Posted by: Joe English | May 11, 2013

Mental Games — Feeling Average While Doing the Impossible

running-advice-bugTell almost anyone that you’re doing an Ironman Triathlon and watch the expression on their face. They almost can’t believe it. Actually they just can’t understand it. “How far is the bike?” they ask and even when you tell them they have no comprehension how far 180KM (112 miles) really is. Sometimes I tell them by relating it to a distance they would understand — “It’s from here out to the beach and back.” They still don’t get it. The physical task is, simply put, impossible for them to understand.

Coach Joe before Ironman Australia 2013

Coach Joe before Ironman Australia 2013

But then you go out and do your Ironman or your marathon and you’re somehow feeling. . . “average.” You look around at 2,000 people crashing into the water, pedaling along the highway and running through the night and you start to think maybe this ain’t such a big deal. It’s not like you won or even came close. In fact, the winners were finishing the race before you probably got off the bike. You hear others talking about the race: this is my 50th, they say, or their fastest or their third this year. They are 65 years old and just finished their first one. It’s not only very possible, but almost common place.

Last weekend at Ironman Australia I had this very feeling. Although I was doing what most consider impossible, I was feeling quite average. How can this be?

I talked with my favorite psychologist this weekend and she helped me understand this a bit. First, both our own comprehension of what we do and that of the people viewing it is shaped by our own experience. What this means is that the person hearing about your tale of physical world domination can’t comprehend the task, because they have no experience with which to understand it. And our experience leads us to form an opinion based on all that we’ve done. In other words, we have a basis to compare against while others don’t.

Second, we’re competitive creatures. That’s why we participate in these crazy marathons and Ironman triathlons to begin with. Our competitive drive shape our impression of how we feel about our endeavors. The self-talk of the athlete quickly goes from “I am just trying to finish” to “I could have gone faster if only I had. . .” This inner self-talk, which ultimately is a source of our desire to improve, takes us from thinking that we’re doing the impossible to thinking that we could do it better the next time.

To continue reading, click here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: