Don't Sabotage Your Race

by Nicholas Chase

Signing up for a long distance endurance event happens one of two ways.  The first is a calculated decision based on research, motivation and allows for six to nine months of precise training. The second is impulsive, probably due to fear, procrastination, peer pressure and may or may not follow a botched race the previous week.  Which one has the highest probability of failing? The answer is; they both are equally susceptible to failure! There are a few ways to nail a race, leaving tons of “woulda, shoulda, coulda” moments along the way. We’ve all had the,What have I just done?” moment after you’ve jumped head first into a huge challenge. The difference with an endurance event is a whole lot can go wrong between when you sign up and when you actually have to execute your special day.

How can a seemingly thorough plan turn into a colossal learning experience? Besides injury, a common weak point among athletes is complacency. Usually, race day is pretty far into the future and the initial process seems very exciting. However, once you’ve announced your intentions via Facebook and the buzz has faded, the training needs to really start.  If you have a coach, he or she will do their best to pass on all knowledge, hoping that vital plan is absorbed like a sponge taking on water. The truth is, at a certain point, when the hours add up and the excitement passes, sabotage comes about. Here are two common pitfalls we see as coaches.

  • Inconsistent nutrition and fueling – “Nutrition” is your day-to-day meal plan and “fueling” pertains to the food you eat before, during and after training. Nutrition should be planned and fit in with your lifestyle. If you don’t know what you’re having for breakfast and lunch when you hit the sack at night, you’re likely to make impulsive, inconsistent decisions. Fuel plans should be tested thoroughly at and above race effort, usually sticking with the same brand of product. Years of preparation for a championship race can be quickly negated due to a botched fuel plan. Know your stomach, don’t leave anything to chance and practice your routine until it’s second nature.
  • Complacency – It’s common to forget the physical doubt and mental angst that can creep into your race, especially if things aren’t going well. This can happen on shorter races that require high output and will definitely happen a few times on races lasting over nine It’s simple; if you aren’t willing to dig deep during training, how can you expect to be prepared on race day? Have you pushed through dark areas during training and finished stronger then you started or have you looked for excuses to walk and mentally checked-out when you lost a little momentum? As endurance athletes, resiliency is a trait we must truly embrace. It’s easy to slow down, give in, throw in the towel and make excuses. Why else would non-athletes think you are crazy for signing up? The best way to fight complacency is embracing that this is a lifestyle. Training hard, pushing beyond all limits, making life-long friends and being a general over-achiever…it’s what this world needs more of! Fight complacency by hiring a coach, training with motivated friends who challenge you, writing down your process based goals and reading them daily! We operate best in environments we’ve created and are familiar with. That means race day shouldn’t be the first time you’ve considered going that hard or that far.

Whether you’re getting to that first 5k, running a 100 mile race or tackling your first long distance triathlon, you should always surround yourself with athletes who add value to your experience. I’ve found truth in a phrase I once heard and I’ve tried to tailor it towards endurance racing.  I believe your athletic competence and achievements will be the average of the five athletes you train with. I’ve always trained up, meaning I seek out those who can challenge me in a positive way, avoiding complacency and ensuring my body is adequately fueled for the demands of the day. After all, this is a solo effort on race day and you’ll need to be a mental and physical fortress from head to toe! From the moment you sign up for a race, no matter how it’s come about, you’re either moving forward or falling behind…this all depends on your willingness to plan, learn and execute.

Good luck and above all have fun!

See you out on the course,

Nick