I have never entered a race(not to mention the Worlds) with so much fear and lack of confidence than in this event. Somehow I managed to overcome those fears and I ended up having a great race and also surprisingly, a fun race. In today’s blog I share all I was dealing with prior to my race, how that altered my race strategy and how I managed to overcome my pre race lack of confidence and nervousness. I hope you enjoy and can relate this to every day life as the power of the mind is amazing.
If you follow my blog, you would know that I had a very tough 5 weeks leading up to the Worlds. I somehow got an infection in my elbow while out West the first week of August and have been on antibiotics every since.
The day I got the infection, I felt it was an amazing day as I basically did a Triathlon that day so I thought it was a perfect day. I woke up and did a run up the Mountain with Lauren, then did intervals in an outdoor pool with Matt and then finished by riding up Red Mountain. To top the day off, we celebrated my nephew Ryans wedding. This was a great day but it is likely why I got sick as my Immune system was severly compromised due to flying, late nights and my intense training that day as well as leading up to that point. If you missed my blog “Why Do I Get Sick”, you can access it here:http://kevinbradyhealth.ca/why-do-i-get-sick/
Due to my illness, I had very limited training in the 5 weeks leading up to the Worlds. The first 10 days of my infection, I did zero training as I was on IV antibiotics and had a needle in my arm so could not train at all. In fact I was supposed to be in my last race of the season that weekend and couldn’t take part in it as I had a needle in my arm. Following the IV, I continued on antibiotics as the infection would not go away. In fact, I was on antibiotics leading right up to the race and in fact I am still on 2 antibiotics. The problem is that either due to the antibiotics or me fighting the infection, my energy levels were extremely low. In fact, in the weeks leading up to the race my plan was to work out every day however I had zero energy and in fact I was achy and felt flu like symptoms all through my body. In addition, the Doctors I saw prior to the race advised me not to go to the Worlds with my infection so I was quite skeptical and questioned whether I should be even doing the race at all.
Rotterdam Pre Race
We flew to Rotterdam 3 days prior to the race(Race was Sunday) so I could get used to the time change, get used to the course and also go through the registration. The plan was to do limited training to conserve my energy but at least get our for an easy run or ride. Rotterdam was freezing cold and wet leading up to the race and unfortunatly I caught a cold on top of everything else I was going through. On the Saturday(day before the race) they had a bike familiarization ride which the organizers suggested everyone do as they were warning everyone about the trecherous turns, man made ramps and cobblestone streets on the race course. I did go and do the familiarization ride and it was cold and pouring rain the entire time I was out on the course. To top it off, I ended up with a flat tire! Not a lot of things were going in the right direction from a mental standpoint prior to the race!
Negative Thoughts Prior to Race
The reason I shared the events leading up to the race is it really impacted my normal thought patterns prior to the race. I was worried about a few things. I was worried about the swim as due to my illness I had only been in a pool training twice in the last month. In addition, the last time I swam in a lake with a wetsuit was July in the Gravenhust triathlon. During that race I went out too fast and started hyperventilating so had to stop likey 5 or 6 times. They were also warning us about the frigid cold temperature of the water so I was very concerned about the impact that would have on me as well. I was also very worried about the bike leg of the race based on all the warnings and the tough technical course. Also with it being a draft legal race, it increased the chances of accidents with other riders.
Lastly I was concerned whether in fact I should even be doing the race at all based on the notes I was getting from friends telling me to “take it easy” and to “come back alive” as well as the Doctors warnings to not even race. I wasn’t even sure I would have the energy to even finish the race based on my energy levels leading up to the race.
So the bottom line was that I was entering on the most important race of the year against the best in the World with little or no confidence. I am sure this was the least confident I had been heading into any prior race and somehow I had to overcome this feeling prior to the race.
What I Did To Get In
I attempted to get myself in my “normal” pre race mindset which is generally one of confidence and predicting how fast and well I will perform on each leg. I reflected back on my race notes from prior big races and successes and attempted to put myself back in that mindset. I also was reading a book that our son Matt gave me for my birthday called “How Bad Do You Want It” which helped me to get in a good mental place. I also reflected on all the training I had done all season and even though I hadn’t done much training so to speak in the last month, I had to believe I had put in the necessary miles and training to be able to not only finish but perform well.
My Altered Race Strategy
Based on my self doubt about the race and whether in fact I could even finish, I developed a much different strategy than usual.
Based on the extremely cold water temperature(shockingly cold), and the fact that I had only been in the water twice in the last month, my strategy was to start out the swim slow and build every 250 meters. I didn’t plan on going out as I typically do which is to go out full blast with the race leaders and then settle into my groove. Part of the reason besides lack of training was the fact that the last race I had done, I had to stop a bunch of times due to going out way to quick and getting myeslf in a panic situation.
