Mental preparation

Rainbow in the clouds
If my last entry talked about distraction after a very long preparation period for the biggest race of the year, I thought I’d add to that something about my mental preparation for it.
For almost everyone at age group level racing, the approach of the biggest race of the year is a nervous time. The really big races commonly take a lot of organisation in triathlon, and there are many things that can go wrong. That’s one area of worry. The level of effort and pain that you will likely endure is another thing that people worry about. Things that can go wrong are a big concern (there are common themes to night time dreams in the run up to a big race, like forgetting your shoes or getting lost) before or during the race. For many, the result of the race is a big source of stress and worry.

It’s very easy to get lost in all the detail that goes into the preparation for the big race, and to forget why you’re doing it. Why did you decide to work towards this? What did you want to get out of it all those months (or years) ago when the original thought popped into your mind? For many you hear on race day, “oh why do we do this to ourselves?”
Isn’t that the trick? Think back to why you put yourself there, and relish in the fact that you got there. If your training has gone well you are well prepared. If your training has not gone well (and it’s quite normal for original training plans to get knocked to the wayside as things happen during training/life) you will race with what you have. But you go there, to the start line with all your stuff. Well done! The race is likely to be the “easy” bit! This mimics what I tell medical students: if you’ve done the work the exam should be a chance to show what you know. There’s no need to worry. If you haven’t done the work and you want to pass, worry. But it won’t help.
I had a lot of worry about the organisation of getting there, staying in London, the costs, and the damage to my bike. I’ve now got all the train tickets, the hotel is booked, the kids are excited, and I have something to ride. I have to worry about catching those trains in plenty of time, but I’ve practiced that in the past (using multiple alarms to make sure I get up, packing well in advance, travelling “light” and whatnot) so it should be less of a worry. I’ve demonstrated to myself in the past that this is usually not a problem. If I screw up, the credit card will bear the brunt, but I will still be able to race.
Equipment: if something breaks or fails there will be support, from either the GB Team, from the many companies at the race expo, or from shops in London. Not so much to worry about there again, except potential costs.
Broken bike
I’ve done the work in training, so I don’t have much to worry about there. I still have to get the final preparation right and make sure that everything is strong, but I have experience at that and it usually works out fine. But nobody sneeze on me. Please. I’ve got a tight set of right hamstrings that don’t want to loosen up, but I’ve got almost a week to work on them still.
The final steps to removing worry and replacing it with excitement and a sense of looking forward to the race are in planning the race itself, and using process goals rather than results goals. In doing this I can remove a bit of pressure from myself, which I think is only placed there by me. Many people want me to do well, but that’s because they’re interested in what I do and supportive. Neither they nor my sponsors feel that I have to perform in a particular way. I’m extremely unlikely to be near the medals this year, so I can focus on my own performance. There are things I must do in the swim, things I must do during the bike phase, and then things I must do during the run. If I meet those process-oriented goals I will perform to the best of my ability. If one phase of the race goes poorly I will do my best to get to the next phase, and then perform that phase to meet the goals I set.
Keep it simple, keep it achievable. Age group non-drafting triathlon is almost a time trial race, so I can only control what I do. What everyone else does is almost irrelevant during the race, right up to the finish line and the results sheet.
After the race I may learn a few things and choose to do things differently next time, but right now those are not things that I can anticipate.
Wow, I’m really looking forward to this! I don’t care what the weather does, as long as the organisation is good and I get to the start line this should be an awesome long weekend of international racing.
Why did I want to do this? One of the reasons was that not many things made me nervous or excited any more. International age group triathlon racing ticks both those boxes. And it makes me smile.
Annabel cycling