Mark Allen: Big Race Mindset
When the gun goes off to the biggest race of the season, all speculation stops. How you and your training partners will do is going to play out regardless of what was said prior to the event. No more training can be done. Nothing can be added or taken away from how you have prepared. The money's in the bank, and it's time to make the final withdrawal of the season. The challenge can be to translate all that stored up fitness into the race you are hoping for. Here are few tips to help
you find a mindset that will allow you to do that.
Pacing- This may sound like a physical issue. You can go too easy, too fast, or just right. Finding the 'Just Right' is actually a mental game. It requires the endless computations that your brain must make by taking in all the signals your body is telling you about whether you are maximizing a pace that is sustainable, assess the pain signals telling you to slow down that inherently present themselves in a race, then figure out if you are actually going as fast as you can without burning all your matches too early. It's complicated! And there are a million ways to get from the start to the finish. But the one that is going to be best for you will come when you can forget that there is going to be some kind of outcome from crossing the finish line and just immerse yourself in the moment to moment rhythm of your body covering time and space at its peak capacity.
This is a call to not worry about whether you are having a great race or a lousy one, and certainly as best as possible suspend any assessment of the result of the race you are having. In other words, maybe you are afraid you won't achieve a goal you had set for yourself, or you are already tossing in the towel to a competitor of yours who is starting to pull away and it's giving you a feeling like you will never succeed. No matter what the scenario playing out in your mind (especially if it's a negative one), just shut off the internal chatter and race. Pretty simple! Find your personal place of quiet inside. Stop trying to have a great race, and take the next step that fully immerses you in doing just that. Take the pain as a byproduct of peak performance and of you getting the best out of your body. It's all part of the day. If you had wanted something different, you would have come as a spectator!
Gratitude- If you are finding your mindset is taking a dive at any point in the race, try to just ride it out. There is never a race where a person feels fantastic the entire way, especially if it is a long event like Ironman. There will more than likely be a thousand points where you want to give up, back off or even quit. This is just part of the experience. Remind yourself that it is okay to have a lousy attitude that you don't have to feel outstanding and be ecstatic the entire day to be having the best race of your life. But as best as possible, try to not dwell in that place. Ride it out and let it pass. Keep going at least until you find a more positive focus come back. Wait until you get in that space that just says, "Okay this is how it is right now. What do I need to do to take the next step, to get to the next aid station, to relax my muscles just a bit and find my rhythm once again?"
If all else fails, take a look around at where you are. You will likely be in an incredibly beautiful place. Yes, even the stark lava of The Big Island of Hawaii is a paradise if looked at through the right lenses. Forget that you are not feeling super at that moment and remember how lucky you are that you are still out there racing, doing something that most of humanity would not even consider doing. You are in rarified air, and the challenge of the moment is just the small price of the ride. Gratitude can switch everything.
Quiet- When all else fails, search out that quiet place inside, the point in your personality and makeup that can never be negatively affected by a bad patch in an otherwise incredible day. In that place of quiet you might get the answer of how to keep going and see the day in the big perspective of your life. It may take a few moments to calm the chatter, but it will come. And when it does, you'll be free. You'll remember some key workouts you did getting ready for the race that had moments that were tougher than this but that you made it through, and you'll gain strength from that memory. You'll have access to the full amount of fitness that you have stored up getting ready for the biggest race of your season, and it will be available, no longer blocked by the chatter. You start rising to a level that you never thought possible a moment earlier. You'll be having the best race on the biggest day when it counts most!
Off to the races!