My Strategy on the bike leg based on the crazy technical and draft legal course was to go “cautiously fast”. My plan was to go as hard as I could on the straight aways and be carefull around the tight turns, on the cobblestone streets and obstacles. My run strategy was to go with everything I had left in me and go as hard as I could on the run.
I somehow had a great sleep prior to the race which I felt was odd as typically pre race nerves keep me from having a great sleep. I wondered if my good sleep was due to the fact I was sick and possibly still fighting my infection? I took my morning HRV(Heart Rate Variability) and that gave me confidence as it indicated my nervous system was in a good spot to perform that day.
The Race – What Transpired?
Prior to the swim I did a warmup in the freezing cold water. I was glad that I did this as it was shockingly cold and I hadn’t been in water that cold all year. It at least got me used to the very cold water so I wasn’t shocked when I went in for the race. We were the 3rd wave to go and they instructed us all to get in the water as it was an open water start with one hand on the pier. Before I knew it the start horn went off and it was mass bedlam(or like being in a human washing machine) as usual.
Here the best in the world were battling it out for position in the water. I executed my strategy perfectly as I went out slower than usual and easy. My thoughts during this portion of the race was to concentrate on slow, long and deep strokes. Once I hit the 250 meter marker I then knew I could go harder. I felt my hands and feet going numb due to the water temperature. I knew when I hit the last bouy that I was in good shape and could finish the swim strong. I turned it up for the last leg of the race as I could see the finish in sight. I finished mid pack on the swim and overall was pleased and also pleased that the swim was over.
The transition from the swim to the bike was very long and I am sure was at least a kilometer long. I sprinted as fast as I could in my wetsuit and kept my position and in fact passed a few people. Once in transition I had to find my row and my bike. I had a tougher time in transition than usual as for some reason I couldn’t get my wetsuit off quickly. As well, we had to pack all our swim gear(wetsuit, goggles and swim cap) in a “Swim” bag that they would transport to the finishor it would result in disqualifcation. After getting my bike gear on we had another long run with the bike out of transition but I must say this transition seemed to go by quick.
It was a draft legal race so my goal was to find some fast cyclists and organize a group to ride and draft with. The issue was the course was highly technical with many turns and obstacles. The first 5 k was quite treacherous and was mainly through town with many turns so I had to really pay attention and stay focused. Then I managed to hook up with a few Brits and and Aussie and we took turns pulling at the front. I stayed with these 3 riders for the balance of the race. I went on the cobbelstone pier that I had flatted on the day before and prayed that didn’t happen again and I was fortunate as I finished the bike without a flat. I was talking out loud to the other cyclists I was with and somewhat “coaching” them on when to switch at the lead of the pack. Based on the very technical course I was pleased with my bike leg as I averaged over 33km/hour. The entire time I was thinking fast and safe as this is the portion of the race that typically there are accidents or collissions. Misson accomplished as I finished the bike with no complications and felt I went as hard as I possibly could. My legs were buring with pain many times over the course of the bike portion so I knew I was going as fast as possible.
This was the first race I had ever done with two different transition zones. T1 was on an island where the swim exit was and T2 was on the mainland in the town itself. Once again due to the volume of racers, it was a long run into transition with the bike and a long transition out. Going into transition I had to remember where my bike was located which was on Row 42 of the transition. I had an ok transition as I had trouble getting my shoes on prior to the run.
This is the portion of the race that typically I do not look forward to. Since I was nervous about the swim and the bike coming into the race, I was actually looking forward to my run. The run however is typically my weakest link of the triathalon and proved to be again this day. All I could think of was going maximum effort and to leave it all out on the course which I did. However once again I had likley 15 or 20 people pass me on the run as it is my weakest part of the race. What I thought about during my run was a saying my kids remind me of “How Bad Do You Want It?“. In fact I am reading that book now and was reading it prior to my race as Matt gave it to me for my birthday. If you havent ready it, it is a great book. I know I went as hard as I could possibly go on the run and really enjoyed pushing through the pain.
When I finished the race I was really really pleased with how my race went and my results. I thought it was one of the funnest triathlon races I have done and am not sure why. Perhaps it was because I didn’t have high expectations going into the race based on illness and lack of recent training.Perhaps it was due to my race strategy to start slowing and to build during the race. Perhaps I was pleased that I was able to compete at the level I did based on all the fears and caution that others had instilled into me prior to the race. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t so concerned with my result(ie what place I would come in) and was just focused on the race itself and doing my very best.
I ended up finishing 5th in Canada and 50th overall which was a better result than last year so I was very pleased with my results. It is amazing how things turn out. What I thought could have been one of my worst races of my life turned out great and to top it off I really enjoyed the entire experience. It is amazing what the mind can do and I can also learn from the experience of this race.
Now it is time to get back to the gym and get my body strong again after doing mainly Cardio over the last 5 months! And I should also say it is great to be home in the great country we live in.
Yours in Great health, Kev