February 26, 2015
At the end of every season I stow away all the race kit I won’t be needing for a few months and bid it farewell, knowing next time I see it a new season will be just around the corner.
Race number belts, BodyGlide, mantras and cue cards, the same stash of safety pins I’ve had since 2006… they all get squirrelled away and won’t see the light of day until the next triathlon season is here, all fresh, new and exciting.
At the start of the winter, when base building begins in earnest, there is always a sense of excitement for me. What can I achieve this off-season? How can I improve? How much stronger, faster and fitter can I become?
I like this notion of disappearing from the race scene, hibernating and then reappearing as a new improved better version of myself. I can try new nutrition solutions with the support of my sponsors Osmo Nutrition or test out the latest bit of kit from Felt.
Except now, the hibernating is over and it’s time to spread my wings and fly. Monterrey 70.3 is in March and rapidly approaching.
I feel like I’ve made great gains over the winter and my recent training would suggest that too. But there’s no real way of knowing until you toe the start line and mix it up at the races again. Much as we try to replicate racing in training, there is no substitute for the real thing.
The cut and thrust of racing is, for me, one of the biggest draws of this sport. There are so many things we can rehearse, but there are so many things we simply cannot. And I typically find that with every race comes a new lesson learned.
Coming out of hibernation can be daunting and nerve-wracking (even for us pros). But with every season that passes I’m learning more about myself and what makes me tick. I know the best way to motivate myself, the best way to get myself psyched up – and equally the best way to keep myself calm!
I will always spend time in the weeks before the race visualising myself on the course. I can picture myself before the swim start and will reflect on the thoughts I want to have in my head.
I’ll think about my swim warm-up and what I want to do and where I want to be. I’ll then play the movie through in my head; of transition – those last few yards in the water before getting vertical, peeling off my hat, goggles and wetsuit – before jumping onto my bike.
I’ll think about how I want to feel on my bike, my optimal position, my fuelling, my pedalling and cadence. It is best to leave nothing to chance and to think through every permutation.
For me, the run is where the mental game really starts. It’s the time when the fatigue is greatest and the pain most acute. It’s then that positive self-talk, visualisation and mantras really come into their own. I will often think of training sessions that have been tough that I wish to draw upon. I will think of people who’ve inspired me.
I might think of people who’ve seriously pee’d me off and channel some of that aggression into some fast and furious running. I’ll also trick myself into going that little bit harder or pushing that little bit more by promising myself all kinds of ice cream, beer and pizza at the finish line (most of which I usually do consume, so perhaps it’s not trickery after all!).
Until just recently, I realised I had forgotten – or at least pushed aside – so many of these things over the winter months. But they are all part and parcel of my job, and part of coming out of hibernation.