Training for endurance events requires commitment, consistency, and if you are lucky, a healthy and unending dose of motivation. It is all fun and games when you register for an Iron distance event (Ironman or other 140.6). You feel some nerves, but the good kind. The kind that say "let's do this." The announcement goes out on Facebook and you starting telling your friends and writing about your training experiences.
Over time, weekends get longer and longer. Some days, it gets harder and harder to get out the door and stay motivated. Some days are great, but some days are very dark and you find yourself going to places in your mind that you didn't know existed and would rather not revisit.
Lack of motivation and difficult training days happen, but if persist, then point to a larger problem with training. You might be overtraining, not resting/recovering enough between hard efforts, or its time to take a hard look at your nutrition (during the day and during workouts).
What else can you do to stay motivated and feeling strong during training for a long endurance event?
1) Use local century rides for your long rides. Some have relatively low entry fees, and most have good support (stops with porta potties, restrooms, hydration and real food). Plus the route is mapped for you - all you have to do is follow it. This allows you to focus completely on your effort, and staying on top of fueling.
2) Nap. Yes, nap. If you feel drowsy, a short nap is better than a cup of coffee or something with sugar. You are training hard, expect your body to ask for more rest. And listen. Go to bed early. You will never regret extra sleep.
3) You are a jet engine. Fuel accordingly. This means lean protein, good fats, plenty of fresh fruit and veggies, fiber and clean water. Avoid white carbs, sugar, and processed foods. You are fine tuning your body to be a machine, and it requires only the best foods for performance. Resist temptation to cheat. This can be tricky sometimes in social situations, however, stay strong. Think seriously about how what you eat will affect your next workout.
4) Sign up for a short race. On a short, or recovery week, go ahead and do a Sprint or an Olympic tri. And do it purely for the fun of it. It will be a nice change of pace, as well as a chance to practice transitions. The more your practice, the more your body remembers what to do. Short races are little treats for your training.
5) Listen to your coach. Trust that they have your back. It is easy to lose perspective and want to push more or less. Be assured that your coach is highly motivated to get you to the start line well prepared, healthy and mentally ready. Being honest in your training logs ensures that your coach knows all the details, and can be prepare you for the race.