Now that most of us are entering the meat of our racing season, we will all have any number of opportunities to manage the tensions created when the idealism of our planning and training meets the multiple realities of racing. In fact, after more than 20 years of training and countless races, it is my experience that competitions frequently do not go as planned.
So, how do you react when your feet cramp halfway through the swim and your kick turns into a pull? Or when you flat in the first 10 miles of a 56-mile bike leg? Or when your 7-minute-mile run melts to 10 in searing 90-degree heat? Do these mettle-testers become spirit-breakers or character-builders?
If you want to succeed in multisport events over time, you must learn to turn negatives into positives; or, as the saying goes, make lemonade out of lemons.
As with so many things in life, our success in endurance racing often stems from having a solid philosophy as a lens through which to view our performance. Since we cannot control the weather, the course, unexpected equipment failures or our competitors, we must focus on controlling ourselves.
For me and the athletes that I coach, that means: Doing the best I can with what I have to finish the race. That should always be the goal – not to win or beat somebody, but to maximize your resources to finish. Sometimes that translates into a blazing personal-best performance; sometimes it more resembles the crawl of a desert survivor toward a distant oasis.
I have often heard other competitors vent during a race: "Man, this head wind is brutal" or "I can't believe how hot it is" or "Wow, that swim seemed long." They are wasting their mental energy on things that they cannot control, things with which all of the competitors are dealing. If it is a windy day, stay aero, spin into the wind and tell yourself that you will be ready to take advantage of the wind when it is at your back— since complaining about it won't make it go away.
If your race day becomes the hottest day of the season, slow down, keep up with your hydration and use the ice and water on the course to keep your core temperature down — remember, it is hot for everyone and adjust accordingly.
If you pop out of the swim and see that your time was longer than usual, don't fret about it. Instead think, "The swim is done, and I now need to focus on the remainder of the race." Again, if the course was longer than expected for you, chances are it was longer for everyone.
Remember, your mind can talk your body into and out of a lot of things, and staying positive during your event, especially when the unexpected or unplanned pops up, will always have your glass half full of lemonade, rather than half empty!
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