5 Steps to a Breakthrough Performance

As race distance increases, the chance of failure on the run increases dramatically. You only need to stand at mile 20 of the Ironman run to see the consequences of short term, outcome-focused thinking. Athletes that were bent on gaining time early in the race are forced to slow down dramatically, giving up any time they may have gained earlier in the day. Therefore the critical junction of the long-course run is the last quarter to third of the distance, as this is when early pacing and other mistakes will begin to express themselves.

Step 4: Set Yourself Up for Success at These Critical Junctions

Your job then is to manage the process, now, in real time, that sets you up for success at the critical junctions mentioned above. We call this "Racing in the Box:" put your head in a box and make the best decisions you can within that box.

Remember, the box is only as big as what you can control, right now. Forget goals, expectations and the Outcome. Put your head in the box, execute as best you can in the box, and let the Outcome come to you as a result of process management and good decisions.

Good decisions made within the box are those that set you up for success at the critical junctions above. Ask yourself "Is this decision I'm about to make consistent with my critical goal to set up the last quarter of the run, or am I getting distracted?"

More: 7 Ways to Avoid Mental Self-Destruction

Step 5: Never Give Up

You're in your box, you've pushed the Outcome out of the box, and you're making the best decisions you can within the box to set yourself up for success at the critical junctions of the race. But, the numbers aren't what you expected?splits, watts, pace, whatever.

You expected temperatures, winds, hills, conditions (X) but you're getting a very different set of Y's. It begins to appear that your Outcome isn't going to happen. DO NOT GIVE UP!


  • If conditions are hard for you, they are likely hard for everyone else. As a smart, well-disciplined, well-executing triathlete, you want winds, hills, heat, cold, rain and much more because they force you and your competition to make decisions. If you make good ones, and they make bad ones, your desired Outcome comes back to you.
  • To do otherwise is to disrespect your training self. The Training Self that put up hundreds of hours and swam, biked, and ran thousands of miles to put Racing Self on the starting line. Racing Self owes Training Self his/her best effort. Period.
  • Finally, you never know what is going on in the race up the road. Hard for you is hard for everyone else. The guys that hammered by you on the bike course? They could still come back to you as those mistakes express themselves. The guy that passed you at mile 12 of the run? He could be in a port-a-john, walking, or under a bush at mile 24.

More: Running the Mental Marathon

In Summary

Let the Outcome come to you as the result of good, consistent decision-making throughout the race.

More: A Mental Mindset for Multisport

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