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What drives you on race day? What is your focus? Do you have a preconceived time or place you are aiming for? Or do you simply not want to come last? Are you crazy nervous in the days leading up to the race or even race morning?
Here is a little secret, that implemented correctly will keep those pre-race nerves at bay and will unlock your potential and crush any goal you may have previously set for yourself.
So…when someone asks you what your goal at a particular race is – what do you say? I want to break 3 hours? I want to break 10 hours? I want to come top 10 in my age group? I don’t want to come last? I want to qualify for Kona?
The reality is, your time and your position at any given race is simply out of your control. Let’s focus on time to begin with. Time is only one type of measurement of performance and importantly, it is far too variable based on the conditions (heat, humidity, wind, accurateness of course etc). Do you start your watch when the gun goes off? Or worst still, do you look at your watch when you get out of the water? There is no benefit to either practice. If your watch tells you a negative story (ie slower) or even a positive story (ie a faster than expected time) all it is doing is giving you a false sense of reality as you head to the bike. The swim could have been long (or short), the currents, the chop etc could play an important part. Similarly with the bike and the run, if you are focused on a speed or pace then you aren’t focused on what is important during the race – your effort that you are giving that is not controlled by the conditions.
Reaching the podium or qualifying for Kona or even not coming last are all matters outside of your control as well. Where you come in a race is only a reflection your peers – not on your actual performance.
Let me give you an example. If your goal is to break 5 hours at a 70.3 and you have an ordinary day, walking the last 3km of the run but because it was a breathless day and a fast course you cross the finish line in 4:58. Whilst you have achieved your goal, you know that you didn’t put in your best effort and this sort of performance will still leave you searching. Similarly, if you have an unbelievable day in tough conditions and you cross the finish line in 5:08 – you are going to be stoked about the performance rather than the time.
In its most rawest sense, the goal in any race must be to get the most out of yourself. Your performance ‘P’ is measured by your ability ‘a’ multiplied by what percentage of effort ‘e’ you gave on the day. So for the boffins out there… P = a x e
The goal in training is to improve your ability in the sport. For most of the T:Zero Collective this is a long term process. When you turn up to a race, your ability is constant. You can’t do anything more to improve that. What the focus must turn to is the effort – what percent are you willing to give of yourself.
The secret to ultimate success in this sport is to focus on ALWAYS give 100% of your ability. You cross every finish line knowing that you have given your all and that the performance each race is a true representation of what you have been doing in training. The time, the place are both irrelevant. If you focus on nailing each race, then it becomes a habit. You keep training hard, your ability will improve and there will be no doubts when your big race comes you will give 100%.
The athletes that have done very well in the past and who are doing well now are the ones that are prepared to go into battle in any race, no matter how important and no matter how fit or otherwise they are. The ones that struggle to pull out great races when it counts are the ones that don’t make it a habit. Pre race nerves are normal and often beneficial. The nerves should be there because of the personal sacrifice you have made to get to the start line, not about trying to achieve a certain time or place. Focus on only what is in your control (ignoring/accepting things that aren't in your control) and your prerace nerves will plummet.
Here is the sealer – If at every race from now and into the future, you focus on the performance being as close to 100% of your ability, not on the external outcome, then you will surpass and sort of material goal you had set for yourself along the way.
We work so hard on our ability through training to often sabotage our effort on the day. Stop thinking about the competition or a certain time, and start demanding from yourself everything you have in training and on race day. It is 'you vs you' and be making sure that is the focus, you will achieve more than you ever thought possible.
You have got this, so go out and get it!
We’re roughly two months into the new year and for most of us, our training and racing goals have already been developed and set in collaboration with our respective T:Zero coaches. Training Peaks is probably looking nice and green too – rolling hills for days.
But this isn't always the case...
It would’ve been easy to write yet another generic article on tips for getting back on the training wagon when the wheels have fallen off. But indeed, when you take the time to stop and consider loss of motivation, these superficial measures aren’t going to tackle the real problem.
The real problem is an ill-defined ‘why’.
Your why is not the result. Your why is the reason you’re striving for the result in the first place.
Take the following (quite common) example:
Result: Cross the finish line in my first Ironman
Why: To push myself beyond what I am (seemingly) capable of (mentally and physically); to see if I can make it.
Before tackling your why, of course you must first set the huge goal; one so big it scares the [insert expletive here] out of you.
Think back to your first Ironman (or first ever triathlon, irrespective of distance). Your why driving you to get up and train every morning, without fail, is the fact that you’re not quite sure if you’ll even be able to do it. Your why is clear. It’s highly likely you’re genuinely scared. You’re “all in”.
