Leadership Lessons From: Teo Hui Koon, Educator and 2-Time Ironman Western Australia Finisher
I think of all of us, I have the least number of finishes. I did IMWA twice in 2009 and 2010; and the inaugural Challenge Cairns in 2011. Had signed up and prepared for Ironman Japan in June 2010, before it got cancelled one week before the race due to the mad cow disease epidemic. This year will be my third attempt at IMWA.
I usually train 5-6 months prior to the Ironman triathlon, as I believe in doing my best. The reason being: Ironman is an expensive overseas race, and having spent so much on it, I will want to be as prepared as I can and make sure it counts. After all, I only travel for Ironman races, and nothing else.
Everybody knows that WA is a flat course, but Ironman is, in no way, easy. Regardless of what many say, this is still a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and a 42km run – done, consecutively, with no rest in-between. I have seen how many who are great in any of one sport, but do not do well in an Ironman. One rule of the thumb which I learn from my Coach, Craig ‘Fox’ Holland – it's about knowing how to be patient in the race and not be aggressive in any one of the discipline. I will rather play it safe and end strong with energy left in the tank, then running half the race with an empty one.
This may be my 3rd attempt at the same location, but I learnt to respect the Ironman distance triathlon. There are many things that can change the race for the athlete. I will not go into the race thinking I know the course well enough. There are weather conditions that will change the race, perhaps, like more current and stronger winds on the ride.
Preparation comes in three forms: Physical, mental and mechanical. We all know that we need to train the physical bit. But the mental side is just as crucial. Remind yourself to ignore the little devil telling you to give it up, that you can't do it at the swim start; during the bike when your quads are burning from the 6-7hrs of pushing the crank; and the cramps that will occur at the strangest parts of the body during the run. The mechanical: yes, do service your bike AND bring it out for a ride to test it out. You wouldn't want the bike to have brake-rub, or any mechanical failure during the race. Yes, I have experienced the brake-rub for a good 90km, before – in my first Ironman. And believe me, it's not something you will want to experience: Because, it will totally wreck the confidence during your run.
And having said all these, soak the atmosphere all in, when you enter the finishing chute. Nobody can experience that for YOU. And enjoy THAT moment. Because YOU deserve it! All the hard work, all the sacrifices, the early-morning training, the huff and puff sessions on the track or on the trail, the sun on your back while riding – and the list continues. Remember: YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!