Hines Ward is used to training, and he’s used to competing.
What he can’t get used to is the inevitability of losing.
The former Steelers wideout has struggled with that concept, as he prepares for the Ironman Triathlon.
“The realization is having never done it before, I can’t go in thinking I’m going to go out and win the Ironman,” Ward said, via Karen Price of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “That’s the battle I have, . . . I have to know what my body’s capable of doing and I have to run my pace. I can’t run a pace that’s someone else’s or I won’t make it at the end.”
By the time the race in Kona, Hawaii begins in October, he will have been in serious training for nearly a year.
Even for an elite athlete, the challenge of swimming 2.4 miles in the Pacific Ocean, biking 112 miles and then running 26.2 miles is a different kind of challenge than playing football or “Dancing with the Stars.”
Ward has been training with eight-time Ironman champion Paula Newby-Fraser, who had to teach him how to ride a road bike with clip-in pedals, and teaching him the correct strokes in a pool to give him a chance.
“I think he thought it might be a bit of a challenge, but he had no idea how hard it was going to be, . . .” Newby-Fraser said. “He gets incredibly frustrated. He melts down with frustration just because he wants to be good at it and wants to perform. He’s having to balance the reality of where he is with where he wants to be. When things don’t go exactly right he gets so mad.”
Ward has gradually built up from shorter races, and he did a half-Ironman last week. He trains three hours a day, six days a week, logging on average 150 miles combined per week. As a result, he’s dropped 30 pounds since he started training, down to 195.
“I love challenges, and this will by far be my toughest challenge,” Ward said. “It’s just me versus myself on the course. You have to continue to push through the pain and hopefully after 140 miles I can cross the finish line and what great satisfaction it will be to hear, ‘Hines Ward, you’re an Ironman.’ When that day comes, if I can cross that finish line, that will probably be one of my greatest accomplishments throughout my life.”
For a guy who has accomplished so much already, that’s saying something.