Triathlon is a global sport and here at Performance Edge we have athletes racing throughout the year in a variety of locations. This week is no exception with father and daughter Chris and Katie H racing Ironman Wales, Chris R is also racing Ironman Wales for the 6th time, Faye is looking to put down another PB at the Clapham 10k having PB’d in 5k, 10k, Half Marathon and Marathon this year and Rosie is across in Chattanooga, Tennessee racing the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.
So an assortment of races this weekend in a variety of locations and I’ll be pacing around like an expectant father checking various trackers; however despite the multiplicity there are actually many similarities in some of the advice I offer up prior to these events. I discuss specifics with the athletes but in general the advice below will stand you in good stead.
First up is to relax. Not just say it to actually physically practice it. I want my athletes to try and still their thoughts. Six-time Ironman World Champion Mark Allen used to talk about having a quiet mind and American fighter pilots in WW2 were trained to relax in the heat of battle. They got it so effective that they could relax in a room and even sleep when someone was firing a machine gun. So don’t let negative thoughts creep in and in your own races just relax and perform.
As a Coach I place no outward expectations on the athletes, I know they will do their best and work hard. They have already worked hard to get to race day and the actual race is merely an expression and a celebration of that hard work. That is all I ask so we don’t talk about times or placing or aspects we have no control over, we concentrate on the things we can control.
In the military we talked about the six P’s; Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance so plan everything. Plan what you will bring to the race and plan for every eventuality, consider how a perfect race would look and visualise that, plan the “action on” in other words what you would do if you had a puncture, if your goggles get knocked off in the swim, if you feel sick on the run. Consider it, make a plan, make an alternate plan and then race to those plans. If you were undertaking a long drive today you would actually plan it, you would make sure your car was full of diesel or petrol, you would buy some healthy snacks, you would plan a route or set the sat nav and I can tell you that the plan would change! You’d hit traffic, or be diverted so you’d have to adapt the plan. Same when you are racing in endurance sport, you’ll be out there for a considerable time and things happen. So plan for the unexpected.
Those of you who race know there is a lot of pre race posturing at the race venue, particularly in triathlon! Other athletes always look fitter and stronger than me when I race but I know it all counts for nothing when the gun goes off. Other athletes will look more muscular, more lean, have better kit a better bike an aero helmet, a disc wheel than you but it means nothing. In fact staying out of this environment if it stresses you out a bit is always worthwhile. I encourage my athletes to spend as little time around others that are racing as they can. They go to register, they wander round the expo once, they go to any compulsory brief and check out the course, in triathlon they look at the flow through transitions and all aspects we need to know but we do all of that efficiently. I want them to keep themselves in their own world. In your own races resist expending any physical or mental energy that you don’t need to. Perhaps even listening to a Yoga Nidra podcast or soothing music might help - not heavy metal or the theme from Rocky! You don’t need to be amped up!
During the race itself concentrate on the process and not the outcome. Try and maintain that quiet mind and never give up. Just live in the moment, the moment is now. I emphasise this in training, I encourage athletes not to stress about a run on the Thursday when it is only Tuesday. Likewise in triathlon don’t worry about the bike when you are swimming, or worry about the run when you are cycling. Just be the best you can be in that moment.
In an endurance event, nutrition wise you must keep the intake of carbs up. You need the energy to run and most people run out of energy on the run due to lack of nutrition and/or hydration. If you feel bad then go to water, for 20 mins and let your stomach settle. If you run out of energy go very easy for 5 mins and eat everything and you'll come good in about 20 mins. Better to lose 5 mins than 25 mins due to feeling bad.
Lastly I wish my athletes good luck; I always wish it because we all need it. Concentrate on the process and only the process and enjoy the finish line.