Welcome to race week. At this point in the Ironman process, it’s all about the mind and a good performance at this week’s Mind Games can set you up really well for race day.
The training is done. Nothing you physically do now is going to make any difference. It’s for this very reason that I turn to mental preparation in the days leading up to an Ironman.
Don’t. If you think you’re under prepared, consider it a positive. You’re far better off going into an Ironman on fresh legs. You have months of training behind you – if you don’t believe that, consult your training diary. Seriously, just take a look at the miles you’ve logged. It can be quite a motivator. This week is about giving your body rest so it’s gagging to go on race day. Think of this week as an arrow. It’s been built and shaped, now you just need to keep the tip sharp and out of harm’s way until you fire it on race day.
In the sessions you have planned this week, use this time to picture yourself in race situations. Place yourself in the water. Imagine the situation in your head. Remind yourself of what you need to be focusing on in the race (stroke rate/catch/pull/sight/relaxed breathing/swim long). Remind yourself that you’ll be nervous (nerves are good, they keep you alert). Remember nervousness will turn to excitement. Allow yourself to feel excited. It’s one hell of an experience.
Plan things to think about on the bike and run. A mantra; special people; your form. Keep the best bits for when times get toughest. Plan for an emotional rollercoaster. Know there’s going to be times where you’ll have to have stern words with yourself. Plan that speech.
Rehearse in your head what you’ll do in T1, T2 or if you puncture. This prep helps you keep calm should you be faced with a difficult situation.
Dream of the finish. See that red carpet. Allow yourself to feel the wash of emotion you’ll experience when you know you’re going to finish this beast.
You’ll get them. You’ll be walking a flight of stairs and suddenly think – what’s that ache in my knee? It’s only natural. It’s like when you’re buying a new car, you suddenly see the model you like EVERYWHERE. Your mind is razor sharp at this point and very much in tune with the body. You’ll overthink every sensation. Don’t dwell on these sensations.
Possibly the hardest mind game to control. Am I getting sick? I feel so sluggish. My legs are so lethargic. Stop worrying – it’s tapering. Keep sensible – wash your hands regularly. Avoid public gatherings if you can. But ultimately, just go about life like normal. You’ll look stupid walking around in bubble-wrap.
Source or create a race checklist. Use this week to get your kit together. Trust me, pulling everything together settles the mind. Don’t leave everything to the last few days. It overloads the brain. Time will run out or get filled by something else. Use the spare time (because you’re NOT training as much) to prepare.
Focus on yourself this week. Another week of being selfish won’t kill anyone. Eat well (don’t try anything new), get your bike sorted, kit packed, mind ready. Sleep. Get as many hours as you can. Set ‘get to bed’ deadlines. Sleep now becomes THE most valuable commodity. Work will try and stress you out. Don’t let it. Be honest with colleagues. Tell them this is the week you can’t be pulling your hair out.
Read the race manual. (Remember all that spare time you’ll have not training?) Read it a few times if you can. Trying to cram in all the info the night before is useless. Knowing the course in your head will help. Picture milestone points on the map. Do the visualisation bit. How are you going to feel at 30km into the run?
Knowing the course detail is especially important on a course with laps. Know how it works. Do I collect rubber bands? How many, where? Knowing this detail on the day is priceless. There’s nothing worse than doubt/panic during the race.
Try to Relax
All of the above seems like you’re going to be busy 24/7. Make time to relax. Read a book, watch a silly movie. Anything to take your mind off the race. When lying in bed, the visualisation stuff really helps. See yourself running relaxed. Biking smooth.
How do you eat an elephant?
Bite by bite.
Don’t think of the race as a whole. Break it into bits. Don’t get overwhelmed. This is more an actual what-to-do-in-the-race, but you’ll start thinking of the race in whole terms before Sunday. Don’t worry about it. Little by little you’re going to get to the finish.
Now’s it’s time for me to practice what I’ve preached. I can’t wait to race. See you on the start line.