The context to this article is that Noosa is days away, HB100 is a little over a week away, and Head Coach Mark “the Godfather” Turner has asked me to put pen to paper on how to improve mental strength for these races. After a few brief minutes of contemplation, I’ve decided against it.
My reasoning is this, you can’t develop mental strength from the article you’ve crammed in days before a race; there are no corners to cut; no technology that will instil it; and unlike the 6:32am “Noosa premium wave start”, there is no extra fee you can pay to guarantee you will have it. In what I consider to be perhaps the most beautiful aspect of our sport, not even the lightest, most expensive, advanced wetsuit/bike/running shoe will compensate for a lack of it – if it isn’t there you are exposed, it is a matter of time before things come undone.
Mental strength is a wall you started building before the 12/16/20 week campaign started. Every time you made the right decision, pushed that extra 1% during hard training, held back during easy training, stretched properly before going to bed, reached for the water over soft drink, salad over a burger and recovered appropriately, you added a brick to the wall.
Through your training and particularly just before a race, you need to surround yourself with those on the same wavelength as you. Try to create a positive and relaxed atmosphere and ensure you remain calm and off your feet leading in to the race. If you are approaching your key race for the season be prepared to leave your comfort zone, because in racing, just like in life, our most memorable performances don’t come when we are in safe waters. They come from responding well when we are under fire, when the bombs are dropping all around us. In all races nothing goes 100% to plan. Victories rarely come from a perfectly implement plant; it is about re-action to the circumstances as they develop in real time. This is your time to shine – I hope you’ve built your wall.
For the rest of us who may not be approaching the coming race in the finest of form. There is a lot to be gained from this too. You cannot maintain 100% fitness all the time, you will burn out. Enjoy the weekend for what it is – a celebration of our health, our (reasonable level of) fitness and friendships in one of the most beautiful places in the world. For me there is also something very relaxing about approaching a race without the burden of great expectations. It allows for a level of relaxation that you don’t experience when you throw the tri-suit on in anger. Enjoy yourself and allow the seed of motivation to be planted that will become a forest of preparation before your #1 race, whenever that might be.
For those who might be approaching their first Noosa or long distance triathlon this may well be one of the greatest weekends of your life. If you are anything like me you won’t be the same after it. Enjoy every second.
Before my first Noosa Tri I had a brainwave that by slightly opening my gels and taping them to my bike I’d ensure I’d be able to quickly access them during the ride. Given that I didn’t run the idea by anyone, of course, the result was the world’s stickiest Giant TCR Advanced. I raise this to demonstrate two points:
- The number one rule of racing is don’t try anything new on race day – stick to what you know; and
- As a squad we have an infinite wealth of knowledge and experience. If you are somewhat new to the squad and are unsure of anything, please don’t hesitate to ask someone that’s been doing it longer than you, (to their detriment) triathletes love telling others their opinion on how to do something – just ask.
My final point and take home message from this article is this, whatever you take away from the upcoming race do not let that be the end of the story. If things go well or if things go bad, if this is a race you have been preparing for all year or a last minute decision to strut your stuff, it is a starting point on which you can build the next chapter. Shortly after the post-race party you should start looking forward and chasing the next challenge and building a new wall. For everyone this should involve talking to your coach about the next event and putting a plan together in preparation for that race.
For the long course guys and girls HOTW, Melbourne IM, Cairns IM and Cairns 70.3 will be here before we know it. I think that the next few weeks will be very important for those that want to get the most out of themselves in these races. My aim as one of the Long Course coaches is to provide a fun few months of training for the remainder of the year where we will start implementing good habits that will lead to an abundance of mental strength come race day. From the new year onwards the heat will be on to create a new and better you.
Tim Osborne, the Godfather and I have been putting plans together for some great sessions in the next few months along with a separate suggested Long Course program that athletes can chose to base their own programs around and obtain quick feedback and answers specific to the demands of long course training. If you are contemplating a long course race in 2015 I encourage you to speak to one or all of us over the coming weekend.
Good luck to all, and enjoy your race. I’ll close with some of the best advice I have ever received and something that will pay dividends if this warm weather keeps up on race day:
In the first half of the race don’t be an idiot;
In the second half don’t be a sook