Overcoming That Mid Race Urge to Slow or Quit

In 2005, Michellie Jones made her foray into long distance triathlon by competing in her first race in Kona.  She had previously established herself as a world power in the shorter races and felt confident that she could do the same at the iron distance.  She was almost right.  Coming out of T2 with a 5-minute lead over multiple World Championship winner Natascha Badmann, Jones, respected for her running ability, was able to hold off the charging Badmann...for a while.  Sadly for her, Michellie was passed in the late stages of the marathon to lose by only two minutes over the difficult 140.6 mile Hawaii course.

  2400 bikes wait for their owners to complete the 2.4-mile swim

I've watched this race several times and there were a number of really tough spots for her on the run where many of us would have simply dropped out or at the very least walked to the finish line for 10,000th place.  But she didn't.  A year later I asked her why.  She said, "I just have to take it one mile at a time, think right now.  How do I get through right now."?

We all have to have a way, when the race gets tougher than we think we can handle, to be able to fight back.  

This has to be something more than tired slogans on high school gym walls like, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."  Haven't you thought, more than once I'm afraid, "Uh huh, right, I think I'll walk thank you very much!"  And you do.  Or worse, you quit.  I can not so proudly say that I am guilty of both.

Sports Psychologist Dr. Kieth Bell, in his book The Nuts and Bolts of Psychology for Swimmers, tells us "not to put our ego on the line."  He continues saying that our anxiety over not finishing what we started off doing stems "from the prospect of not doing well, equating yourself with your performance....as if how well you {compete} somehow determines how good a person you are."  He demands that we focus on the race, the job at hand, not the results.  You can't do anything about the results except control your race.

Sport psychology consultant Cheryl Hart takes this a step further.  When you're suffering, and thoughts of DNF start to enter your mind,

"Remember why you signed up for this race to begin with?"

In other words, "What do you stand to gain if you accomplish your goal and what do you stand to lose if you don't achieve it?"  This is a very personal thing.  While some race for a cause and some for family, it's personal:




It's personal

The answer to the question why must be firmly implanted in your brain well before the gun blast signals the swim start and provides each of us "motivational fuel."  Dr. Hart tells us that this should include a vivid picture of how success will look and feel including the meaning attached.

So, like Michellie Jones when struggling to run, with the World Champion on her heels, we need to stay in the moment, not "fast-forwarding to the finish line (outcome and ego based) but focusing on the process taking one step at a time.  The race seems less daunting if it's broken down into manageable increments."

I wrote a blog on fluid management a while back and mentioned one year in Hawaii, when I was very far behind on fluid management, I knew it was sit down or fall down time for me.  (I sat down at an aid station.  For a right good while, actually.) We all have these low points, all of us, some more dramatic than others.  But, if like Michellie after finishing 2nd in 2005, you learn from it, also like Michellie, who came back in 2006 to win in convincing style despite incredible winds on the bike, you can remember why you're here.  Think Katie Ledecky, think Roger Federer, think 2018 Boston Red Sox World Series MVP Steve Pearce, athletes all who have “a vivid picture of how success will look and feel!  You, too, can overcome a mind telling you that you can't do this.  You can!