Fast forward down the track, with a few more races under your belt, and perhaps your why is not so clear anymore. Why are you here again? What are you trying to achieve? A better time? Is that motivation enough? This is a big reason why athletes often find it difficult to revert to compete at lesser distances and remain enthusiastic about it, once they’ve finished an Ironman. Sure, there’s always a performance factor – the desire to do better – to race faster – but is that enough to get you out of bed before dawn, every morning?
Without a very clear understanding of the reason you’ve committed to doing a race, your journey will be a struggle. And the destination (should you make it)? Not so sweet. Realistically, if you’re dragging your heels out of bed, or continually hitting the snooze button, your drive isn’t strong enough.
Conversely, if you are unreservedly clear on your why, you won’t struggle to find that motivation to get up in the dark and train. Sure, you might be tired, but you’ll still get up and get it done. There would be absolutely no argument in your brain about whether you should be doing it.
For any athlete who truly wants to get the most out of their journey, it’s vitally important they have a clearly defined why and then continue to revisit it, reassess it, ask the question often and write it down. Mental strength is such a huge component of endurance racing, and the why factor is arguably the biggest mental hurdle of all. Once you’ve overcome it; once your why is clear, so becomes your path.
Recognising that your why can change throughout your journey, and your ability to be open to that change, is also important to consider.
Take this coaching example of an athlete in her mid-50’s, with minimal endurance history. Her why was to see if she could finish an Ironman. Her coach got her swim and bike to a standard whereby she could walk the entire marathon and still cross the finish line in under 17 hours. Four months out from race day he told her she didn’t need to do any more running. Confused, she asked him for an explanation. The athlete was still projecting her original why, but when strategically challenged by her coach to re-evaluate, she realised her why had changed. She now wanted to run the whole marathon and see what she was truly capable of.
Certainly, this story is not unique. The desire to discover one’s ultimate capabilities is what attracts so many athletes to endurance racing in the first place.
“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.” ― David McCullough Jr.
For many athletes, it’s not until the finish line that they realise it was never about crossing that line, but it was about the journey in the lead up to race day. In endurance racing, the most enjoyment comes from the grind of that journey and to be successful as an endurance athlete, you need to get solace and fulfilment from that grind. The early morning wake ups, runs in the pouring rain, solo hours on the bike, missed work drinks and everything in between – that’s the real deal. If you have a very clear understanding of your why, you’ll be able to look back on these experiences and the journey as a whole with warm nostalgia instead of complete resentment. If your why is clear, then the reward comes from the journey itself.
So what about metric gains? Aren’t they important too? In short, yes, they absolutely are. However, if your motivation is fuelled purely by a desire for metric gains, then the journey isn’t going to be enjoyable and you’re not going to get the most out of it either. Reflecting on a range of T:Zero athletes from years past, those who have seen the most improvement in metric gains over a short period of time are those who in their souls have embraced the grind of the journey. So, when they arrived at the start line, the result didn’t really matter. Whilst they wanted a good outing, regardless of the outcome on race day, they’d already won. Finishing the race within their perceived achievable timeframe was just the cherry on top. The finish line? It was just the view.
Throughout your triathlon journey (as is true in life itself) it’s important to take a step back and keep perspective along the way. Think about your journey not as yourself as an individual, toiling away alone, but rather a collaborative effort – family and friends, your workplace, coach and so forth – all these people are supporting and encouraging you; helping and willing you forward. They are your personal ‘A-team’. Stepping back and realising you’re just one part of a bigger picture to which so many people are contributing (and making sacrifices for) helps to remove the “woe is me” factor, allowing you to focus on the task at hand with absolute clarity. If you’re not prepared to put in the effort and your why is not clear, then you’re not only wasting your own time, but the time of your support crew too.
Anyone can find a coach or an online program to get them (in questionable forms of readiness) to the start line of an Ironman. But if you can find a coach who really instills in you the understanding that it is so much more than crossing a finish line, encourages you to revel in the journey; one that will expose your greatest weaknesses and push your physical and mental limits beyond what you ever thought possible? Then you’ve hit the jackpot.
So, if you happen to find yourself on Struggle Street or hitting ‘snooze’ far too often, instead of searching for a superficial fix, take some time to sit down and reconsider what’s ultimately driving you.
Remember, it’s okay for your why to change. It’s good to continually reassess your motivations throughout your journey. But if you’re not prepared to have these conversations with yourself and put some effort into your mental game, then come the finish line (if you even make it there), crossing it may very well leave you feeling unfulfilled and longing, wishing you enjoyed that journey more and perhaps wondering why you didn’t.
