My head said this recently and I’m now working on it! How? What can you do when a challenge seems really big, maybe too big? Time to find some strategies. But if you don’t go for challenges that are new and possibly unattainable are you really pushing your boundaries and discovering yourself?
Firstly what is the issue –
I managed five qualifications out of seven races for the European Multisport Championships in Bilbao in September 2022. Interesting and, yes, I am proud to have achieved that. I’m at the top end of my 55-59 age group so podiums are unlikely. If anyone finishes four Championship events in the week they are awarded a special medal and ‘Legend’ status. So the aim is Legend status. Time to ring the changes, expand my comfort zones and hopefully have some fun.
That was fine until I had a brush with Covid at the end of March followed by a patchy recovery at best and some races where I got results but went very deep. A mid season two week break gave me time to look at the Bilbao events. And my head went ‘HOLY ****!’.
Out of all the Championships to choose this has an enormous amount of climb across my races with even the Standard distance duathlon sporting 15km of climb out of 40km, with a max gradient of 14% and a total of 700m of ascent. Similar to the Shap/Orton route for anyone who lives in South Lakes. And as for the cross events – duathlon and triathlon on mountain bikes, lets not go there.
Ok, let’s calm down.
Step one –
Control the controllables. One of these is the state of my head. Remember self fulfilling prophecies. If I believe I can do it then I can.
List, and acknowledge the strengths.
Discover what the weaknesses are and then the solutions. Ignore passivity.
Minimise the weaknesses and use the strengths.
Strengths – Big race experience, I’ve printed my ITU record and stuck it on my wall.
Support from lots of people, a great team behind me. A solid swim. Good nutrition and use of supplements. We have already visited the city so I can visualise where we are going. I have an excellent coach who knows me well. I can ride a bike, I’ve had lots of practice. I can plan thoroughly for races and I can stick to a plan in the heat of a race. I live in the Lake District, a definite advantage when faced with hills! And some others – they are on the wall.
|Head||Find a sports psychologist. Partly out of curiosity. Until my masseuse suggested I just needed to apply what I know. So here we are, DIY sports psychology.|
|MTB skills||Build confidence and find some skills input. Luckily Kendal Cycle Club chose this moment to offer MTB skills. Thanks. Remind myself what I can do, look at pictures of positive trips out.|
|Cycling hills||Ride them. Also change my cassette to make it easier. Remember that I have a huge advantage living in the Lake District.|
|Running hills||Gym, run hills, run drills and cadence work. Again remember what I’ve done and that I live in the Lake District.|
|Breathing||Still not perfect after Covid. Remember yoga practices , access my parasympathic nervous system and continue to eat healthily and sleep long.|
|Negatively impacted by bike accidents to people I know||Limit facebook and leave when people start conversations about falls off bikes.|
|Overtraining||Listen to my coach!|
|That is enough!|
What is my WHY? In triathlon in general this is ‘to be the best I can be’, which sounds a bit clichéd but it’s true. How good a result can I get if everything comes together is the overall quest. Sometimes now when I race the aim is to try to win, to place or to qualify for a Championship. So I realise and now acknowledge that the aims for this week of racing are to have fun, to learn more and to finish four events within the time limits. This has taken a deal of sub conscious pressure off, it doesn’t matter how I do if those are met.
It is always worth asking what is the worst that will happen if things don’t go to plan. It is only a race, the people who really care only care that I’m happy and healthy. Remember this is FUN. My mortgage doesn’t depend on my performance.
But not doing ‘well’ is a threat to our identity and the closer our results and our sporting activities are tied to our identities the bigger the threat. So our core values and identity are feeling scared. It is normal to be nervous, it indicates we care, and acknowledges this threat to our identity. To help minimize the impact the key is TRUST.
TRUST – my training.
Look for evidence in the training to know I am ready. Today I rode hill reps at a higher power than I thought I could. Things are starting to look up. Trust my coach. Mine has got decades of experience and has now coached me for about five years so he knows me well and we have had some great results.
TRUST – myself as an athlete.
I have years of experience at European and World level and a strong endurance background. I have five years of consistency and know how to be uncomfortable. I know how to read RPE verses HR and power. I know how to recover. I know how to focus and how to race tired.
TRUST – who I am as a human.
I have gone through many experiences where I have used skills to help. I have planned many things and they have worked. I have consistently looked at things in life and strived to be the best I can be.
Bring all this TRUST into the pre-race prep, go forwards and BELIEVE.
(With thanks to Coach Cast podcasts from Training Peaks and Roger Shearer. Also worth a look are the books ‘Performing Under Pressure’ by Josephine Perry and ‘The Brave Athlete, Calm the F**k Down’ by Simon Marshall and Lesley Paterson)