Mental Preparation For Early Season Racing- Stefan Timms

Mentally Preparing for the Early Season Races

By Stefan Timms

Some call it the winter coma.  Others call it hibernation.  Whatever term you choose to use, clearing the mental cobwebs that are associated with training through the winter can be difficult.  Early season races allow us the opportunity to do a mental spring-cleaning of sorts.  They allow us the chance to regain our technical race skills (i.e. transitions), to build up some fitness at race intensity, and to set up a successful triathlon season.  It is important be realistic in your approach to the early season and use it for what it is – a tune-up.
Many people emerge from winter having completed a solid aerobic training block.  The base miles they have done have them feeling fit and wanting to test themselves.  This is a great mindset to have, and physically these people are in a great place as well.  Others used the winter for feasting and hanging with the family, and the early season races mean something entirely different for them.  However, no matter where your fitness is at, there are some basic strategies you can use to mentally prepare for the early season races.
* Don’t leave anything to chance on race day.  Make sure that you aware what is required for the race and have it ready the night before the race, if not a few days before (i.e. race gear, registration, race kit pick up).  Reduce the race to just racing.  Remove any unneeded stress from race day so that you are able to focus all your energy on the task at hand.
* Rehearse your race day plan before the race so that when you arrive you are able to go through the motions with little thought.  Eat the same breakfast that you eat, get to the race site the same amount of time before the race, follow the same routine.  This all should have been practiced in the weeks and months leading up to the race so that you feel comfortable going through the whole process.
* Be positive about yourself and your upcoming race.  The words you choose to use and think should be positive so that you are energized about racing.  Take some time in the months and weeks leading into the race to visualize you completing the race the way you want it to occur. Knowing the course is a huge advantage so that you can see it as you race it in your mind.  On race day you will feel as though you have done this before and you will achieve the result you know can achieve.
* Do whatever you need to do put yourself in the mental state you need to be in for the race.  If you require loud music, then wear a Walkman.  If you require solitude, then seek it out prior to the race.  It is your race and you need to do what is best for you to create your own positive race environment.  On race day it is ok to be selfish.  You know what you need, to do what is necessary to get you ready to race.
* Be aware that the unexpected always occurs on race day and be prepared for it.  Have three extras tubes for your bike instead of one.  Have extra food in case you get caught in a line up.  Have water accessible. Think about the possibilities of the uncontrollable, and try to prepare for them.  If something you hadn’t considered occurs, then deal with it, but don’t let it affect your mental state. You control your mindset.
The first race of the year can be a little hectic as we all try to remember the things that made us successful last season.  The most important thing to realize is that we are all rusty.  Nobody comes back from a not racing for a few months and is perfect.  And rarely does the person who wins the first race of the year also win the most important race of the year later that summer.  Early season races need to be approached differently than those that hold more importance.  The success of the race should not be determined by the outcome of the results, but rather based on the achievement of predetermined goals for the race.  Tune up your mental skills, as well your physical ones, and learn about racing.  This will set you up for a successful season.


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