During the process of preparing for his first Ironman, ERA President Alex Vidal learned that, whether it’s a personal or professional goal, aiming high and executing on a detailed plan of attack can help you achieve it.

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I recently competed in my first Ironman Triathlon, completing a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a 26.2-mile run for a total of 140.6 miles in under 13 and a half hours.

If you’re tired just thinking about that mileage, consider this: I spent about 400 hours over five months training for the race. It was a huge commitment of time and energy that required a lot of preparation, hard work and sacrifice. 

The same could be said for any crazy big goal. If you have a crazy big goal that you want to accomplish, here are a few things I learned along the way to crossing the finish line. 

Photos courtesy of Alex Vidal

  1. Believe in yourself. I had done a number of triathlons, including the famous Escape from Alcatraz, but the Ironman is considered the ultimate endurance race. It was definitely a stretch goal for me, but I was confident in my ability to meet that goal with the proper mindset guiding me.
  2. Work with a coach who believes in you. People typically train for six to 12 months for an Ironman race, but I only had five months to prepare. A number of coaches I approached didn’t think I could do it in five months, so they chose not to work with me. Ultimately, I did find a coach who shared my belief in myself, and it was absolutely thrilling to meet my goal with the help, support and guidance of my coach. 
  3. Make a plan. In this instance, my plan outlined my training schedule: What days I would train, what discipline and what mileage. I would block out time on my calendar so that I could prioritize the plan’s action steps, day by day. On days that my motivation was low, I didn’t have to spend time or energy thinking about what I had to do that day. I had my plan and I executed on it.
  4. Stack easy wins. When aiming high, it can be hard — mentally and physically — to shoot for the stars every day. That’s why breaking down your crazy big goal into smaller, more manageable wins is incredibly helpful. Not only does it impart confidence in yourself as you regularly chalk up these wins, it gradually builds your expertise. For me, I was getting better at running, biking and swimming every week. For other goals, seeing your progress bit by bit is a great way to support the proper mindset for achieving your crazy big goal.
  5. Accept the risk of failure. I devoted 400 hours of training for the Ironman, knowing full well that there was a distinct chance I would not finish the race. About 20 percent of participants do not finish — they may panic during the swim, they may sustain a bike crash, or they may cramp up on the run. You can plan as much as you like. But sometimes, there are circumstances beyond your control, and you have to be willing to accept the risk that you may not achieve your goal and be OK with that. 
  6. See setbacks as opportunities. About midway through my training, I injured my ankle and couldn’t run for a while. That meant I had more time to devote to swimming, which has always been my weakest area. As a result, I had the best swim of my racing career. By looking differently at my ankle injury, I was able to make a significant impact on my overall race performance.
  7. Have a supportive team around you. In addition to my coach, I had a lot of friends help me out on race day. From managing all of my equipment to quelling my nerves to cheering me on along the way, the support I received was a definite game-changer.
  8. Be willing to make sacrifices. Remember those 400 hours I spent training? To stick to my plan and meet my goal, I had to say “no” to a lot of things over the past five months — concerts, parties and even going out to dinner with friends. But I knew that every “no” helped me meet my goal. And in the end, that was completely worth it. 

Enjoy the journey

The actual race lasted about 13.5 hours, which, compared to the 400 hours I put in, is a very small percentage of my training journey. Imagine being miserable for all of that effort. I made a point to truly enjoy even the hardest of days because I knew they were part of the plan to make me an Ironman.

I won’t lie, though. Crossing the finish line and seeing all of my friends was definitely the best part of the journey. Don’t forget to set your next crazy big goal, earn your bragging rights, and keep up the momentum

Alex Vidal is the president of ERA Real Estate.

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