Feel free to share your ‘why’ with us in the comments below, we’d love to know! What drives you?
Having competed in the sport of triathlon for well over a decade now, I like to think of myself as a relatively seasoned triathlete. Despite this, I regularly suffer from the most debilitating race day nerves, induced, I’m certain, by my tendency to over-analyse almost every aspect of my life.
According to the experts, pre-race anxiety is a completely normal occurrence and, if managed correctly, can help you race faster by getting that adrenaline flowing. But there’s a fine line between pre-race butterflies and being hunched over in transition, heaving with your head between your legs (aka me, Noosa Triathlon circa 2012, 2013, 2015 et. al.). Yes, controlled nerves can be good, but the kind that completely sap all energy from your body? Not so much.
The following tips for tackling race day nerves have been tried, tested and suggested by some of the best in the business.
If you find yourself suffering from unhealthy pre-race nerves, try putting some of these tips into practice – they might just be your ticket to a more relaxed race day.
1. Be honest with yourself and trust in the training
Nothing makes me more nervous than greeting the start line knowing I have not put 100% into my training. Conversely, nothing makes me calmer than greeting the start line knowing I’ve prepared to the best of my ability.
Remember those days you ran in the rain, swam in the dark and opted out of a very enticing sleep-in? Now is their time to shine!
Trust in the training you’ve done, set realistic race expectations and be confident that your T:Zero Multisport coach has prepared you as best they can. Having trust in your coach and knowing within yourself you’ve given it everything can go a long way to calming that nervous beast within.
Know your plan, be unwaveringly confident in your preparation and stick to it.
Visualise yourself going through the motions – from race morning preparations all the way through transition set-up, swim start, bike, run and my personal favourite - the finishing chute!
Not just handy to employ on race day itself, visualisation is great to practice regularly in training before race day rolls around. Every training session is an opportunity to visualise - race morning, race start, transitions and crossing that finish line.
When race day dawns, having that familiarity and focus will make it feel (almost) like just another training day.
3. Get organised
Depending on the location and type of race, arriving a day or so beforehand for smaller, local events or more if we’re talking long-distance, provides a good opportunity to settle in and familiarise yourself with the local area, race HQ and the course itself.
If you can, take the opportunity to do some race course reconnaissance – ride (part of) or drive the bike course, jog part of the run course and do some easy swim course laps in the day(s) leading up to your race. Alternatively, if you live close by, make sure you train part (or all) of the course regularly.
Familarise yourself with the race day schedule, transition opening/closing times and any specific race requirements to alleviate unnecessary stress, so you can save that energy for the race itself!
Also, think about booking your accommodation early - perhaps close to the start line (but not too close) and take into consideration the location of any support requirements you might need such as bike mechanics and masseuses etc.
4. Meditate … or just breathe!
For a sure-fire way to destress, there’s nothing better than a solid meditation session. But if the thought of finding your zen in a sea of nervous pre-race chatter seems impossible, employing a simple breathing technique might just do the trick.
Try “3,4,5”. Breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 5 seconds and repeat (I know you just did it, but do it again for good measure).
This little technique has been instrumental in calming my nerves and lowering my heart rate during periods of peak anxiety, and best of all it’s so easy to remember. If this one doesn’t float your boat, there are plenty of other breathing techniques around. Find the one that suits you best and … breathe.
5. Listen to Music
Listening to music can provide a wonderful and easy distraction to stop you getting too worked up by what’s going on around you – particularly during transition set up.
Music can help to relax you and headphones provide a great buffer to drown out the nervous chatter of other athletes and act as a deterrent for unnecessary interruptions.
Keep your music light and fun. I like to listen to the same music I’ve trained with over the months leading up to race day, making sure a couple of key favourites that really lift me up are on high rotation.
6. Use Mantras
Effective mantras address what you want to feel as opposed to the adversity you are trying to overcome. When you feel as though doubts and distractions are getting the better of you, a mantra can help to keep you calm and focussed on the task at hand.
Numerous studies have shown that positive self-talk leads to overall increased performance and an increase in athlete self-confidence. Mantras are great at directing your mind away from negative thoughts and towards more positive ones that can help you transcend the pain or anxiety you are (inevitably) experiencing.
Choose a mantra that’s short, positive, instructive, and full of action words. For example, “Strong, Light, Smooth” was my mantra for Ironman marathons.
Test your mantra during training to find one that works for you.
7. Pre-Race Rituals
Developing a pre-race ritual is a great way to help you bring a sense of normalcy, familiarity and comfort to race morning. As with visualisation (refer Tip #2), the best time to create and polish your pre-race ritual is during training.
