10/13/17

IM Kona Race Week - Mistake #5

RACING UNDER PRESSURE

For many months, Ironman World Championship participants have been dreaming about race day. And now, with only one more sleep left to go, excitement suddenly turns into nerves and a calm mind suddenly goes into overdrive.

When you are racing against the best athletes in the world at the Ironman World Championship, it's easy to feel intimidated about everyone around you who is in the best shape ever and ready to perform at the top of their physical game.

But don't let this psych you out.

Athletic excellence on race day comes when your mind is as strong as your body. Don't let yourself get intimidated by the other athletes around you or by the challenging course. You earned your right to be at the start line and you know what you are getting yourself into. Trust yourself that you have the capability to reach the finish line. 

Here are my simple tips to help you perform under pressure while making the most of your Ironman World Championship experience:

  1. Swim - Whereas most sport psychologists would recommend staying extremely focused before the start by tuning out any outside distractions, the IM Kona swim start is something that should be enjoyed. Take it all in as this is a moment to remember. When you see the cameras, scuba divers, helicopter, spectators, volunteers and Mike Reiley, all there to watch you start your Ironman World Championship jouney, make sure to take a few minutes and really soak it all in.

  2. Bike - As most Ironman athletes know, you don't have to have a perfect race in order to have a great race. Make sure you have a plan for what you will do in every situation. Instead of worrying about what the winds will be like in Hawi or stressing about the possibility of a flat tire, equip yourself with the right mental tools of how you will handle anything that comes your way. Visualize different scenarios from all sections of the course so that come race day, you will feel prepared for whatever the Madame Pele gives you. And above all, never make assumptions or jump ahead in thoughts. Be proactive and processed driven. Remind yourself that you have trained the best that you could for the day and what's going to happen will happen - you can only control the controllables.


  3. Run - You are running on an island in the Ironman World Championship. Can life get any better?? When you are running on Ali'i drive with endless cheers giving you positive energy and when you are running on the Queen K and in and out of the energy lab, with the quiet roads of the island trying to such the energy out of you, make sure to enjoy the experience. The moment you stop caring is the moment that you give up on your dream. There's no reason why you can't run happy in an Ironman as this experience (even when you are suffering) as this experience is extremely special. You are not only blessed with the talent/luck/genetics/hard work ethic that helped you qualify but you also had the support of your family/work and the means to get to big island. Never lose your positive can-do attitude, no matter how much you are hurting or how dark of a place your mind goes into during the IM Kona marathon.


  4. Finish - The atmosphere near the finish line is unreal. With every foot strike forward to the magic red carpet, you will find the energy unlike anything that you have every experienced before in a triathlon event.

                                

    As you make your way on to Ali'i drive and run into the finish line chute, take it all in and don't let this special moment pass you by.


    Be sure to thank your body for what it has allowed you to do and no matter how your race went, be grateful for your experience to race on this iconic course with your healthy and strong body. 


And make sure to rock your finisher gear!!!
Be proud to wear your necklace and finisher medal - you earned it!


10/12/17

IM Kona Race Week - Mistake #4

RACING WITH A SPREADSHEET


Racing an Ironman triathlon is dynamic as there are so many variables that affect your performance. Some are within your control and others are out of your control. No matter how hard you trained, you will never feel fully prepared for everything that happens on race day. And in Kona, the unpredictable nature of the wind and heat make for an intimidating racing experience.

Going into the race with expectations and assumptions of how the day will go is just fine if that approach brings you confidence and excitement. But remind yourself that a great race day performance requires flexibility and adaptability.

With a spreadsheet, metric-obsessed mindset, it's easy to fail to reach athletic excellence on race day. Although it's the approach of many athletes, you can't go into an Ironman and expect your body to go on auto cruise for 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling and 26.2 miles of running by trying to hit certain paces/watts/speeds for 140.6 miles. The body wasn't designed to function like this. Additionally, from a physiological perspective, you can not hold the same effort, watts or pace for 140.6 miles - if you can, you are likely underperforming. To perform at your potential, you have to adjust as you go, through the high and low moments, hot, very hot, windy and very windy moments and by listening to your body as it relates to energy, fuel, hydration and mental focus. 

The goal of any Ironman athlete is to be great at not slowing down. In an effort to be great at not slowing down, you have to be constantly in-tune with your body signals. For many athletes, metrics are used to control a given output to avoid under/over racing. But a metric focused, spreadsheet approached racing plan typically hinders performance because it's very difficult to take care of yourself in the moment, when the mind is obsessed about hitting (or not hitting) a certain number. And when you can't follow your spreadsheet, you feel defeated.

