It was five hours into my first long ride at a triathlon training camp last year, when I started negotiating with myself about whether or not to go for a transition run after the ride.
By mile 90 I was cooked from the Tucson heat. I had put in a hard effort to help close a gap that formed in the group, and I was depleted of mental energy from riding in a group for such a long period of time.
More: When to Run After a Ride
The mere thought of tackling a 30-minute run was breaking my brain. So much so that by the end of the ride I decided to pass on the run and spend some time icing a sore foot. I even got a bag of ice and sat there nursing my foot among the rest of the group just so they could see why that transition run wasn't going to happen for me.
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The Turning Point
Then a funny thing happened. One of the campers asked who else was going on the run. Someone else said, "I'm going because I'm going to reward myself with a run for doing that hard bike." That's when it hit me: I was tending to the wrong part of my anatomy. This wasn't about my foot; it was all in my head.
Yes, I did have a foot issue, but that only flared up on the bike and, well, the cycling was done. What was really happening was that I had made the run a negative—an OPTION—instead of thinking about it as an important, positive training experience—an IMPERATIVE—like my fellow camper.
No wonder I didn't go. I convinced myself it was just too much effort before even trying. I was losing the race on my way to the starting line. It occurred to me that if I thought that way while training, what would happen 80-90 miles into the biking leg at my next Ironman race? I was reinforcing negative mental programming and, ultimately, bad behavior.
I know that what you believe to be true is true. That's why training to be excited about a transition run is every bit as important as transition run training itself. Here are three tips to help you (and me) mentally prepare for transition runs.
Your Transition Prescription
1. Talk it up. Re-frame the run in your conversation with others. Like my fellow camper, talk positively about what you're getting ready to do. Get excited and push out negative thoughts about going out for the run--or any other tough aspect of training or racing that lies ahead. Although it sounds simple, it's not that easy. Build your momentum (and new neural pathways) by first practicing it on shorter rides and transition runs.
2. See it and believe it. Many professional athletes use visualization techniques to get good at something tough. Why? Because it works.
Here's how to do it: Before negative thoughts get a foothold, take a few deep breath and mentally rehearse jumping off your bike, doing a swift wardrobe change, taking in a few calories, and heading out on your run. You have enough stuff to contend with on race day, so get your mind on your side starting now. If you can't rehearse this in your head, then doing it in real life will be that much more difficult.
3. Get your grin on. Think about it. Have you ever tried to be negative while smiling like a fool? Have some funny stories in your head, things that you can't help but laugh about. I use a memory of the first time I forgot to unclip from my pedals before braking. It was not only funny to me but wildly hilarious to the coffee shop crowd sitting at the caf? with a front row view of my fall.
The very act of smiling makes you feel positive and happy. And the happier you are about springing off your bike and heading out for a run, the better you'll perform come race day.
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