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No spark when you need it in your race

16 May 2014 One Comment

I cant count the number of guys who over the years have not raced an Ironman at the speed their training suggested they should. There’s all sorts of reasons for their unsatisfying performances.

Some have simply built the day up into something to be feared. It’s not to be feared, it must be respected, but there’s nothing to fear. I have stood beside a young athlete waiting to go down to the swim start, maybe 20min before race start, and his heart rate monitor was showing 126bpm. I looked at mine and it was 55bpm. This was his first Ironman race, but he was seriously worried about what he was about to face. He didn’t race to his potential. In fact he was about 90min slower than I expected.

I’ve seen others affect their outcome by over analysing every part of the race to the point of becoming a slave to “the figures”. I’ve found that focussing on the figures too closely in racing can actually make achieving the right figures extremely difficult. We’re all different, some of us work in very conservative jobs, where absolutely no risks are ever taken. Watching the figures too closely can cause the athlete to become too mechanical and lose the freedom of movement from which great performances come.

Another common method which can cause a disappointing result, is thinking of what others are doing. Focussing outside of your own square meter cannot help what’s going on inside your square meter. There’s only one persons result you can influence on race day, focus on yourself.

In fact too much thinking will undermine your performance. You’re not there to think, you’re there to swim as efficiently as possible. Ride as efficiently as you can, and get off and run as efficiently as possible. The best results come from applying 90% effort all day long, always being able to go harder if you wanted to, but choosing not to. The 90% effort plan often turns out the best outcome.

Another method which I have seen athletes employ in their training which produces unsatisfying results is the constant testing method. Where every session the athlete is focussed on the outcome. Every session has to reach certain targets, speeds, power figures etc. Often these athletes have spent too much emotional energy driving themselves to reach these targets, and on race day they lack the reserves of mental energy to drive themselves over the last couple of hours when it really counts.

So many athletes overlook the need to be mentally fresh for an Ironman race. One of the strategies likely to get you to the start line without the mental freshness necessary to perform, is starting the build up too early. Experience has shown that the ideal build up time for an Ironman race is 12-16 weeks. It’s OK to train for a year with the Ironman as the long term goal but we need to be investing our mental energy into intermediate goals, so that when we reach 16 weeks out we “turn on” our focus to the main game.

It’s more important to be mentally prepared and a little underdone physically, than the opposite scenario. There are too many slaves to their training diaries. No-one has ever asked to see your training diary when you step up onto the podium. In the month before a major race it’s real important the have your relationships running smoothly. If your partner is making you feel guilty for training, you’re unlikely to do the job well on race day. The last month is a crucial time to get “your house in order”, promise whatever you have to, skip a training session to support your supporters. It’ll pay off to have a happy home, and a happy workplace, when the pressure is on you’ll have no background “noise”.

Tinley once said, “Endurance is a state of mind”. Arrive at the start line with a healthy, uninjured body, a strong purpose and a fresh mind, and you’ll race to your potential.

One Comment »

  • Jessie Slade said:

    Another great read. It was really nice to see your smile out there Al! I enjoy reading your articles very much!

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