Your ritual can be anything from eating the same meal the day before and on race morning, (the classic) flat lay of race gear on your bed before packing it up or the order in which you go through the motions on race morning - body marking, transition set up, stretching and so on. Your ritual can be whatever you want, as long as you find it effective, calming and meaningful.
8. Remember your ‘Why’
When all else fails? Make sure to remember your ‘Why’. As cliché as it sounds, at the end of the day, we love this sport and we do this sport because it’s FUN.
Training, racing, logistics and irrational fears aside – what’s the one thing that lights the fire within, for you?
Take some time to stop and reflect on your journey, your progress and your ‘Why’.
As always, there’s rarely a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution and what works for one athlete may be completely useless to another. So please, take the above suggestions with a grain of salt.
Try testing some of these techniques during training and on your ‘B’ and ‘C’ races to find what works for you. Come race day, you’ll be sufficiently equipped to transform those pre-race nerves into excitement and measured anticipation.
What are your own tips and tricks for dealing with pre-race nerves? Let us know in the comments below!
By Coach Lisa Spink
So we are all now well into the year, we have poured over endless race calendars, finally locked in our goals for 2018, paid the race entry fees, booked the flights and accommodation BUT now what!!?
Now it is time to put a plan in action.
If you really want to achieve your best you need a plan that is made for your lifestyle, your family, your work and well simply put - YOU. That is where TZero comes into its own – with fully individualized, custom programs with 24 / 7 access to your coach and you can be anywhere in the world.
Now you have a program and coach you can trust to support you in achieving your goals BUT the job is far from done. I like to say there are three A’s to “Living Your Potential” and here they are.
A – Attendance. Without doubt the key to success is training consistency. Looking at the current world ranking, stalking your competitors on social media, researching the wattage of the Tour De France winners or finding the latest and greatest gadgets to add to your racing kit can all seem important, but nothing is more important then getting the training done. I am not saying this is easy, endurance training is tough, it takes dedication, commitment and sheer determination – but for most of us that is what draws us to it. There will be times when you are smashed and the thought of that 5 km swim set, 6 hour ride or 2 hour run is just too much to handle - this is where the 5 minute motivation trick comes into play. When times are tough, instead of looking at the total session, thinking it is all too hard, ignoring the alarm, rolling over in bed and feeling guilty all day because you missed a session, just look at the first 5 minutes. Put your training gear on, get to your training venue and complete the first 5 minutes of the session. You will find once you get through the first 5 minutes more often then not the rest of the session will roll on and you will have gone from completely missing a session to attending and completing at least a large portion if not the whole session. Attendance equals consistency which equals results and every session sessions starts with the first 5 minutes.
A – Application. Whilst turning up is the first step towards success, it is really what you do when you get there that takes you to the next level. As TZero coaches we spend a lot of time on planning your season, your macrocycles, your training weeks and then right down to the durations and intensities of each set. As one of the head coaches commented to me, if an athlete is doing 10 sessions a week and does an extra 5 minutes each session, that is an extra 50 minutes per week of training, similarly if you cut sessions short. Adding or missing parts of sessions, increasing or decreasing prescribed intensities and changing the times / days of sessions can all dramatically affect the outcome of the training program… In a negative way! That’s why you have access to your TZero coach so they can make decisions on any changes that may need to be made for whatever reason. This not only applies to duration and intensity, it applies to skills and intentions. The greater you hold yourself accountable to performing skills during the sessions the greater your success. Application is all about performing each session as it is prescribed with the greatest amount of purpose possible.
A – Attitude. This is the game changer between the good and the great. Listen to yourself when you talk and you will get an insight into your attitude. What do you relate to?
I want to achieve X or I can achieve X?
I have do X session or I will do X session?
I was (insert excuse here ie sick / injured / the training program was wrong / had a mechanical / weather was bad, watch / computer / power meter didn’t work) so I could of gone faster / finished on the podium / got a qualifying slot or I did everything I could on race day and I will keep learning and getting better.
When you listen to the greatest athletes in the world, their attitude center’s around
I can ……………………..
I will ……………………..
I did ……………………..
You are in control of your own attitude – just like swimming, riding and running – keep training your attitude towards - I can…, I will… I did …….
Good luck to everyone in 2018 – “Live Your Potential”
Coach Lisa Spink is one of the best endurance coaches you have never heard of! With over 20 years experience and incredible stable of results, we are super proud to call her a T:Zero Multisport Coach.
An amazing collection of training and racing advice from the T:Zero Multisport coaches- with the occasional guest blogger! Read this blog to help you live your potential!