The Iron Man competition has been a favourite on the European race circuit for over a decade. Recently hosted in Port Elizabeth, one of our Vinpro athletes decided to take on the challenge. The Iron Man is not just any bike ride around the block! The day consisted of a 3.8 km swim, 90 km bike ride and a 42.2 km run. Sound like fun? For Conrad Schutte it was definitely something different and out of this world. He tells us more about his journey to the finish line.
1. Many people only think about the physical aspect of competing in an extreme event, but don’t take into account the mental part. Which was the most challenging in preparation for the competition, the physical or the mental? Or are they equally difficult?
It depends on the stage of training. Usually when I start to train for a new endurance event the mental aspect is tough. You have to find a new training rhythm, new schedule of getting up early in the morning, and ultimately aiming to balance family, work and training. As the weeks go by you get mentally stronger but your body takes a beating and the physical challenges becomes more uncomfortable. Somehow, if you are lucky and committed, physical and mental strengths come into balance and you become confident about the approaching race day. Ultimately, I do however believe that we train our minds and that our bodies are just a tool to achieve the objective.
2. Time for some self-critique: which part of a triathlon is your strongest? Your weakest? Why?
It would probably depend on your training efforts and for me they tend to change over time. Currently I enjoy cycling and I am pleased with my cycling times. I really suck at swimming; it is something that I had to learn from scratch.
3. For professional triathletes, competing is a job, so finding time to train isn’t as difficult as it is for the amateur triathlete with other priorities. How do you fit training into raising a family, a career, etc?
Yes it is difficult, but if you really want to, a lot can happen between 4 am and 7 am in the morning!
4. Give us a bit of insight into what goes on inside your head during a competition and how you keep yourself going.
Sometimes everything goes according to plan and mentally it is just a matter of pushing your tired, aching body to the finish line.
More often things do not go according to plan and then you really have to dig deep to keep yourself focused and positive. During these times you have to learn how to retrieve your mind from extreme deep, dark and uncomfortable places – those places that we tend to avoid in our daily ‘comfortable’ lives. Although uncomfortable, those learnings are a critical ingredient to obtain elevated levels of mental clarity.
5. Why Iron Man?
Holistically I am attracted to concept of extreme endurance events. I enjoy the planning, logistics, training, and most off all networking – meeting new people from different walks of life working towards the same goal. I am always amazed how people help and encourage each other when they aim to reach a similar goal.
6. How did you get into triathlon?
I was invited by a good friend to participate in the Iron Man. I do not consider myself as a swimmer nor a cyclist. Therefore, I had to learn how to swim ‘properly’ from scratch. That in itself presented huge challenges and dragged me from my comfort zone – something that I believe we have to do on purpose in order to develop and grow in our life journey. Once the body and mind are stretched beyond its perceived limits, it can never return to its current state!
7. Any advice for someone who wants to get into the sport?
Surround yourself with a positive support structure. Listen, learn and spend time training with individuals that are specialists in the various disciplines. Be consistent; a seemingly large unobtainable goal can be reached by small incremental progress on a daily basis.