So you’ve done all the physical training and you’ve been working on your mindset and the stories you’re telling yourself what you (think) you can and can't achieve on race day.
It is an important, yet often overlooked, aspect of your mental preparation.
Not going into a race with a smart race strategy is one way many athletes set themselves up for disappointment because the race strategy they came up with in the heat-of-the-moment didn’t reflect their goal or their current fitness levels or strengths. It can mean the difference between feeling relaxed, happy, calm and confident on race day or putting yourself in the wrong position at the start and feeling stressed, panicked and pressured throughout the race (yuck).
It’s easy to remember when your nutrition hasn’t worked or when you suffered an injury, crash or fall during a race. But other aspects of your race can easily be overlooked.
Think back to your last race...
Where did you position yourself at the start line? If you could go back in time, would you position yourself in the same spot or would you move a bit further back or perhaps a bit closer to the front?
How did you pace your race? Did you go too fast at the start and needed to slow down or perhaps you started a bit too slow and could push a bit faster more in your next race?
Was your pacing smart given the terrain or (unexpected) temperature on the day?
Aside from looking at the separate components or parts of your race, there are two other important overall questions to consider:
What did I learn from the experience? And what did I do well?
Ask any of your friends those questions after a race and you’re likely to get a list of 10 things that didn’t go according to plan and 2 things that went well. I’ve been asking my clients these questions for years and then I was surprised to hear 6-time Hawaii Ironman Champion Dave Scott, who now works as a coach, mention he asks the same questions of his clients.
It can be easy to lose sight of these questions (and the answers). A great example of this, as told by Dave, was when he was coaching (now 4-time Hawaii Ironman Champion) Chrissie Wellington on the day she broke the World Record for the Ironman race distance. They got on the phone immediately after the race and the first words out of her mouth were “I didn’t ride as fast as I would have liked”. She had just broken the World Record yet she was disappointed her ride wasn’t what she had hoped. He went on to make the point that in asking yourself “what did I do well?”, you often realise you successfully executed lots of small components of the race - perhaps you nailed your nutrition, stuck to your pacing strategy or stayed mentally positive and focused throughout the whole race. This allows you to walk away from your race feeling satisfied even if you were initially disappointed by the result.
Remember (as much as your fear of judgement tries to convince you otherwise), success, happiness and satisfaction do not require perfect execution of your whole plan (whatever plan that might be!).
And if you’re doing an event or distance for the first time, speak with a friend or coach about your strategy. Or give me a call; I’m happy to talk it through with you!