What Message do we Pedal?
I recently wrote about the chain reaction that led to me participating in triathlons, and the opportunity to represent Australia at the Para-triathlon sprint World Championships in Rotterdam on the weekend. I learnt many lessons from the race – one being that it is important to know, “what message we pedal.”
A message that was pedalled to me ten months ago was that it would be “impossible” to be selected to represent Australia at the 2017 Para-Triathlon World Championships. I of course didn’t back-pedal from these comments, but just put the foot down and got on with our goal of qualifying for the 2017 World Championships.
I increased my training cadence across swimming, cycling, and running, creating an internal message of, what if? My teams’ support and commitment to cranking up this output achieved good results in our performances over the next eight months, and selection for the 2017 World Championships. The earlier “impossible” messages which were being pedalled had gone a complete circle, and were derailed.
Our arrival into Rotterdam was met with very cold, wet and windy conditions. The first training session on the bike and run course was a good opportunity to experience the many sections of cobble stones and many corners on the bike course.
Our only opportunity for a swim session was in a 25m open air pool, and with the water temperature at 16 degrees, and air temperature 12 degrees, it was a mental and physical challenge. I reminded myself of the many 5:00am swim sessions I had completed during winter, at my local swimming pool (Yeronga), when the air temperature was six degrees.
The swim and bike course familiarisation was held in horrific weather conditions the day before the race. I had many internal messages being pedalled through my thoughts, as I swam through the angry chop of waves. Our cycle over the bike course in cold drenching rain magnified the many sections of cobblestones, and sharp corners we would have to negotiate throughout the course.
The morning of race day, I was pedalling many thoughts, the unpleasant weather conditions, our race plan and processes, equipment checks and transition set up, race registration, pre-race energy intake, toilet, and race warm up. The very cold and wet conditions delayed the race start by an hour, which increased the speed of the messages that were being pedalled through my thoughts.
The only thought I had while walking to the jetty for the start of the triathlon was how I would feel for the first five seconds of the race. I blocked out any thoughts of the rain, wind, and cold water. Our start of the race was an explosion of energy with the single thought of getting to the front. After the first 5 seconds, I refocused my thoughts onto each swim stroke, my body position in the water, and tension on the swim tether, with my guide, Dmitri. I had no room for any thoughts on how far we had gone, or where my other competitors were in the water, as these would only be distractions.
I contained my thoughts to tiny pieces of the triathlon, going from the swim to the transition area, to the cycle, to the second transition, and then onto the run. Each internal message had to be clear on what I had to focus on, at that moment of the triathlon.
We placed ninth overall, and I was the third totally blind athlete competitor, which was a great result at a World Championships after only 20 months in the sport.
The internal messages in triathlons are very different to my past pursuits as a Paralympic distance runner. While the intensity, energy output and goal of winning are the same, our internal communications are structured and pedalled with a different cadence.
Pre Race Nerves – Dealing with them positively
Leading into any major race I encourage athletes to spend time visualising their race day performance. Not from a time perspective but more on how they want to feel. What do they want to feel like? Feeling strong, being patient, positive and confident in their physical ability. Overcoming the challenges as they arise and being in the present at all time during the race.
Planting the emotional and mental seeds in your body to take your performance to another level. It will be hard, there will be challenges however if you have spent time preparing mentally for those challenges then you will more than likely still achieve the result you were wanting.
Getting in touch with your emotional self is the true art of racing; which in my opinion is beating that evil little voice in your head that will rear its ugly presence either before or during the race.
This exercise is especially effective on race day when it come to dealing with pre-race nerves. That funny feeling you get in your stomach. The adrenaline that you feel running through your body and that nervous excitement that takes over you as you start to prepare for the ultimate battle. Yes it is the ultimate battle against yourself. Not your competitors, not the course, not the distance but you. Only you and that little voice that says you’re not good enough.
Pre race nerves are a good thing. It shows that the race means something to you. So rather than seeing it as a negative turn it into a positive. Accept the feelings and acknowledge they are there.
As an example say this, “I’m nervous, that’s okay that means I am ready to race.” Compared to, I’m so nervous and I don’t know if I can do this.” Embrace the feelings as they hit you and don’t waste precious nervous energy fighting them.
If you start a race in a positive, confident and strong frame of mind then more than likely that is how you will perform during the race. Strong, confident and positive which is what you have visualised leading into the race.