear of losing fitness – even though you know a few days rest is what your body needs. These are classic signs of self-sabotage that can easily be addressed, but on top of these, there are a lot of hidden ways that you can be self-sabotaging without even realising it. Can you relate to any of the following?  

  • You tell yourself that you aren’t a ‘swimmer’, ‘rider’, ‘runner’ 
  • You worry too much about what others think of your performance 
  • Your self-worth is determined by your results and the praise you receive 
  • You tell yourself you aren’t ‘good’ enough 
  • You doubt your ability and don’t believe in yourself 
  • You say to others how you go doesn’t matter to you to avoid disappointment 
  • You feel unrelenting pressure and expectations to achieve 
  • You often say ‘I’m ONLY doing a sprint’, or I’m ‘JUST doing the half’ 

Self-sabotage is like an internal fight that is played out into your training and performances. You want to race well, yet on the start line all your fears come bubbling to the surface and you tell yourself you aren’t ready. You would like to push hard, yet you tell yourself you aren’t good enough. You line up on the start line knowing you have done the training, yet you start doubting your ability and hold back. You put high expectations on yourself, but those expectations bring about anxiety and fear. The internal struggle can be an ongoing battle, and that battle can be hindering your performance and sabotaging your racing success.  

How do we stop this subconscious self-sabotage?
The attitude, beliefs and the mindset that you take with you into training, and ultimately your racing will shape your performance and your success as an athlete. If you are able to shift your mindset, change your attitude and alter your beliefs, then you will minimise the effects of self-sabotage and reach your performance potential.  

The first step is to understand and recognise the signs of how you might be self-sabotaging through areas such as self-doubt, developing anxiety, setting high expectations, the pressures of perfectionism, worrying about what others think and many other mental self-sabotage roadblocks you could be hitting. If we can become aware of these signs and understand when and where they pop up, we can learn to shift them so they don’t negatively impact our racing.  

I have outlined my top 5 areas to help get you started in improving your mental resolve, shifting your mindset and changing your attitude to minimise the effects of self-sabotage on your performance.  

photo credit: witsup.com

1. Reframe your thinking
Our actions are inspired and driven by our thoughts. If we can work on changing the way we think, we can begin to change the actions we take. where the mind goes the body will follow” A practice I’ve used with my athletes is applying the use of positive affirmations or motivational quotes, along with trying to change the way we word our thoughts. Without realising it, we are often using negative affirmations in our everyday lives, and these negative affirmations can then be displayed in negative habits or traits.  Both negative and positive affirmations impact the neurological functioning of the brain, so if you repeatedly think that you are not going to succeed, or you are not good enough, this is a negative affirmation, and your body will subconsciously believe what you repeatedly tell it. But if you work on filling your thoughts with positive affirmations “I’m going to nail this session” – then you are more than likely going to. So the more positive affirmation you can include in your thought patterns, the better!  

Try this:
Instead of thinking: “I can’t”, try “I’m going to give it my best shot
or instead of ‘I’m never going to be good at swimming” try “I’m making progress every day 

So if we can reduce the effects of our limiting beliefs by changing the way you speak to yourself through your thoughts and work on our mental resolve, then we can diminish the effects of self-sabotage and start to have a positive impact on your performance.  

2. Worrying about what others think
For a lot of athletes, a big stressor pre-race is worrying about what others will think of their performance. On one hand, this can be a positive as it can push you harder when a race starts to become tough. It also feels good when you have a great race – who doesn’t like a little pat on the back every now and then! But if you are an athlete who relies on the need to receive praise, feel accepted or liked by others through your performances, then what happens if (when) races don’t go to plan? The sheer thought of a race not going to plan and worrying about what others will think can manifest into race day anxiety. This form of race day anxiety leads to self-doubt and has negative effects on your racing. The opposite to what you had to begin with. So instead of craving the approval of others, work on understanding why it is you race, finding your internal driver –not relying on external motivators from others. This will help reduce the need for approval and improve your race day performance by racing for YOU not for others. 

3. Fear of failure
Goals are big drivers. They are what help you get out of bed in the morning and keep you going when the training gets tough. But how do you feel if you don’t quite reach your goal? Do you consider yourself a failure for not achieving?  Do you punish yourself in some way, or give up totally? We all need goals and we all want to reach them, but don’t be so hard on yourself if you don’t. Worrying too much about results or the outcomes of your races can create unnecessary pre-race anxiety in the form of fear of failure. It is this fear of failure that can lead to athletes underperforming on race day compared to how they train on a daily basis. We probably all know or have trained with athletes who train the house down, but come race day things just don’t come together for them. These athletes are often extremely critical of themselves and could be fearing failure on race day. They’ve put in the hard work in training, everyone is telling them they are going to have a great race, and so they fear what may happen if they don’t. This fear can come from a number of areas including worrying about what others think (see above) and worrying that the hard work they have put into training won’t pay off on race day (the payoff syndrome). If you feel like this is you, then it is important to determine what the underlying fear for you is, so you can learn to overcome it and reduce this form of self-sabotage.

