Preparing for the Big Stage
Posted: Oct 01 2016
Getting Ready for that big Triathlon, Marathon, or Cycling Event
By Kara LaPoint.
Well, we've turned our calendars over to October. The leaves are changing, the temps are dropping and the pumpkin-spice-everything is thriving. But alongside the chill in the air, there’s a distinct excitement that arises each year with this first scent of fall, and the energy is tangible. The end of triathlon season is near!
After months of hard work and long hours in the saddle, on our feet and in the water…
After handfuls of race days, some triumphant and others defeating, but each one doing its part to make us stronger…
After countless days of looking at our goals scribbled on that sheet of paper, and waking up each morning on a mission to keep chasing them…
After falling down more than we wanted, but getting back up every time, and pushing harder than we ever thought possible…
The time has finally come to tackle the BIG race. The “A” race. The one we’ve set our sights on all year and planned to be our very BEST. The time has come to show ourselves what is possible, and reap the rewards of all that hard work.
For many of you on the Coeur team, that race is Kona. For me, it’s also a race in Hawaii in October, but on another island, a couple weeks later, and off the blacktop. For me, it’s the Xterra World Championship in Maui on Oct. 23rd. For others, the big race will be something completely different. Perhaps it has already come and gone, and now you’re focusing on something further in the distance.
Regardless, there will always be an “A” race somewhere on the horizon that we’re targeting, and while these are our biggest, most important and often most rewarding opportunities, they also present some unique challenges. For many of us, the hardest part of our A race is simply approaching it. There is extra pressure -- sometimes external, but most of the time from within. Expectations are higher, and in some cases, the stakes are too. But above all, what really makes these races stand out is that these are the ones when we want it the most. This is where we’ve really invested ourselves, and it can be a truly scary feeling to come into an event you’ve put so much heart in to, and where you want so badly to be your best.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of some of the strategies I use to help me stay calm, focused and ready to rock leading into a big race. These ideas have really helped me be able to “show up” when it matters most over the years, and I’ll be utilizing all of them over these next few weeks as the Xterra World Championship approaches. I hope they can also be helpful to those of you getting ready for Kona or another “big stage” of your own, whatever it may look like!
1. Trust your training, trust your body, and trust yourself. As your race gets closer, and especially as you begin to taper down your training, it’s so easy to question yourself and let the doubt creep in. You start to wonder if you’ve done enough; if you’re strong enough; if you’re ready. The answer is YES! Look back on all of the training you did and all the effort you put in to get yourself to this moment, and trust in it. Think about how much you’ve grown as an athlete through that process, all the challenges you overcame along the way, and all the progress you have made. Take a moment to acknowledge the work you’ve already done, and allow yourself to be proud of your journey. Realize you’ve done everything in your power to prepare yourself to have the best day possible, and have faith and confidence in that knowledge. You are ready. You’ve earned this day. The work is done, and now it’s time to go out there and make it everything you’ve dreamed of!
Running down a dream
2. Keep calm, and don’t freak out! If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years of racing, it’s that there will always, always be some unexpected challenge that arises during race week. Maybe you begin to feel a tickle in your throat, an old injury starts acting up again, something goes wrong with your equipment, or your body just isn’t responding the way you expected it to. You can do every single thing right, and still something can go wrong. Try as we may, we can’t control every circumstance. But we can control our reactions. It’s hard to not freak out about every little challenge during race week, and make a mountain of a molehill. But keep things in perspective. Stay open-minded, stay positive and stay confident. Stick to your plan and remember that you are ready. Stressing out only wastes precious energy and deters your focus. And if nothing else, dealing with unexpected issues now provides great practice for those inevitable challenges you’ll face on race day, helping you be ready to roll with the punches, adapt to any scenario and keep on moving forward.
3. “Hyper-focus,” and then let it go. There’s so much to think about coming into a race, and it can be overwhelming. It’s easy to end up sleepless before a big event as we pour over various scenarios in our heads and struggle to put our thoughts to rest. But one thing I find helpful is to set aside some time the day (or two) before the race to really be hyper-focused. Visualize the course, finalize your strategies, and allow yourself to obsess over all the little details. Let that “perfect day” scenario play out in your head. Picture the race exactly as you want it to unfold, and enable yourself to feel that vision and believe in it wholeheartedly. And then, picture it exactly the opposite. Think about all the things that could potentially go wrong, and think about what you would do to overcome each of them. Prepare yourself for every scenario, and have a plan A, B and C. Expect and believe in your ability to succeed, but know that you are ready for anything. With the race in front of you, allow yourself to feel the weight of the pressure, the depth of your desire and the strength of your passion. Really let it all soak in. And then: let it all go. Switch your focus away from the race, and allow yourself to be calm.
