Monday, February 1, 2016

Gordo's Plans For the Ultraman

Gordo's Plans For the Ultraman
By Gordo Byrn

I’m sitting in the Auckland airport right now, waiting to get on my flight up to Hawaii. Over the last couple of months, I’ve been thinking about my motivations in returning to the Big Island to race. I came up with a few…

We are conditioned to judge “a win” as superior to anything else. I’ve won a couple of races now and, while it is fun to win, it simply shows that nobody went faster that day (or bothered to front up). There’s not much inherent value in the act of winning, anything. The value lies in the preparation that leads into a superior performance.

Having said that, the idea of winning again makes me smile and I hope to have the mental strength to take myself to the wall. Improving on my results from last year, training to really perform at the event – these are very motivating and part of what makes our sport so much fun for me.

Ironman racing is a simple game of steady-state volume and race execution. If an athlete out-trains us then we are going to need a lot of talent and experience to out-perform them. For ultraendurance events, the athletes that prepare the best tend to be the ones that perform the best. I see very little downside from throwing a huge amount of aerobic volume into my early season.

Another Swim Coach quote for you, “outstanding performance comes from extraordinary preparation”. Sticking Ultraman into my November Schedule gets me out in the rain for long rides when I might be temped to stay at home or sit on the trainer. It gets me running 6x a week when most my competitors are recovering from IM Hawaii. I projected out my volume for November and it will be about 150 hours of training. Some of the results of that may show next weekend. However, I expect that we’ll see the real results in March and October of next year.

Wining, performing, training – these are all legitimate reasons but, ultimately, I think that it’s simply about having fun. I find deep satisfaction in the preparation that goes into Ultraman (train all day, recover, repeat – think up a crazy-ass workout, complete it, write a story). If you’ve read my last two pieces then you can probably tell that the whole process appeals to something inside me. Tough to say what, exactly – I’ve given up trying to figure it out. It’s probably a mixture of simplicity and uncertainty about what’s going to happen. Across the three days of Ultraman, it’s the same thing – How hard can I push? How fast can I go? Am I going to crack? What will I do if…?

The event is a lot different than you’d expect from a simple review of the mega-distances. Sure there are tough moments, but we face tough moments in many areas of our lives. My tough moments might involve bike pacing or a sore butt. Many of you might be dealing with the death of a friend, a daughter with cancer or some other event that tugs at the emotional fabric of your lives. I am merely simulating difficulties for my personal amusement and, possible, growth. Many of us are managing challenges within our lives, over which we have little control. It helps me keep things in perspective.

What do I want?
For my fellow competitors, I’d like everyone to be able to complete the event safely. The time, effort, expense and energy that goes into an Ultraman attempt is massive. So I’d like everyone to be able to share that magical feeling of completing one of the greatest endurance challenges in the world. My heart beats a little faster when I think about the last 5K from last year. I think the power of that moment will be with me for a long time.

Every finisher walks away from the event with a special bit of knowledge, similar to when we complete our first Ironman – maybe a little deeper, a little more extreme, a little more humbling. It’s the communal self-knowledge that endurance junkies share across all sports.

I want you to know that my relative performance isn’t as important to me as my personal performance (no “gosh shucks” emails required if I blow to pieces!). Last month in Kona, I listened to Peter’s victory speech at the awards dinner. He talked in classical tones about a warrior’s battle in the face of extreme challenge. While he appeared pleased with his victory, I sensed that he had hoped for an epic struggle that would have forced him to dig deeper than he thought possible (as it was, his motivation, preparation and execution simply overwhelmed the best in our sport). There is some of that feeling swirling around in my mind. Our best competitors (and training partners) are the people that enable us to reach beyond what we previously thought was possible. In challenging us, they raise the bar for everyone and we are all forced to lift our game.

I don’t know all the guys turning up for Ultraman but I do know a few and we are going to have a great time pushing each other to excel (drilling each other in more simple terms!). If one of them manages to push me until I crack then remember that I went down with a huge smile on my face.

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