As an athlete, you need to put all of your attention and focus into the present moment. A spreadsheet does not help you control everything that you will experience on race day. 

In any competitive situation (like the Ironman World Championship), a spreadsheet doesn't let you "race". When your brain gets caught up in non-constructive thinking (ex. thinking about the swim when you are on the bike or the bike when you are on the run) or if you start thinking that you are not meeting your expectations of what you think you should be doing, this mental chatter in your head can make it difficult to maintain focus and perspective. As an example, if you exit the water in Kona and see a time slower than what you anticipated, you may tell yourself that you are having a bad race. Same goes for the bike - if it's windy and you see a speed that is slower than what you have ever done before, you will struggle to stay focused with self-defeating thoughts.

It's important to make good decisions in the moment on race day - a spreadsheet can not do this for you. As an Ironman athlete, you must remain alert, focused and present, while constantly listening to your body and taking care of yourself. Because most athletes will struggle to meet metric goals on race day in Kona due to the unpredictable nature of the island, you may find yourself with great anxiety frustration and a sense of failure if you have a pacing and nutrition plan that you just can't keep up with on race day. 

I encourage you to go into the Ironman World Championship with a nutrition and pacing plan that reflects what is familiar to you and what you trained your body to do on race day. However, with this plan comes the understanding that you may need to adjust. You must adapt, stay processed-driven and focused throughout the entire race. If you can do this, you will find yourself having the best race performance possible by your body based on how well you managed what you were given on race day. 

10/11/17

IM Kona Race Week - Mistake #3



Body Image Dissatisfaction 



At Trimarni, we believe in setting a good example for our athletes by encouraging a healthy relationship with food and the body. Karel and I do not follow any extreme styles of eating, we don't restrict food/fuel in an effort to change body composition and we do not manipulate our diet in an effort to change our body image. Food is our fuel and our nourishment and we firmly believe that when the body is well fueled and well nourished, it's healthy. And a healthy body can perform far better than a body that may look fit but is not receiving the necessary nutrients and energy to perform.

Sadly, we live in a society and within a sport bubble that involves competitive leanness. Rather than seeing the body as the vehicle that gets you from the start to the finish line, many athletes are spending an entire season racing for a specific appearance/body fat percentage, assuming that leanness is a criteria for race day success.

Truth be told, in the sport of triathlon, specifically in the Ironman World Championship, the winner across the finish line is not always the leanest athlete. We still have inconclusive evidence that "leanness" directly correlates to athletic readiness and ability to performance in an Ironman, specifically because there are so many variables that can affect the body over 140.6 miles.

Your body image does not make you mentally stronger on race day.
Your body image does not make you immune to needing sport nutrition on race day.
Your body image does not mean that you won't fatigue or have low moments on race day.
Your body image does not mean that you won't have an equipment related issue on race day. 

Your body image does not mean that you will have endless energy on race day. 

So why do so many athletes focus on apperance over performance? 
You can't do much on race day with an underfueled/unhealthy body. 

As an athlete, your closest relationship in life will be to your body. Your body lets you do so much on a daily basis but you can never take for granted what your body lets you do on race day.  

On IM Kona race week, you should find your relationship with your body at its strongest. You should be thanking every part of your body every for what it's about to let you do on Saturday. You receive no athletic benefit in bashing your body, restricting carbohydrates, dehydrating yourself, wishing for a different body image or feeling intense pressure to quickly weigh less. Manipulating your diet on race week in an effort to change your body composition will only put you at risk for a race performance far below your athletic potential. 

Due to self-comparison and excessive media exposure that glorifies lean and toned athletic bodies in Kona, you may find yourself constantly criticizing your appearance, assuming that if only you could have dropped a few more lbs or reached your "race weight" then you would be able to perform better on race day. When you surround yourself with the best Ironman athletes from around the world, every athlete is fit. You don't arrive to a World Championship event without a strong committment to your training. But I can tell you that many of the athletes at the start line are not healthy. While an athlete may look fit based on his/her body image, come race day, your body image does not determine race day readiness. Don't let the body image of another athlete cause you to believe that your body isn't ready or good enough for race day. 


Having a great relationship with your body not only builds your confidence for race day but it also enables you to make good eating and fueling choices on race week, which will help you arrive to your Ironman World Championship start line fresh, fueled and hungry to race. If you are constantly feeling bothered by your body composition, there's a good chance that you are spending more energy on how your body looks instead of what it can do on race day. 

It's normal to feel a little heavier than normal on race week when you are properly fueling and hydrating your body for race day. You may even feel a little uncomfortable at times and this is ok. I always remind myself that when my body feels a little heavy, it means that I am fully loaded with fuel for race day. 


