Irecently contributed three 8-week training plans for 5k, 10k and half marathon distances to beSelf Magazines March Issue ( found here with 5k and 10k plans on top of page), and while reading through the article, I came upon the above blurb of mine. As I re-read what I said, I thought of how much more this quote meant, and that maybe it deserved some extra explaining! So, here you go…and excuse me for any rambling!

Race season is just around the corner, and for many it has already begun….which means training is in full swing and runners and triathletes are looking forward to testing out their fitness at their first race! Some may be hoping to just run a whole marathon without walking, finish their first 5k, and others may be looking to break a certain time, or finish top 3 overall.  Regardless of the goal, everyone gets to the race having had different training plans or no training plan, different lifestyles, and different mindsets.  No matter if you are an elite athlete or total newbie to running or triathlon, I’m pretty sure we all have a little anxiety before toeing that start line, and many similar thoughts as we go through a race. How we deal with these thoughts, and deal with the uncontrolled factors during a race, is often a big detriment of how we do!  In the years I have spent training and racing, I have met and trained with many different people, all with different mindsets and tactics for getting through a race.  This may be getting a bit off track from the quote above that I will get into shortly…but it all relates to what I said.

I believe a big part of racing and training is directly affected by my mentality, pain tolerance and ability to push myself (also my extreme competitive nature…).  These are factors that are a bit harder to measure and compare, but that have a huge impact on your performance. I won’t get to scientific here, but obviously our mind is what controls our body…whether it is our brain signaling our arms to move during a swim workout, or telling you “ you didn’t make that first run interval so no need to continue” or “ugh that first place girl is too far ahead to catch up to, so need to push harder” ….these are negative thoughts, thoughts that could likely come into your mind at times, which can take over and hinder what we truly are capable of if we let it. There have been many times that my training has been sub-par to the past, but I will go out with a running buddy, or swim with a friend who is in top shape, and be able to keep up with them simply because I am telling myself to! I may be way more winded, and less efficient, however it is my mentality that is allowing me to push myself and perform outside my comfort zone/ or what I would typically think I was able to do.  Granted, having someone next to you to push you, is also a big factor here….and that competitiveness is often what drives me to exceed what I think I am capable of!

Back to that original quote though….I believe it was a bit of a condensed version of what I said, however it still gets the point across. “Do your own thing” and take the race moment by moment mean to not let other aspects, especially uncontrolled aspects, affect how you do in a negative way. During a race, I give most credit to my mind for where I end up crossing the finish line. Moments during a super choppy swim, where I find myself amongst the middle of a pack of thrashing triathletes, where I could easily get panicked and just slow down, or times I get on my bike (my weak leg…) and have no power, watching myself get passed throughout the whole race, but I don’t ever let these uncontrolled moments affect me. Instead I tell myself just to stay composed, I know I can swim strong, so just swim to the outside of the pack and keep a rhythm, everyone is dealing with the same thing right now. On the bike, one might really feel down after seeing almost everyone you beat on that swim fly by you with ease… but in my head I just tell myself to peddle, don’t think about the people ahead or those approaching me, and know that my strength on the run. Once I get off the bike, no matter HOW far behind I might be from the other women, or HOW tired my legs feel, I push.  During a race I always tell myself “you want to end this race with no regrets, no feeling like you could have pushed harder. End this race with wobbly legs and exhaustion.” Now to some that may sound extreme, and maybe a lot of people don’t end a race wanting to feel that way, and that’s fine, everyone has different motives and goals, however this is just to show how I believe my mind has the most impact on my performance. Taking the race minute by minute, not letting a slow previous mile or thought of how many miles you have ahead affect you in a negative way was my advice here, especially for those new to running or triathlons.  Focus on NOW.  I also would like to say that I never race with a watch, now I do have different feelings on this depending on what type of race someone is doing, as many Ironman’s and marathons may require knowledge of pace or heart rate to make sure you don’t overdo it too soon...BUT I don’t like to race with one, because to me I monitor myself by just going hard! And listening to my body, maybe a watch might tell me I need to slow down, that I went out too fast, BUT maybe today my body is capable of keeping that pace! SO go with it!  This however is a topic for another post!

 Now back to what I said on everyone having different mentalities, and this is just one example of how a thought can affect someone negatively… I was once racing with a friend of mine (very good runner) who basically paced me through a recent 10k, which without her I wouldn’t have hit the time I did as I had NOT been training like she had. During the last mile of the race however, she thought we had made a wrong turn (she had done the race before and there was little signage as to go straight or continue left) so we just followed the one man ahead of us, and she said “no that was the wrong way, we can just slow down now… it doesn’t matter” …I couldn’t believe the words coming out of her mouth. Needless to say I continued pushing my pace because, hey even if we did go the wrong way I still want to finish strong. I ended up first place for the women for that race, AND we did go the right way! Now if I had let her negativity affect me then that may not have been the case.  I’d like to also share another example of how the mind can strongly affect someone, kids in this case. While teaching one of my youth fitness classes, I had taken the class to the track for some outdoor running and relays. I had them all begin with a half mile run around the track and then we set up for some relays. During the last leg of the relay, one of the girls got passed by the 3 other classmates to the finish line, so she immediately just came to a walk. Even with all the cheering and positive reinforcement to finish strong, she had felt like she failed and gave up! She let her surroundings affect how SHE did. This has a much bigger meaning, because it means that no matter what the people around you are capable of , and how much faster or stronger they may seem to be, you should never let it affect YOU, especially not in a negative way. Never be down on yourself because you finished last in a race, or that you weren’t able to perform maybe as well as you had wanted. This happens. Maybe all those people in front of you are able to train every day, and don’t work a 10 hour day like you do….maybe they have a coach helping push them in there workouts every day….maybe they don’t have a family to raise like you do! You just never know, and for those reasons, how should always focus on you, focus on what you can control in both your training and racing, and make sure to always think positively and know that your body will mirror those good thoughts!