Mental training sessions are critical to improve your Ironman run
Mental training sessions are critical to improve your Ironman run

Mental training sessions are critical to improve your Ironman run

Mental training sessions are critical to improve your Ironman run

Building mental strength is vital to become a competitive Ironman age grouper. Ben Rudson shares what he does to toughen up mentally on his Ironman run.

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BRAD BROWN: Welcome onto this edition of The Kona Edge. It’s good to have you with us and we head back to catch up with Ben Rudson, on this edition of the podcast. Benjamin, welcome. Thanks for joining us today.

BENJAMIN RUDSON: Thanks for having me again.

BRAD BROWN: Benjamin, I’m sure you’re amped to talk a little bit about your run. It is the strongest out of the 3 disciplines. You’ve got a sub 3 marathon under the belt. You’re a very decent runner.

BEN RUDSON: Yes. It’s the one that’s come the most naturally to me and I think it’s my best leg of the 3 sports.

Boost your physical development on the Ironman run

BRAD BROWN: It helps if your run is that strong. What do you think has given you that strength on the run? Is there something you can pinpoint that you’ve done over time that has moved the needle?

BEN RUDSON: I think it’s a couple of things. First and foremost, you must put the work in,  and I have. I put a lot of miles in and I’ve done the right thing many times and I’m fortunate enough to stave off injuries and treat it with respect. So, just putting the miles and the proper workouts in, have been key to that physical development.

Cultivate mental strength on your Ironman run

The big thing too, is the mental aspect more so than even the open running. In triathlon running, it’s so important to have a strong mental game. Having that mental confidence.

To be able to hop off that bike and know I have this run now, but that’s not a problem. It’s such a huge thing, It’s really the X-factor in the sport. Knowing that you can chase down anyone in your age group off the run. And I think where it stems from is all those tough mental sessions. Getting out there in the bad weather, be it cold or hot, these tough mental sessions.

I remember one, I had been building up to my open marathon where I went sub 3. I hopped off the treadmill at the gym and stuck it against the blank wall and ran staring at this wall for 35 kilometres. It wasn’t glamorous and a lot of haunting images go through your mind as you’re staring at this concrete wall for two and a half hours. Maybe I don’t recommend staring at a concrete wall for two and a half hours. Mental sessions are critical for a good Ironman run.

BRAD BROWN: Absolutely. And I’m sure those are not ones you enjoying doing. But what do you love doing from a workout perspective on the run?

The value of improving your top end Ironman run speed

BEN RUDSON: Continuing the theme from my Ironman bike, it’s adding in high intensity effort in your run. This is something I do on almost every run now, is strides. So many of us don’t run fast. We do long steady runs. Never really get that heart rate in. I’m sure all the listeners can relate. When I first started running, I think my pace in the 5k was only 10-seconds per kilometre slower than my half marathon pace and that shouldn’t be the case. That’s kind of silencing the problem.

Again, that top end speed is incredibly valuable. Although many listeners are interested in Ironman races, I can’t express enough the value of gaining short course speed. And then building up that 5k speed and 10k speed, and how it will pay off.

Training with strides to increase your Ironman run speed

So, the big thing for me, and that’s why I incorporate this, is doing strides. The idea is every single run I go on, I find a line in the road. Or hop over to the track and during the middle of my workout, I’ll do some strides.

So, what that looks like is I’ll start off with a jog and you’re going to accelerate slowly over about 80m to a full-on sprint for 3 or 4 strides, and then you’re going to decelerate. What this does is just get your heart rate up, it opens your lungs, gets your blood racing a bit. Reminds you how to run fast. Which I think many of us tend to forget even though that sounds funny. Just doing that 3 or 4 times every single run, it’s not that strenuous.

You can do it in the snow, you can do it in the heat. It’s not a crazy hard track session. But just incorporating that into your daily run is incredibly valuable. You’ll see huge gains, both physically and mentally from those.

BRAD BROWN: Let’s talk about the mental side of things and digging yourself out of holes in a run. It happens to everyone. You mentioned you hit the wall in your first marathon at about the 30k mark which is par for the course. I think everyone has a story like that but we all go through bad patches in the run.

Digging deep in your Ironman run requires your mental strength

What are some of your strategies to get yourself out of those bad patches to keep going. Because we know they don’t last forever but you can get into this deep hole and struggle to get out.

BEN RUDSON: What it comes down to is mental fortitude and just being able to play games with your mind. I’ve been fortunate enough in all my races, except for one, I’ve come off the bike feeling good and feeling ready to run.

Stop playing mind games with yourself on your Ironman run

Unfortunately, that one exception was Kona. I got off that bike and I knew as soon as my feet stepped onto that ground on the pier, that it was going to be a long day at the office on that run. It’s a hot one as I’m sure you can appreciate. It was going to be a battle. From those first few strides out of that tent I knew it was going to be a battle. I think what it came down to, that was a test of my mental fortitude. There’s three and a half hours of me grinding it out on the Hawaii pavement and battling.

So, what you’re going to do is you stop playing games. When I started that run I had 42km to traverse in 35-degree weather, a ton of humidity, with a brutal course. If I started thinking that way, it was going to be a long day. Instead you’ve got to break up the course in segments and I know that sounds a bit cliché.

Segmented Ironman runs pull you out of dark holes

When I first started running, people would say break it up in segments. I didn’t believe them. I was like; how is that going to help me, I can’t fool myself, I know I must do this whole distance. But pick out landmarks, pick out moments on the course. Hopefully you’ve done your recon of the course and you know where the different landmarks on the course are. And milestones.

I knew starting on that run, it was just get to that turn-around on Alii and from there on if you want to walk, do it. But you’re going to run until Alii at least. Then when I got to Alii, it was like well, let’s get to the Energy Lab. If I’ve made it this far I can suck it up for another hour to get to the Energy Lab. Once I got to the Energy Lab, it’s like well shoot, I’m already over halfway, just get this thing done. The quicker I get this run done the quicker I can go relax and get out of the heat and get a change of clothes and get a shower.

Find the thing that drives you on your Ironman run

So, it was all playing mental games. And it really is whatever that is. Whatever really drives you. And whatever you’re really motivated for. Just find that thing. The more running you do, the more training you do, the more visualising you do in training. You’ll start to figure out these tricks and these tips of how to get through these tough sessions. But at the least, plan those hard sessions and experiment your visualisation and try to think about what drives you. And just getting those tough sessions under the belt.

As I mentioned in the previous episode, just having those experiences of running in extreme heat for 10k or going out in the blizzard for 10k. Or running on a treadmill staring at a concrete wall for two and a half hours. All those stories make a mosaic in your mind and you build on those experiences to push through.

BRAD BROWN: Absolutely. I think that’s fabulous advice. Benjamin, thank you so much for your time once again here on The Kona Edge. Much appreciated. Look forward to chatting a little bit about your nutrition next time out.

BEN RUDSON: Sounds good. Thank you.

About Us

Brad Brown is a 40 something age grouper that dreams of one day qualifying for and racing on the big island (He may have to outlive everyone in his age group though).

Morbidly obese in 2009, Brad clocked in at 165kgs (363lbs) at his heaviest.

He's subsequently lost a third of his body weight on the way to a half Ironman pb of 5:06 and a full Ironman pb of 12:21.


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