It's normal to look a little different in the mirror when your body is rejuvinating and repairing itself during taper. Remind yourself that what you look like doesn't determine how your body will perform on race day. Far too many athletes arrive to Kona looking extremely lean and fit but unhealthy and nutritionally unprepared for the necessary fuel/hydration that is required to get the body to the finish line.

Healthy and strong look different on every body. Be proud of your body and how far it has gotten you in your Ironman journey. Direct your energy beyond a look and instead, focus on the amazing adventure that you will go on with your body on race day.

Fuel and eat for performance and not for an image. Be honest with yourself - what is it that you want your body to do on race day? Do you want to look strong and fast or do you want your body to be strong and fast?  If you went to Kona with plans, hopes and dreams of performing well with your body, don't sabotage your performance by letting your appearance get the best of you. 

Replace the negative self-talk and self-criticism with meaningful statements that reflect a positive appreciation for your amazing body. 

10/10/17

IM Kona race week - Mistake #2

NO MENTAL PREPARATION

It's a no brainer that mental training can help to boost your race day performance.

Whereas the atmosphere at an Ironman event can be exciting, the big island of Kona is unlike any other Ironman event on race week. There are countless events, meet-and-greets and other activities to entertain athletes and with all of the excitement of race week, it can be difficult to tune out distractions, reduce anxiety and stress and maintain great focus for race day.

It's very normal and typical for Ironman athletes to experience a heightened sense of self-doubt, worry and fear on race week. Whereas there's a lot to consider when racing for 140.6 miles, Kona brings unique race day conditions with the wind and heat and the unpredictability of the day can literally suck the energy out of your body before you even have a chance to toe the start line. 

But no need to worry.

My good friend and Licensed Clinical Sport Psychologist Gloria Petruzzelli (Dr. G) wrote an excellent article on Ironman.com that will help you increase your mental game on race week so that you can put all that hard training to great use on race day. As I always like to tell myself on race day "Control the body with the mind."

Topics discussed in the article:
  1. Set boundaries
  2. Plan, then adapt
  3. Stay in the moment
  4. Trust yourself
  5. Lighten up

By. Gloria Petruzzelli



10/9/17

IM Kona race week - Mistake #1

DON'T CHANGE THE WINNING FORMULA


Almost every athlete that competes at the Ironman World Championship has received a spot to the starting line by performing well at a qualifying event. Rarely does an athlete earn a spot to this notable triathlon event on a whim. The triathlete who qualifies for IM Kona typically invests a lot of time, money and energy into the craft of preparing the body and mind for a 140.6 mile event. Thus, it's the commitment, consistency, flexibility and goal-focused mindset in training, along with the understanding of the right gear, nutrition, mental skills, pacing, training and taper that contributes to athletic excellence on race day. This is the winning formula that helps an athlete qualify for the Ironman World Championship. 

Far too many athletes enter race week in panic mode and begin to change the winning formula. Rituals that once helped an athlete build confidence for race day are replaced with worry, fear and self-doubt. Sure, the Ironman World Championship is a big-deal race but if you think about the distance, it's just another Ironman distance triathlon race. While you should certainly respect the distance and the island, don't abort the approach, method or formula that worked for you in the past. While it's ok to change certain aspects of your gear, nutrition or pacing plan to better manage the course or conditions (ex. ventilated helmet, depth size of your wheel, etc), it's not ok to change your plan because you think you'll be faster, perform better or because you saw that someone else (top age grouper/professional) was doing something similar.

As you enter race week for the Ironman World Championship, don't get distracted by focusing on what everyone else is doing. Be attentive to your own needs and do not make drastic/extreme changes as it relates to what worked for you in the past::
  • Fueling/hydration plan
  • Pacing strategy
  • Taper training
  • Race morning routine
  • Sleep regime
  • Daily diet
  • Daily rituals
  • Mental skills
  • Gear/equipment 
Avoid the tendency to change what was familiar to you in an effort to try to gain the competitive edge.

Additionally, any last minute strategies to feel more race ready, like validation workouts to test your speed, watts or fitness, taking anti-inflammatory or other performance-enhancing medications, getting a cortisone shot, relying on ART or other body-manipulating therapies to heal a niggle/injury or trying to manipulate your diet in an effort to change your body composition can be extremely damaging to your health, not to mention your performance.
Sometimes change is good and even on race week, you may find that you need to be smart with your nutrition, gear/equipment and training. You don't need to reinvent yourself on race week in an effort to perform your athletic potential.

Trust your coach. Trust yourself. Trust your training.