We’re inside of 50 days out from Ironman Mont Tremblant, my second attempt at the full distance. Now is the time when triathletes will start combing through historical weather trends and worrying far too much about things beyond their control. These final weeks can be grueling, both physically and mentally, if you allow it.
Whether your goal is to win, hit the podium, nail a new PR, or simply just cross the finish line, there are things you can do right now to ensure the mental side of triathlon doesn’t derail your race or even worse, prevent you from getting to the start line altogether.
Visualize your success
Spending 10-15 minutes per day visualizing your race can be a massive return on investment. There’s more to it then simply picturing yourself crossing the finish line though. You need to take yourself through the entire day, from wake up to crawling back into bed post-race.
What’s for breakfast? Is it laid out and ready to go or will you need to prepare something? How is your bike racked in transition? What does your race warm up look like? All of these things and more need to be visualized. You want to envision the ideal scenario too. Go through the perfect day first. Then…
Prepare for the unexpected
Toss in some scenarios you’ll need to plan for. If you get a flat tire, what will you do? Fix it, yes, obviously. But how? If your transition bag goes missing, how will you adjust? Nutrition strategy falls apart, what’s the next step? Visualize a few mishaps, that way if something does go wrong, you’re prepared and have gone through how you’ll respond.
This is where a lot of triathletes crumble. Something will inevitably go wrong or not exactly to plan. If you’re prepared mentally it’ll be no big deal. However, if you’re unprepared then a small issue like a flat tire can derail your entire race.
One way to plan for this is to ask your coach to surprise you with a few oddball scenarios when you won’t expect it. Practice makes perfect, even for those imperfect moments.
Ignore the uncontrollable
You’ve heard it a million times, “control what you can control.” And that’s your effort, your preparedness, your fitness. Forget the rest. You can’t control the weather, so there’s no sense stressing over the forecast for weeks on end. You can’t control the actions of other racers so don’t waste time worrying about what might happen if someone cuts you off or is drafting.
Focus on you and what you’re doing. That’s the best way to ensure a positive outcome and avoid mental fatigue in the lead up to race day and out on the course.
Promote yourself with positive self-talk
No one is better than you! I mean that sincerely. Reinforce that positive message with yourself every day. You’re an ass-kicker and anyone who doesn’t think so be damned! It’s so critically important that you avoid negative self-talk like, “I’m not good enough” or “I’m too slow” or “I can’t do this.”
You’re tough as nails and don’t forget it!
Push past your perceived limits
I’m a firm believer that our physical capabilities are only limited by our mind. So when you’re throwing in the towel at Mile 18 on the run because you’re quads are screaming, understand that you’ve really only tapped into 30-40% of your potential. The remaining 60% or so will hurt like hell there’s no doubt about that, but you have plenty left in the tank.
This is the hardest mental hurdle we face as triathletes, and as humans in general. We like being comfortable so when our brains are telling us to slow down or walk or quit oftentimes we listen without any resistance. On race day, change that. You control your effort, and for the vast majority of us there’s always more left in the tank. You just have to be comfortable being uncomfortable.