Can't swim, bike, or run with Andy: each race is a new Superbowl
Posted Sep 24 2011 10:15am
This Triathlon season seems to have flown by quicker than Mark Cavendish on the Champs-Elysees. It doesn’t seem five minutes since I opened my account back in May at the St Annes sprint triathlon. Sunday sees me closing my account in the last of the Fylde series at Fleetwood, a small coastal fishing town. The attraction of course is racing on closed roads, something of a rarity in this country. So as always the day before a race I’ve got a million and one thoughts running through my head.
Which bike do I use? Do I go with a two piece or use a tri-suit? ( I sound like such a diva ) Which running shoes do I wear? ( I have 3 pairs on the go at the moment ) What time do I need to set off to get there in time? What should I eat for my dinner tonight?
All off of this is just nervous energy, let’s face it none of it is really important other than getting there on time. Any bike or any pair of shoes will get me round the course. I liken this feeling to being a student again standing outside the exam hall, panicking that I don’t know anything about 16th Century European History or that my 4 pens will all run out of ink. Back then I achieved the highest grade and only used one perfect pen. With triathlon I’m not going to get a perfect position on the podium, I’m not wired that way, but I know I’ll give it my best shot. I’ve prepared, I’ve trained, I’ve raced before, none of this is new, yet the nerves remain.
One of the most common questions I get from people at book signings or the public speaking sessions is “Once you’ve done an Ironman how do you motivate yourself for a sprint?” I always smile when I answer that one.
To me it really doesn’t matter what the distance of the race is, it’s still a race. When I’m setting up transition, and stood there on the side of the pool or the lake, all I’m thinking about is the race ahead of me. That focus starts in the days before hand, when the nervous energy I talked about above takes over. Every time I race I want to do my best, I want to be faster, I’m not content with going through the motions. Even when realistically I know I’m not in the best physical shape I still expect to finish every race with a personal best, this is the competitor in me. I’m sure most of you will recognise this trait in yourselves.
To me it’s about wanting to prove to myself that I’m improving, that all the hours spent training, that the passing on desert was worth it. As triathletes we make personal sacrifices to try and better ourselves, racing allows us to gain feedback on those sacrifices. Hopefully it will all have been worth it, and if not then we re-assess, adjust and apply it for the next race.
At St Annes I finished in 1.20, which considering the almost hurricane like conditions ( one racer was blown off their bike ) I was really pleased with. Although I’m not in the racing shape I’d like to be, I feel stronger and fitter, and have trained harder and smarter. So at Fleetwood this Sunday I expect to be faster. This nervous energy is making me NEED to be faster, hopefully I’ll be able to channel that and it’ll be worth at least a minute or two on the road. The day I stop feeling nervous before a race is the day I retire from triathlon.
So I don’t really use a special technique to motivate myself, it’s inside of me. An Ironman or a Sprint, it just doesn’t matter. It may be the end of the season but I’m just as keen to perform well as I was back at the season opener. Sounds clichéd but each race is a new Superbowl, and hopefully after this one I’ll be going to Disney World.
Andy Holgate is the bestselling author of “Can’t Swim, Can’t Ride, Can’t Run: From Common Man to Ironman.” He lives in England, competes in triathlon and enjoys life to the full with his family.
He has his own blog HERE and his book is available from all good bookshops including Amazon HERE .