Are you mentally prepared for a long race?
Are you doing all of your long training rides with friends or in groups? If so, make sure to do some of your long rides solo. Pushing yourself at Ironman pace for five to six hours requires a lot more mental focus on race day than any group ride. Do you know how you’ll handle the possibility of a flat, leg cramp, dehydration or GI issues? A long-course race can be a miserable experience if you’re not prepared for the physical, mental and mechanical problems that seem to always crop up along the way to the finish line. To mentally prepare his athletes, Kropelnicki and his coaches have them develop “race-day scripts” to practice solving whatever problem comes up. “Our thought is to make sure the athletes have every single tool in their suitcase that they need,” he says. “They just hope a situation doesn’t happen and, inevitably when it does happen, they’re screwed. So instead of just hoping it doesn’t happen, let’s assume it’s going to happen and let’s have a tool to pull out to deal with the situation. I think from a mental aspect on race day, that’s the biggest thing because it can bring a tremendous amount of confidence.”
Last but not least, don’t forget that an Ironman or even a 70.3 is a long event. So don’t start your day like you would in a sprint- or Olympic-distance race and expect to have something at the end. As a short-course pro, Cave said she was conditioned mentally to approach all of her races like they were hard training efforts. But her biggest breakthroughs in long-course events came when she finally realized that she had to consciously slow herself down during the race. “My big mental shift in the last couple of years has been to slow down, and I think that’s really worked,” said Cave. “For anyone racing an Ironman, don’t expect to go as hard in the race as you do in training. It’s a process. Get from one point to the next without exhausting yourself. That’s the lesson that I’ve learned. Be more conservative in the race than you think you need to be.”
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