4. Develop a positive space. With plenty of focused time behind you, indulge in some distractions, and surround yourself completely in positivity. I have a whole host of things I do to distract myself from the race, especially the night before and morning of, and to make sure there are nothing but positive vibes flowing around me. Watch something that makes you laugh out loud. Rock out to some top-10 pop chart jams (Hello, T-Swift!!) and dance on the bed. Let your body relax, and pamper yourself a bit before your big effort. Put your feet up, paint your nails with fun, vibrant colors that will make you smile on the race course (this is a must for me!), write out some positive affirmations (I pick a couple key ideas I want to draw from during my race and write them on the back of my hand so I can see them), put on your favorite “race-day magic” t-shirt, soak up encouragement from your support team, make a list of all the reasons you’re freaking awesome, or everything you love about this sport… Do whatever you’ve got to do to pump yourself up, channel your inner wonder woman, and turn on ALL the positive feels. You should go into the race feeling absolutely stoked on what you’re about to do, and what you know you can do.
Race Ready and Feeling the Positive Vibes
5. Set your goals, and make a commitment. Before you start the race, you should have a clear idea of what your goals are. What are you really looking to achieve out there, and what do you want to take away from this day? I am always an advocate for setting process goals, rather than outcome goals. Focus on the things you can control, and the things you need to do on a personal level to ensure you have the best day possible for yourself. Consider all the small ways you can better your performance throughout the day, and be ready to make adjustments along the way if you have to. Most importantly, make a commitment to yourself that you are going to give everything, no matter what happens out there. There’s no limit to the number of unexpected challenges we can face on a given race day, and things may not go at all as you expected and prepared for, but if you’ve made a promise to yourself ahead of time that you won’t back down from any challenge, then there’s no opportunity to question yourself. Think about what you really need to do to make yourself proud and be able to hold your head high at the end of the day. Realize that no circumstances can keep you from that feeling, and be relentless in your pursuit of that personal pride. In the end, the biggest regret you can ever face on race day is not giving it everything you have.
6. Know your why. As we all know too well, things are going to get hard out there. They always do. But on this day, when we’re willing to dig even deeper than any other, we welcome in a whole new level of hurt. To be ready to embrace that pain and push through it, it is crucial to know your “why.” Why are you out there? Why is this moment so important to you? When you have a solid sense of purpose and what the race really means to you, you can draw from that when the going really gets tough. Think about all the mental battles you might face, and know what you will do to push out the doubt. What will motivate you most in those hardest moments, and how will you talk yourself in, instead of out?
7. Remember that it’s just another race! Sure, this one is especially important, but ultimately the process is the same one you’ve been through countless times before – you’re just that much more prepared this time to have an exceptional day! Keep it simple. Focus on your own race and your own process, and remember that the steps you need to take to get yourself to this finish line are no different than on any other race day. Realize that most of the pressure you feel is coming from yourself and your own expectations, and use the extra adrenaline and passion you feel for this day to help fuel your fire. Know that your supporters, friends, family and loved ones will be proud of you at that finish line no matter what happens. In the end, all you can possibly do is do the best you can with what you have on the day. So commit to that. Dig in, and get ready to leave it all out there – just like you’ve done so many times before.
Your cheerleaders will support you no matter the outcome!
Last but not least, Race with gratitude. I am a huge believer in the power of gratitude. If you race (and train, and operate) from a place of gratitude, you will gain so much more than you ever expected. Remember that this is an opportunity. You are racing because you want to. Because you love it. And at the end of the day, no matter what happens, we are always fortunate to have the opportunity, the health and the capability to simply be there, doing something we love, just for the sake of loving it. Yes, there will be moments when we want to give up; when we question why we even wanted to be here in the first place. And as the race approaches and we feel the pressure of its importance, it may be easy to think, “I wish I didn’t have to do this!” But take a moment to think about how you would really feel if your opportunity was taken away. Remember why you want this chance, what it really means to you, and why you worked so hard to be here. Be excited. Be grateful… for the race itself, for everything that led you here, and for all the potential that lies ahead of you. Then, gather up every last ounce of heart and courage you possibly can, and make this opportunity exactly what you hoped for.
Go get em ladies!