4. Striving for perfection
Striving for perfection for some can be an advantage, these ‘A’ type athletes have incredibly high expectations of themselves and their performance. However at the same time it can actually hinder an athlete’s performance. Because here’s the thing, nothing or no one is truly ever perfect, as much as someone may try. I don’t say that to stop you from striving for and chasing your goals, or be comfortable with settling for ‘middle of the pack’, but at the same time you don’t need to drive yourself into the ground trying to achieve perfection – because it’s never going to happen.  

Why not? You ask. Because if you are one of those athletes who is a true perfectionist, you will never be truly satisfied – no matter how much you excel, or what race results you achieve, you will always be searching. You will also find you forget to take the time to recognise your performance results when you do achieve them and actually acknowledge the hard work you have put in because you will always seem to find the negatives, or find the things that didn’t quite go to plan.  

You may also find if your race isn’t going to your ‘perfect plan’ then this can demotivate you or you can become frustrated with a situation or outcome, losing sight of the process and focusing solely on the end goal – and that’s when things can stat unraveling in a race.  

So chase your goals vigorously, but hold onto them lightly. Continue to aim to improve day in day out, but remember that it is ok if every race isn’t ‘perfect’. Those races that are the ones we learn from the most.  

5. The pressure of expectation
Pressure can manifest itself physically – through increased adrenaline, breathing and heart rate, it can be mental – either positive or negative thoughts, and/or emotional – positive feelings of excitement or anticipation, or negative feelings such as anxiety and fear.   

How an athlete views a particular race in regards to pressure and expectations can often determine how an athlete performs. If you are using expectations to your advantage, you view it as a challenge. However many athletes feel expectation as pressure and therefore a threat and have a negative response or experience as a consequence. So the feeling of pressure manifests into fears of failure. And as soon as an athlete fears failure (the outcome of a race) they are already beginning to worry about meeting their own or others expectations. This causes athletes to focus on an outcome and feeling the pressure to perform, which can turn into pre-race anxiety or incites uncertainty and hesitation. All which can stop an athlete racing to their full potential.  

The good news is, for most age group athletes, the pressure and expectations comes from within, therefore if you created it, you can also dismantle it. Instead of focusing on the end goal or result, break it down and start focusing on the process. When you start to feel pressure or expectations, break it down. Focus on what you need to do in that moment, not what you want to achieve overall. If you have been working hard on your swim technique and your hard work should net a faster time, don’t think about the time, think about the technique. If your aim was to PB on the bike, don’t think about the PB, think about what you need to do in the moment to achieve that such as technique, power or your effort level.  

And ultimately in the end, remind yourself why you started in the sport in the first place. The sport hasn’t changed over the years, it’s still the same as when you started, it is you that has changed. So if you are finding you can’t escape the pressure of expectation, are worrying too much about what others are thinking and fear failure, let it all go and simply go out there and find your fun again!   

 

Written by Coach Sarah, as previously published in Australian Triathlete Magazine

~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~
Sarah is the Director & Head Coach at Complete Per4mance Coaching. Born out of the desire and passion to not just coach but to educate athletes, Sarah shares her 10 years of coaching and racing experience, knowledge and education with athletes of all levels to help them achieve their optimal performance while maintaining a balanced, happy and healthy life.

Contact Sarah to discuss training options for you.

 

 

Athlete Profile: Scott Salmon

Name: Scott

Nickname: Just plain old Scott 🙂

Lives: Maitland – Hunter Valley, NSW

Sports growing up: Everything and anything!

Chosen sport nowTriathlon

Years in Sport: 2 years

How did you get started in the sport: Meeting triathletes through parkrun and seeing how much they enjoyed the sport. 

Ultimate goal: In triathlon it is to be fit and highly competitive.

Triathlon in 3 wordsFriendship. Challenges. Wellbeing

Why I choose CPC: Enjoyed reading articles in Australian Triathlete Magazine that Sarah had written and decided to reach out to CPC.

What couldn’t you live without: My wife Sharon. 🙂

Biggest love: My whole family.

Pet peeve: Rude people.

Guilty pleasure: Icecream!

If you had one last meal, what would it be: Steak, salad & chips with diane sauce.

Interesting fact about meOur family of name sake have continuously live in Maitland and I’m the 5th generation. 

