The setting was Lake Garda, Italy – September 2013 - The Triple DECA. This would be the longest ever officially held triathlon race. The daily races would consist of standard Ironman distances of 2.4-mile swim, 112-miles bike, and 26.2-miles run. The athletes would complete the swim in a 25-meter pool, and the bike and run courses would consist of multiple loops.
The athletes would need to complete 30 races in a row (Triple DECA) or basically one month of racing every day. Many athletes would need to do this on days when sleep might total a few hours. The total distances were staggering for most competitors to comprehend: 72-miles swimming, 3,360-miles biking, and 786-miles running.
As we look back on those 30 days it was an experience never to be forgotten for those who were in Lake Garda. Many athletes interestingly felt the accumulation of pain and fatigue shortly after finishing the last day. It was as if the brain told the body that “the race is over and no more,” and it theoretically shut down the body. If the brain would have been programmed to a race of 31, 32, 33, etc. days, we are confident that the eight athletes would have persevered till the finish.
Many athletes had some of the “bonking” symptoms common at many long race finish lines: the sweats, dizziness, and massive fatigue. The soreness was felt from swollen feet, shins, quads, back, neck, arms, and even eyelids.
After the excitement of race day had settled down and the athletes arrived back to their respective countries, the athletes knew the recovery would take time. Many experienced night sweats for weeks, severe numbness in the mid-foot, sensations from healing injuries, and of course the common post-race depression.
The recovery runs and easy workouts weeks after the race were fun especially with the increased fitness levels. Many athletes said how easy it was to just glide through a basic workout. Never underestimate the increased fitness effect of doing something for 30 days. What’s a guaranteed way to lose 25-30 pounds of body weight in 30 days? Do a Triple DECA! Many medical professionals might conclude that this event was dangerous and not recommended, but ask every one of the athletes who toed the line and they concurred that this was an event not to be missed.
What it Took
The common thread from all eight of these athletes who finished the race (even though they were from many different backgrounds) was they shared the following common things during their pursuit of the finish-line goal:
Sustained concentration – The focus day after day was clearly evident with these eight individuals.
Controlled emotions – Not one individual lost their emotions, which hampers energy levels.
Embraced adversity through massive mental toughness – dealing with all the “downs”.
Dissociation from the pain of the race and everything else going on in the circumstances.
Curiosity – trying what was never attempted.
Coaches – Many used their support systems and coaches.
Personal belief systems in place.
They overcame fears and personal boundaries with ongoing personal mantras throughout the race. For example: “Never stop”, “Stay on the bike,” “Keep moving.”
They implemented their “race plans” but learned through the race to adapt to various changing circumstances including injuries, tough courses, and weather issues.
#1 “Have Fun” – Every one of the eight loved what they were doing. It was like a “fun” job day in and day out.
They all had special times when they felt peace within, and emotions were released at various times of the event as they crossed new personal thresholds.
They always kept things in perspective and the underlying mission to get to the finish line.
Experts in time management – managing families, work, life, and training to keep a balance.
Embraced solitude of training, the hours alone, and pre- rehearsal of the race.
My Pre-Eace Mental Strength Idea
I purchased 30 running shirts and printed a number from 1-30 on the front of each one. I kept these 30 shirts in a closet in my room at the hotel. Since we were in Italy, all the rooms had a bidet toilet. Every morning I would take a shirt from the closet with the respective number of the day of the race and at the end of the evening I would take the smelly shirt and deposit into the bidet. Every evening, I would look at the closet with the reducing shirts and the increasingly number or shirts filling up the bidet. Mentally, this was a big boost as I came into the room every evening with a battered body. This simple little task provided a positive mental state every morning and evening.
Always think bigger and bigger and this was the ultimate of a “bigger” event!
Wayne Kurtz is the author of Beyond The Iron, Never Say "I Wish I Had" and co-author of Stronger Than Iron (the epic world record journey of the athletes who finished the 2013 Triple DECA Iron event). For more info visit his blog.
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