How do you keep going for 14 hours?

When I tell people that it took me 14.5 hours to complete my full distance triathlon they often ask “how do you keep going for that long?” It might be meant as a rhetorical question. But I’ve some thought into it.

Prepare your body

You need to do the training. Nobody would be surprised if someone did not do the training and failed to finish. It’s not just the volume of training: you need to do some distance work. You need to prepare your body for each discipline because otherwise, you run into things you hadn’t run into.

In the run-up to the event, I did a 4km swim in the pool, a 3km swim in open water, 2 x 100-mile bike rides and a three hour 30km run. Three of them were on back-to-back days.

I think it is important to do this because you hit things you wouldn’t hit in short workouts. Things like cramps. Things like back pain that only sets in in the later hours of the ride.

Prepare your mind

Two things you need to do here:

First, make sure your training gives you the psychological belief that you can do it. Do this by doing hard events. Few people believe they can do a full distance race if they have never done a triathlon. Neither did I. But I did understand I only had to believe in the next step.

I did a sprint. Then a standard. Then a load more standards. Then a half. Even then, it was only after I ran a marathon and an ultramarathon that I started to believe I could do it.

In preparation, I did some long sportives including the Tour de Yorkshire (only 123km but 2,400 metres of climbing) and The Flat 100 (160km). The latter was down as part of a race simulation weekend where I also swam 4km on the day before and a 3-hour run on the day after.

Second, it helps to have some mental strategies to assist you on the day. Mindfulness and self-talk are two of the most important and I teach both of these on my sport psychology course.

Keep eating

Providing you don’t get injured (you did some strength training, right?), the two things that are going to stop you are running out of energy and running out of mental resilience.

Your body cannot convert fat into energy fast enough, so you need to supplement this with food to avoid hitting the wall. Being hungry or dehydrated will also make you grumpy, which will increase your chances of wanting to give up.

Therefore, it is important to keep eating throughout the entire event. I’ve written about my fuelling strategy here.

Pace yourself

As you get more tired and fed up, you may encounter a desire to speed up. You want to get it over with. Do not listen to this voice.

Going above your target pace increases the risk of cramps, increases the risk of hitting the wall and is generally unsustainable, so will produce a slower time overall and maybe even a DNF.

Summary

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Actually, it’s a marathon plus 112-mile bike ride and 2.4-mile swim. So, take it easy, keep eating, and make sure you have spent the time building up your muscles and building up your confidence.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, June 30th, 2019 at 11:00 am and is filed under Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.