Mistake #3: Allowing my mind to sabotage my race
For the final installment of this series, let’s give the mental aspect of training and racing a go.
I have had plenty of races where I get so worked up and nervous before the race that I burn all of my energy before even hitting the start line! My heart starts racing and I put more and more pressure on myself to perform. I end up feeling drained once the gun actually does go off and typically have a terrible race.
The best races I have had were ones where I felt little or no pressure. I just wanted to go out there and see what I could do on that day. I was confident in the work and training I had put in and knew that I would give it my best no matter what happened.
Looking back, it seems that in the races where I crumbled mentally I was expected to accomplish a task that perhaps I was not quite ready for, or I expected myself to finish in a time that would have been a superhuman effort for me on that day. I was so focused on hitting a certain time or making it up a climb with the best climbers in the world without necessarily having the training behind me to back it up.
This is not to say that you should lower your expectations for yourself. Reaching my goals is what gets me out the door every morning to train. Yet, when race day comes around I have found that if I focus less on the time or place I finish in, and more on giving the best effort I can in that moment on that day, then I tend to have better races. Having a solid foundation of training behind me gives me a platform to jump off of in a race. When I can stand on the starting line confident in the work I have put in to get there, then I know when the gun goes off all I need to do it give the race my best effort.
I still have the pre-race jitters and nervousness, but I now focus less on the outcome of the race. I no longer wear a watch or look at a bike computer while racing. Nothing that the devices could tell me about my pace or what mile I am at will change the effort I am exerting in that moment. In the end we have no control over our competitors, the course, or conditions, but what we can control are our minds and bodies. Whether I finish first or last, I will finish knowing that I gave everything I had on that day, and that is all that I can ask of myself!
Professional cyclist turned professional triathlete living in Boulder, CO.