Challenge Melbourne this year was, well… challenging. Now, I’m not going to go into the minutia of the detail, but in bullet-point form:
- The weather was tough – high winds and cold rain made the bike leg quite sketchy + we had to delay the swim start to let a lightning storm pass… as you do!
- The conditions meant I didn’t fuel adequately on the bike, (cold hands meant I fumbled some nutrition + having to hang onto the bike in crosswinds made eating on schedule difficult)
- A full work schedule made my personal lead up less than ideal
- The race organizer didn’t communicate well, that because of the weather, disc wheels wouldn’t be allowed… me having already traveled to Melbourne with my disc had to run around trying to source a loan from a friend of a friend, (the announcement was buried at the bottom of an unrelated email sent 2 days before the race)
None of these factors are unique or super out of the ordinary, but it would have been easy to let all of this, compounded together, really affect my mood and mindset. However, there are a few frameworks and exercises that can really help provide perspective and maybe, just maybe, save your race day.
- Before the race, (as far out as you can). begin by making a list of all the issues that are bothering you, tangible and intangible, those that have happened and those you’re worried about happening. Don’t get bogged down in the detail and don’t be afraid of writing too many bullet points, (If it pops in your head it’s likely distracting you on some level) just get them down. Research into journaling and anxiety have shown that this step alone, (getting them from your head and onto paper) can really help
- Now for each point, list a) things you can control physically, and b) things you can control mentally
- Start to develop strategies for each – let’s take “It’s gong to be really hot” as your worry.
- So, for things you can control physically, a potential strategy could be “I’ll reduce my power output on the bike by 5% and up my non-caloric fluid consumption” or “I’ll make sure to dump water over my head at every aid station on the run”. Knowing you’ve made a plan can be freeing, especially if you’ve done this in plenty of time and have tested it! One less thing on your plate.
- Having mastery over the mental side of things can be more difficult, but with practice, you can absolutely control how you react to things… this requires some self-exploration, or potentially working with someone familiar with mindset design, NLP, etc. To continue our example, you might be telling yourself the story “I never race well in the heat!”. Firstly, you can deconstruct your story and look for ‘deletions, distortions and generalizations’… in this instance, there is a clear generalization, “never” racing well in the heat, and possibly a deletion of a time when the person did. Being aware of how you’re choosing to frame reality starts to give you power over it. You can continue to dive deeper, looking at how the ‘filters’ you apply to reality shape the movie you’re playing, (the movie in this instance is one of the individual struggling away in a hot race and not performing), for instance a pessamist might look at the heat at see only themselves falling apart, someone with a more optimistic world view might say, “it’s hot, but I’m mentally tougher than most and if it’s affecting me then it will be affecting my competition even more!” You might be getting the sense that this step is a very deep rabbit hole… and it is. If you would like to learn more I would suggest starting by looking into something called the ‘NLP Communication Model‘.
Hopefully, that gives you some tools to work with and remember, what I’ve described above is just ‘a’ way, not ‘the’ way. There are a range of different ways to attack this problem and it takes some personal experimentation to find the right one for you.