I had a conversation with a buddy of mine a couple of days ago that got me thinking.
He was calling after a mentally defeating workout. He's been on a training program designed to get him ready for a marathon swim (END-WET) in july and has been putting in huge efforts - getting into 12+ hour a week in the water and workouts as long as 6+ miles. Yikes.
He called me after one of the tough workouts which he'd found brutal. He was doubting his ability to complete a swim so much longer - and daunted by the prospect of another 12 weeks of so much training.
This is indeed a dilemma - pretty much the central one to my thesis on this blog. I found during my 'discussion' with the triathlete bunch that there was an apparent chorus of voices that suggest that the supreme effort in preparation (traditionally) for epic events is necessary. That if you don't want to/can't do the training then it is a good indication that you shouldn't do the event itself. But there are problems with this approach, in some cases.
For example - some people (myself included) want to do the ironman or the marathon swim, but don't want to swim 12 hours or more a week for half a year, or bike and run for 6+ hours on most weekends. Some people mainly love the challenge itself, finding the edge and in some cases going beyond it. Because at least for almost all of us - the idea that we're going to go into an event at the peak of our abilities is a complete illusion. Yeah, it's good to be fit, in particular fit enough to at least physically complete the task at hand. Suffering a bit to get a taste of what you're going to be in for isn't necessarily a bad idea either - but there's a point where this can do more harm than good, especially if you've got a few longer events already under your belt.
If Robert drops out and decides not to swim in END-WET - I'm going to do it instead (we're co-directing the event, so only one of us will participate). My longest swim in preparation would probably be 90 minutes, and before that i doubt if i'd do much more than 15 minutes a week until the 4 weeks before. Granted, i've got some swimming background. But i also know that i'd suffer immeasurably during the event and am ok with that.
I just don't want to suffer during the event and every week for months preceding it. Because what Robert faces is pretty daunting. He has to be reminded on a weekly basis of how difficult his task is bound to be - to hit 5 miles in a workout week after week and be exhausted and know that come the day of the event he'd be less than a third of the way to his goal (the river current will travel about 1 mph with the swimmer - reducing 26+ miles to about 15-18 of swimming).
And to make matters worse - he's only going to temper his suffering on race day somewhat.... he might get so fit from his long days that he only has to push into the 'crazy zone' (the place where you can't remember why you ever thought this was a good idea and are constantly, desperately, reaching for the mental power to continue) after 8 hours of swimming, instead of 4. But he'll still get there. He'll still have to survive it in order to get to the finish.
And that's assuming he gets to the start - 20+ weeks of 30,000+ yards may not have him feeling much like swimming at all come race day.....
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