by Ron Philley, PCG Coach
“Life’s a journey, not a destination.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was packing for a race recently and I thought back over an article I had read in which Tim Deboom, the reigning ironman world champion at the time, explained how the one thing that could drive him from the sport would be pre-race anxiety. For me, the most anxiety-producing aspect of being a triathlete is packing for the race. Bike…check, race suit…check, flat kit…check, nutrition…check, racing flats…check, training flats…check, wetsuit…check, helmet…check, glasses…check, wait…did I already pack the bottles, CRAP!!!!
We all have those things (some have many) that are anxiety provoking to the extent that it spoils or overrides the enjoyment of competing. I have seen middle-of-the-pack age group athletes stress so badly over a race that you would have thought it was a race to the death. It is hard for me to see why they would put themselves through such mental anguish time after time. The anxiety is always there to some degree, but what then, do we do?
When faced with these issues, a little perspective is helpful. My recommendation is to ask yourself a question, “Self, why are you doing this?” My own personal answer: “I do this because I enjoy competing, challenging myself, being fit, and living the lifestyle of an athlete. Not to mention the people in the sport are pretty cool and I can keep a nice tan.”
Is the race only part of the equation? The answer….yes. We typically race for only 5-10% of the total volume of swimming, biking & running we do in a month.Don’t misunderstand though, stress is good! It’s what we do every day in training, we stress the body & mind, adapt (recover), stress some more, adapt some more and that’s how we improve. Race day intensity is good. Racing with fire and passion is, essentially, how it should be done.
What I am suggesting is this: take those things that dampen your passion for the sport, manufacture a way to make it easier, less of an issue, and put it in its place. Where is its place you ask? It’s part of the process. For me, it was simply making a permanent checklist to which I could refer repeatedly.
The race is a big deal, yes, but come Monday, it’s back to why we do this and what we love…the process…the journey.