In case you haven’t been on social media in the last couple weeks and perchance missed it, a hard working, regular guy nicknamed the Illustrious Coach Slayer aka me or Harvey Gayer qualified for the 2016 Ironman World Championship at Kona, Hawaii. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of congratulations, privately and publicly. Getting the slot is described as “insanely difficult” and this article shows how “each year, more than 80,000 athletes vie for slots to the IRONMAN World Championship at the (limited number of world-wide) qualifying IRONMAN events worldwide—while only approximately 2,000 make it to the starting line on race day.”
I was going to write up a race report from my 2015 Ironman Maryland, but there isn’t much to it. It was the race that all who do Ironman dream about. Everything simply went right on that cold and windy day, so there isn’t much to really say about it.
I have decided to write up the top 10 factors that I think put me in a position to finally reap the benefits of all the hours I had sown. I’ve been in disbelief as this was a dream that I thought would never be realized, especially after my bad armadillo-caused bike wreck in April 2015 and subsequent time off for DVT’s in my leg. Now that the goal has been achieved, I have been trying to figure out how I did it, in hopes it helps someone else.
Here is my list:
Top 10 Ways Slayer Qualified for Kona Ironman Championship
1. A Super Support Network
– From immediate and extended family, to friends and training partners, to my coach and team and to subsets of the team (i.e., the lardasses weight management group), the shops like Georgia Cycle Sports (GCS), All3Sports.com, and Fleet Feet Athens, the affiliates like Generation Ucan, my support system was crucial. Without that, everything else would have failed. Cultivating these relationships, building and maintaining them, was very important to my success.
2. Make Time to Train and Race
– A recent blog by Alan Couzens suggested one needed to train 18-24 hours per week to qualify in most cases. Moreover, he concludes one must love to train not just tolerate it. I had to shorten my work week which was with my wife’s permission to 3.5 days so that I could get in an additional big training day weekly when my body could handle it. These extra hours not at work allowed me to get more miles and yards in and that helped me to be ready for the demands of the day.
– Couzens also saw this as a multi year process. For me it was the culmination of about eight years in the sport. I had my share of good races but I learned more from the bad ones. Each bad race informed me about what mistakes not to make the next time. I thought about each big mistake on the way to, and during, my big day at IMMD. I made adjustments in the lead up and all day long to avoid those from recurring. Also, I learned a lot from my fellow coaches and athletes at TriCoachGeorgia.com who are pretty knowledgeable and experienced in their own right.
– So much information flows on social media, popular media, and the books in the field. Everyone has ideas, some better than others, about what makes a successful race. This makes me think back to the phrase, “check the source.” You really have to learn to sift through all the information and take on board the tips that will help you the most. For me, Seebohar’s caffeine protocol and Metabolic Efficiency Training, Generation Ucan fueling strategies, bike power training seminars and discussions with my fellow power mavens, and higher volume and lower intensity run build methods, were key. I also took a lot out of my time in the A2 wind tunnel with my Master bike fitter from GCS, Micah Morlock, and my former coach and current coaching consultant Andrew Shanks.
– You have to be closely in tune with what makes you tick. For some it is to improve, others to impress, and some to compete, which I lean on the most. Some are combination of all these in varying degrees. I’ve written before about how some view competitiveness as bad; however, I see it as very healthy and motivating provided you use it in a positive way to drive you and your rival(s) to higher heights.
5. Race Selection
– Although the course in Maryland isn’t ideal for me (in that it is ranked a hard swim), it was wetsuit legal, which helped my buoyancy, and the late placement in the year allowed for some possibility of swim alteration. It allowed for cold and wind, which suited a bigger guy like me. Moreover, in my case, while the swim wasn’t cancelled, it was shortened to around 3100 yards from 4224 yards. This was nice because at last year’s IMMD I swam 2.7 miles when it was supposed to be 2.4 miles. Maybe it sort of equaled out.
6. A Bit of Luck
– You need to be blessed with no serious obstacles on the way to the big day and during the race itself. Some race builds I am plagued with high work stress, family demands, and/or lots of work interruptions. Some races I have dealt with mechanical issues, poor decisions in gear, flat tires, and the like. In this one, the build and the race went pretty smooth overall. In fact, the wreck actually served to my advantage in that I was given time to rest after a huge Winter build for the USAT’s NCC Challenge. I was able to rest up for the massive ramp up for the race. Then the postponement offered me extra time to taper and freshen up into form. All of this was probably a bit of good luck.
7. Good Health
– This pretty much is self-explanatory and goes for the build and the race day.
8. Positive Mental Attitude (PMA)
– More so than any prior build or race, I just got on with things. If a bad session happened in that I bonked, went too hard or went too easy, I just got over it. When the race postponed, I called it a bad day and moved on. I went back to work for several days as if it would be rescheduled. If something didn’t feel right, I listened to my body, not my training schedule and took a day off. I just went with the flow and that continued to race day itself when they shortened then lengthened the swim while we awaited the start.
9. Willingness to Sell My Body Out on Race Day
– More than any other endurance race in my life, I just gave up any thoughts of preserving my body. I wanted to get to the finish line giving it all I had with no quit whatsoever. There was to be NO MAMBY PAMBY on this day. When I tired, I berated myself to keep going. I took more caffeine than I ever had and ate more pain than I ever had. I refused to give into the doubts and the mentally challenging aspects. And I was duly rewarded at the end.
10. Sufficient Income
– Ironman is a pricey endeavor. From the race registration, to the travel, to the lodging, to the gear, etc. Not to mention, when the race was over, I had to plunk down the better part of 900$ for the race registration for Kona. You have to make it to spend it. I am very fortunate to be able to play this game in the manner it demands. I do not take that for granted.
So there you have it. These are my 10 factors in no particular order that seemed to propel me further and better than I have ever done. I am interested on your thoughts on these and if you think I am leaving anything out. Thanks again for reading and holler if you have something you want me to write about as I chase this dream to its conclusion!