Athlete Profile: Stuart Grimsey

Name: Stuart Grimsey

Nickname: Stu, Stuey, Grima, Berries

Lives: Essendon, Melbourne

Sports growing upFootball, swimming and athletics

Chosen sport now:  Cycling & Triathlon

Years in Sport: 14 years (cycling)

How did you get started in the sport: Brunswick cycling club junior clinic

Ultimate goalFinish a full Ironman in sub 11 hours ! 

Triathlon in 3 wordsFitness. Health. Lifestyle

Why I choose CPCSarah is one of the best coach in the business – referred by a close friend. 

What couldn’t you live without: Chocolate!

Biggest love: Cycling

Pet peeve: People chewing with their mouth open

Interesting fact about me: I finished second at the Australian Cycling Championships. 

Shameless Plug: 
Instagram: svgrimsey
Twitter: stuartgrimsey
Business: Grimsey Wealth

 

Challenge what you already know

Who said things always had to be completed the same way?

Why is it that Saturday is always long ride day and Sunday long run day?

And who do athletes always tend to follow what others are doing without asking questions?

How do you know which way is the ‘right’ way?

Maybe it doesn’t have to be the way that it currently is. Maybe that’s just what you have always been told or shown? Maybe you don’t know any different?

Do you ask questions? Are you inquisitive? Intuitive? Have you done some of your own research? If not, maybe it’s time to challenge what you already know…. Because there is more than one way….

This is what I realised quite a few years ago now and proof was in my results, and in my health and happiness. AND this is even more important now that I have a little one in tow (now nearly 9months old!). 

“Finding a balance in training, work and life in general was at the top of the list for me. I knew if I was able to get this right, my training would be on track, I’ll be at my happiest and then the results would follow. Yes I still have big goals, and yes I’ll work my butt off to achieve them, but I will ensure that balance, as my health and happiness is not something I am prepared to ‘give up’ in pursuit of my goals. And nor should you have to either.

So when planning out my training, I sat down and looked at what time I had to train, what time I had to work and what time I wanted to spend with family, friends, my other half (and now my little one!). Time simply for myself, away from triathlon and training. And I looked at how I could maximise that time in each area of my life. So I decided that Sunday was no longer my ‘long run day’. Sunday for me was now going to be a day of choice. A day to wake up whenever I choose to, and do what ever I felt like. That could involve getting on a bike, or going for a run, and if I do it’s for fun. But it could also involve staying in bed and watching movies, catching up with friends, going away for the weekend, stepping away from the training ‘norm’. And it is the most refreshing thing ever.

I sought advice, asked questions and trialled. I tweaked my program to where I felt I had the right balance of training, working and ‘life’. But I didn’t just get rid of my long run, as a Coach I whole heartedly believe the long run is a key session for the week. What I did is, I shuffled my program around my life. Not the other way around. I programmed my long run for a Wednesday, and I work my other sessions around that. And it worked. For ME. And that was the key.

Just because everyone else swims Monday, Wednesday, Friday, it doesn’t mean you do if it doesn’t suit YOU. Sit down with a coach who is prepared to ask questions, get to know you personally and understand your motivations. The coach should then help you formulate a plan for YOU and YOUR needs. Not for the needs of a group, or because it is easier for them. But because they put your personal, training and racing interests first and foremost – and they get YOU.

I plan to stay in this sport for a long time. I plan to enjoy it, I am passionate about it and I love what I do. But that couldn’t happen if I’m always following what others are doing even if it didn’t suit me and my lifestyle. If I don’t have that balance, if I don’t maximise my time, if I’m not happy, then I will become another one of those athletes who falls out of the sport because they haven’t built it to be sustainable, as PART of their lifestyle, not running their life. They skew too much of what they do in one direction for too long, and it is only a matter of time until that falls around them.”

So be prepared to challenge the norm, ask questions, and push the boundaries. And never settle until you have found that perfect balance for YOU.

And always remember, Triathlon is what you DO, it’s not who you ARE. It shouldn’t define you, it shouldn’t compromise your happiness and nor should it stop you from doing what you want in the rest of your life.

If you are unsure of where to start, I wrote an article on finding the right coach for you – use these tips and questions to help you find the answers and define your own triathlon journey. 🙂

Happy training & racing

Coach Sarah

~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~
Sarah is the Director & Head Coach at Complete Per4mance Coaching. Born out of the desire and passion to not just coach but to educate athletes, Sarah shares her 10 years of coaching and racing experience, knowledge and education with athletes of all levels to help them achieve their optimal performance while maintaining a balanced, happy and healthy life.

Contact Sarah to discuss training options for you.