4/19/14

Embrace your competition on race day


In one day, all the training prep will be done for St. Croix 70.3  and in 15 days we will put months of training to the test. 

We are SO excited for our race-cation!


Here's a great recap on the race, if you are not aware of the beauty and the beast of this island. 

When it comes to racing, every athlete will have his/her own expectations for the day. Competition is likely the driving force as to why many athletes enjoy pushing their body to the limits, in hopes of placing on the podium, qualifying for a national or world event, having a PR or beating another competitor or two that has been on the radar.

For all athletes, I hope that there's enjoyment in racing, regardless of the competitive spirit. Crossing the finish line should always be the ultimate goal for you can never take for granted what the human body can do.

I encourage you to embrace a competitive mindset to help you take your fitness to the next level. As I mentioned above, I never want you to lose focus on having fun with your body but with the time, money and effort that you dedicate to training, it's important to me that you see progress with your fitness and you can show it off on race day. 

Many athletes let competition get the best of them on race day, the eve of race day, race week and even well before race day. Nerves, anxiety, fear, self-doubt.....the mind can be a wonderful asset to your moving body but many times, performance is negatively affected because of too much perceived stress. I'm sure you can think of the last time you were super duper nervous about a race and then as soon as you started, the nerves subsided and when you crossed the finish line you thought "why was I so nervous, that was so much fun!"

Tune-up races, test sets and group workouts are great ways to put a little pressure on yourself before the big race. Because you have an audience (both in person and your followers "on line") on race day, you don't only feel pressure from your own expectations but also the pressure you feel from others, that you put on yourself. 

Do you have fun doubting your own potential as an athlete as you look around on race day and instantly assume that she is fitter than you, he is faster than you, she will beat you out of the water, he will pass you on the bike, she will run you down, he will win the race? Maybe you don't do this exact type of self-talk but isn't is so much easier to say to yourself "I am going to rock this race because I have put in the work for this very special day!!"

The thoughts in your mind may play ping-pong between positive and negative and this nervous energy is totally normal and accepted. Whenever I chat with Gloria (my mental coach) before a race and talk about my pre-race worries as a competitive athlete, she always tells me that it's ok to be nervous, it means I am ready.  

I really love competition. In every triathlon, there has always been someone behind me or in front of me at some point in the race and I enjoy using another athlete (or more) to help me discover a new limit to my racing ability as well as to keep me in check so that I pace my own race.
  
It's very important that you always embrace the competition at your race and to avoid telling yourself that you are slow, out of shape or will never be that good. If you trained like you wanted to train, you are ready. If your training didn't go as plan, trust your current level of fitness and skills that you can use for the best race possible on that race day.

Remember that everyone who stands at the same start line as you, likely has similar thoughts of fear of failure, doubt, skills, fitness level or confidence. It's all a matter of how you visualize success and set your mind up for success.


Every athlete needs competition. 

If you arrived to every one of your races and knew that you would win the race every time, it's likely that you would never challenge yourself in training in order to make changes in order to become stronger, faster or more powerful. 

And don't fear being beat. It's inspiring to watch someone have a great race day and even better, her/his success can fuel your next few weeks of training!

But show up to every race and feel frustrated or upset with your current level of fitness and you will likely achieve burn-out rather quickly in your racing career. 

The key to maximizing your potential as an athlete is to always stay present in the moment when you are racing. 


Before I did IM Lake Placid in 2013, Gloria told me to not freak-out when someone in my age group would pass me. Since I was racing for a Kona slot, I was 100% dedicated to chasing the competition and not a time. She told me to acknowledge that at that moment, they were having a great moment. This doesn't mean that I was having a bad moment or that I wasn't as good as the other girl but just to focus on myself, in the present moment. Not only did this strategy work to help me qualify for Kona but I also achieved a personal best time of 10:43 on a very difficult course, after racing for 140.6 miles. 


Whereas in IM Lake Placid I embraced the competition that I was racing against in order to help me challenge myself within my upper limits of my comfort zone (stepping outside of your comfort zone, even for a short time, in an IM is not a wise strategy - pace your own race), I had a different mindset in Kona for the Ironman World Championship

Since I had already done the work to qualify for Kona and considering this was my third trip to the big island (thank you body!), I raced for only myself as I acknowledged that I was racing with the top endurance triathletes from all around the world. Although I knew my fitness coming off of IM Lake Placid, as well as my 12 weeks of training between both IM's, was a green light letting me know that if I raced smart I could possible achieve another best time (or performance), I went into this race without caring about the place outcome (which is unlike competing in an Ironman when you want to qualify for Kona) and instead, just stayed focused with my performance for every mile of the race. 10 hours and 37 minutes later, I cross the finish line with a PR and the most incredible feeling that I not only raced smart but really competed well with myself. 

As you gear-up for your upcoming race, embrace the competition. 

Recognize the pressure that you put on yourself and use it as you trust your abilities. You are not arrogant, you are confident. 
Trust your fitness, trust your plan, trust your nutrition and trust your mind and body. 

You have the opportunity to reach extrordinary performances in your racing season. 
Never lose sight on the things you love about race day, before, during and after. 
The pre-race jitters, the art of getting your bib number marked on your body (or pinning the number on your shirt), the flow of positive and negative thoughts throughout the race, the cheers from the spectators, the support from your fellow athletes and volunteers and of course, that feeling when you cross the finish line, feeling achieved and oh, that post-race ache that makes you walk funny (you know you love it) and sharing race stories with your competitors post race. 

I know you can race strong, so don't convince yourself otherwise. 
Regardless if you are racing this weekend or in the next few months or maybe even next year, confidence comes from within no matter who is around you. 
Because there will always be someone faster or slower than you on race day, fuel your competitive fire by those who are having a great day and be positive with your thoughts as you also have a great race day performance.