This year has presented me with several different challenges. Some of them physical (Achilles tendinitis off and on for a couple months), race nutrition as I’ve had to adjust to racing at higher intensities, and even some mental challenges.
I’ve talked to a few people recently about my mental struggles for this year. Just a little over a year ago, I was racing age group athletes and always finishing toward the front of pack. Depending on when my wave started, I was constantly passing people. It gave me a constant motivator to keep pushing it. A simple game of cat and mouse – just pick off the next person. Now my races always start with the first wave of professional athletes. I can usually hold my own somewhere in the middle of the pack during 1.2-mile swims. After getting out of the swim, I can typically pick off a couple riders, but over the course of 56-miles, it does make it mentally tougher to stay focused and keep the effort going. The run is the same way. Maybe pass a couple people, but for 13.1 miles, the loneliness really starts wearing on me. Keeping my head in the right place, pushing the negative thoughts out gets harder and harder as the race goes on.
This next part may seem irrelevant at first, but it will come full-circle at the end.
A few days ago, I watched a documentary called “Hungry for Change.” It talked about people need to redefine their definition of “sugar,” start reading the ingredients on the foods they buy, and start eating foods with antioxidants. The point being made was that your body will start feeling better and even looking better to others. They even mentioned the importance of “self-pep talks.” One person on the documentary said to put something in the mirror and say words of affirmation to yourself. These words of affirmation will come into play and prevent those negative thoughts of even forming in your head. Where the brain goes, the body goes. Thus making the body perform better.
The last couple days, I’ve pictured myself swimming long and lean, biking with the wattage in mind and seeing my feet pedal in a fluid circular motion pushing and pulling through the full pedal stroke, and running with a forward lean pushing sub-6 minute miles. I’ve pictured my bike nutrition positioned on my bike and how often to take in the calories. I’ve seen the hills in my head on the bike and powering up them and tucking to maximize the downhill sections. And most importantly, I’ve pictured the finish line finishing strong. I’ve also made a point of mentally telling myself that I’m fast, powerful, and lean… over and over again. And, as cheesy as it sounds, it seems to be working.
I also talked with my host for this race, Brooks, about the thoughts in my head. He has a few athletes he coaches, some of which are elite, and has had the same talk with them. He agreed that there needed to be a mental shift, grit the teeth, and do the work. If someone wants it bad enough and puts in the work, the results will come.
I am feeling good about this race on Sunday now. A few days ago, negative thoughts were in my head. I wondered why I even try to compete to against some of these guys. I realized, though, that improvements are being made since last year.
So when race morning comes around, I will be listening to the voices in my head that are positive and watching a preview of a spectacular race.