Lessons Learned From Doing The Ironman 70.3

If you were to ask a business owner what taking part in The Ironman has to do with marketing and running a business, you may get some funny looks. Or perhaps they may respond with “You’d have to be mad to do either!”. #TRUTH.

But that’s exactly what Steve Bonthrone, founder of Steve Bonthrone Fitness, talks about in this guest blog.

He shares his own personal lessons from doing the Ironman 70.3 and explains how we can apply this to our own business mindset. It’s not as unrelated as you may think!

It’s often said that it’s impossible to do an endurance event without it changing your life in some way and the same could be said for doing anything that gets you out of your comfort zone.

On the 2nd July, I took part in the Ironman 70.3 in Edinburgh, which as a marathon runner, this certainly got me out of my comfort zone. I learned lots of things that day that can transfer over into my business. Here are the lessons I learned so you don’t have to do an Ironman event!

Ironman 70.3 is one of a series of long distance triathlon races organised by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC). The “70.3” refers to the total distance in miles (113.0 km) covered in the race, consisting of a 1.2-mile (1.9 km) swim, a 56-mile (90 km) bike ride, and a 13.1-mile (21.1 km) run (Source: Wikipedia)

Overcoming fears

I wasn’t the most prepared going into the event. I had done a few 60 mile rides on the bike and I had already run a marathon in April.  So to run half the distance didn’t bother me, in fact, it excited me as it was my strongest discipline. It was the swim that scared me.

I wasn’t afraid of the water. I’m not a great swimmer and I had only done 2 open water sessions, which neither were brilliant in terms of nailing it and preparing for the big day. I had only started to learn how to do the crawl in February, after years of doing breaststroke. I knew I could swim 1.9km, but it wasn’t going to be pretty.

When I joined the Content Marketing Academy Community and attended a workshop, I realised that I had a belief that I wasn’t good enough.  But since being part of the community and meeting many of the members, it has given me a lot more confidence to try things.

We lined up for the start of the race and I went to the back of the pack so that I had the space to go at my pace in the water. As it turned out, the conditions worked in my favour. I passed a few people and did a lot better than I thought I might.

Adapting your skills

We’ve all been in the position where we’ve turned up for a presentation with a set of slides we’ve spent ages setting up only to find there’s a technical problem and we’re going to have to do it without the slides.

How do we handle it?

I was a bit like that on the start line of the swim. I had done as much training as I could, enough to complete the swim anyway. I was ready to go but I arrived that morning to learn that the sea was rough and the organisers had cut the distance. I had only learned in calm water so this was going to be a challenge.

When I got into the water and started swimming, it didn’t take me long to figure out that the crawl wasn’t going to work – No matter which side I turned my head to, I was getting a mouthful of salty water. Yum! I quickly switched to breaststroke and found it so much easier. I started passing more experienced swimmers than me who were trying to persevere with the crawl and were struggling.

Sometimes it’s how we adapt our skills to the conditions we are faced with that matters more than the actual task. Turns out, being flexible can make things better than they might have been otherwise.

It isn’t the size of the tool but how you use it

In every industry, there are people who have all the gadgets, the top spec kit, the top of the range cars etc but it doesn’t make them any better at the job than us.

When we got onto the bike section, there were plenty of people who had bikes that probably cost more than my car and certainly one or two who had top of the range clothes and helmets on. But as I discovered, it didn’t make them any better as cyclists or triathletes.

We had 56 miles to cover and while many went flying past me in the first few miles, I started to catch some of them as the ride went on. Even when we were cycling into a headwind most of the time!

My bike is pretty good, it’s a second hand Boardman road bike I bought 3 years ago that hasn’t had the same amount of attention given to it as the majority of my fellow competitors, but I knew a few tricks for speeding up on the flats and going uphill that these guys didn’t.

Expensive tools can enhance the skills we already have, but they don’t replace them.

Do what you do best

Nothing beats the feeling when we’re doing something we know we’re good at and everything’s clicking into place. That’s how I felt when I got onto the final section, the run.

Many people get jelly legs when starting to run after being on the bike but I had learned, and mastered, how to get in to my running cadence in the last few hundred yards of the cycle. This makes for a very smooth transition, and if done right, can make you run faster.

I had allowed a few people to pass me as we headed into transition, I had taken my time to get changed into my running shoes, but once out the other side I felt like I was flying. I started passing people (the same ones I had let pass me at the end of the cycle) and felt like I was at home and on form. When you get into that mindset, no-one is going to beat you.

We had 3 laps of a 4-and-a-bit mile course to run with a few corners to run round. At this stage of an event like this, many athletes are just moving their legs to get them to the finish. I felt on fire as I knew a trick for running round corners without losing speed and I’m pretty good at running uphill and downhill, which came in handy as the run course had a couple of inclines and declines in it.

All of a sudden, my confidence was through the roof as it felt like I knew things that everyone else didn’t.

I kept doing what I was doing, focused on the rhythm that was in my head the whole way. When I turned the corner to enter the last lap, I knew I still had a job to do and only let up when I saw the finish line straight ahead of me and gave it one last shot to get me over the line.

In summary

Sometimes our fears can get in the way of us realising our potential and achieving the things we truly desire. Challenging our fears and changing our mindset to “what if I did…?” can have a massive impact not only what we do but how we do it.

Joining The Content Marketing Academy as well as doing the Ironman 70.3 has done that for me.

What can it do for you?

Your turn

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic too.

  • Have you stretched yourself with competing in a physical challenge? What were the lessons that you learnt about yourself by doing so?
  • Are there any lessons you could apply to your own business?

Please share your experiences below and feel free to ask if you have any questions.

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About Steve Bonthrone

Lessons Learned from doing the ironman 70.3 Steven Bonthorne Guest BlogHi, my name is Steve and I became a Personal Trainer after running a marathon to help overcome a back problem and had the desire to help people achieve things they previously didn’t believe possible, just like I did.

I used to be a Pizza Chef until I suffered a sharp twinge in my back. My mum had suffered from back problems and I didn’t want to go through life affected by it in the same way as she did. While I was off work, I decided that I needed a target to get fit, entered the London Marathon and got in the first time! I got round it but my overwhelming feeling after crossing the finish line was that I had just achieved something amazing and that if I could do it, anyone could and so a few months later, I quit my job and trained to become a Personal Trainer.

I worked in gyms before setting up my own business in 2006 and continue to get a massive buzz from helping people achieve their goals. I continue to run marathons and other distances, often doing more than one event on the same day and in 2017, I completed my first Ironman 70.3.

I firmly believe that anything is possible if you can dream it, believe in it and are ready to work for it.

Connect with Steve:


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About Vicky Gunn

Beach addict and crazy spaniel mum (thanks to Millie), I love helping others create memories. Founder of Millie's Lifestyle and avid blogger - life would be boring doing just one thing. Wouldn't it?!?!?