Tuning the body and mind – revving up for Kitzbuhel

In my last blog I wrote about the mental and physical challenges as you approach the business end of the race season as an endurance athlete. As I came into the final two races before the European championships in Kitzbuhel, a strange thing happened. It all started to become very automatic. From pre-race preparations, to setting up transition, to warming the body and mind up, and even racing itself – it stopped becoming a conscious process. In short, I could just focus on the best possible delivery on the day. Psychologists, always keen to use a long, complicated word, where a simple one would suffice (!), call this meta-cognitive processing. Basically, thinking about thinking…

 

After the sun, sea and sand of the chariots 5km race (see last blog), I was off to Knockburn for the Scottish sprint triathlon championships. This was a location I had raced in before, but over the longer, Olympic distance course last season. I hadn’t enjoyed this distance very much (see post) so I was looking forward to the shorter sprint course this time. It was an important race as it would tell me for sure what sort of form I would have in Kitzbuhel, and if the hard work over the winter had paid off.

 

You often hear top golfers talking about rounds where they play well but don’t score well and vice versa. Well Knockburn was one of those very unusual days when I didn’t play well, but I scored well.

 

I had a difficult swim in choppy water where I struggled to find a rhythm, my goggles flooded and I just swam poorly! However, I didn’t panic (the key bit!) and focused on a solid transition to the bike. Knowing the course from last year was very helpful although I was still passed by a few athletes. Again, “don’t panic” was my self-talk here! A quick transition to slingshot the athlete just in front who had passed me on the bike and I was away. Not knowing how good my form was, I again didn’t start brilliantly, but tried to relax and focus. Soon I was reeling in some of the strong cyclists who had passed me earlier. It was two laps of a lumpy cross country course so I was yet again grateful for a winter of racing with Lasswade Athletics Club. Before I knew it, I was nearing the top of the final climb and heading for home. Again it was strange to feel physically tired and hurting but mentally quite alert and relaxed as I passed through the finishing arch.

 

I knew I’d lost time on the swim, hadn’t been the fastest on the bike and knew it wasn’t a fast run course. So when my timing slip read 1hr 7mins, I had to double-take! My previous best had been around 1hr 15mins and I had optimistically written down 1hr 11mins as the 2014 goal…I was simultaneously delighted and disappointed! I didn’t feel I had performed well but had managed to find a way to race well.

First time using transfers - feeling like a pro, even at 5am!

First time using transfers – feeling like a pro, even at 5am!

Just seven days later and I was battling round a very different course in Southport. I was just 5 days from the European championships now so the “thinking about thinking” really came into its own as I tried to hold something back for Kitzbuhel. Most importantly, I tried not to damage myself or any of the equipment I had had to beg, borrow or steal as most my kit was now en route for Austria (thanks Paul from Ace Bike Co and Edinburgh Triathletes!). I surprised myself with a PB swim of 11:00 and run of 19:04, and most importantly now felt “ready” for Kitzbuhel.

The very kindly lent bike from Ace Bike Co before my own steed went to Austria

The very kindly lent bike from Ace Bike Co before my own steed went to Austria

I felt like I was in the ball park for the European championships now but that I would need every ounce of physical and mental strength if I was to deliver the performance I felt I was capable of.

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