10/16/17

The Kona dream



Karel and I spent all of Saturday watching the Ironman World Championship. Actually, we first went out on our road bikes for a 2.5 hour ride (no shortage of mountain views) and then from 12:15-11pm, we watched and tracked athletes on Ironman.com. It was such a special day to have two of our athletes (Lisa and Leyla) out on the course for their first IM Kona experience (both finished!), which was also on the day when the male professional Ironman World Championship course record was broken. It was so much fun to track so many of our friends and to watch the professionals race in one exciting race on the big island of Kona! Congrats to everyone who earned a spot to the IM Kona start line!

I always find that the Ironman World Championship has a special way of helping athletes dream a bit bigger. While triathlon may not be for everyone, this recognized event is extremely motivating, regardless of fitness/athletic background.

While motivation can easily come from watching a one day event, not always is it easy to keep. If you have recently set a goal for yourself, you must be willing to maintain your efforts until you achieved that goal. Athletic success requires a lot of patience, persistence and grit but it often comes at the result of applying a little effort, day after day.

When a motivated, focused, determined athlete has a goal in place, there's often the tendency to make a lot of changes in an effort to reach that goal. Whether it's diet, training, lifestyle or a combination of all three, it's important to recognize that success does not come from a radical change or overhaul in your training methods, diet or lifestyle. It's focusing on the small things that make all the difference. 

Far too many athletes are constantly looking for quick results in an effort to achieve success as soon as possible. This inpatient thinking with a big goal in mind often results in extreme lifestyle changes with training and the diet. If you are willing and ready to get to that next level or you want to reach a personal goal, never underestimate the importance of making realistic, sustainable, smart and healthy decisions on a day-to-day basis.

If you have recently made a huge change, hoping for a grand, visible or talked-about outcome associated with it, you may find yourself with a performance decline or health issue in the near future.

It's not easy to reach a goal. Goals require a lot of hard work, patience, time and focus. But don't let the time that it takes to reach a goal scare you away from what could be an exciting and possibly life-changing journey.

Success is built on many small sustainable changes but small changes typically aren't visible or talked about. Minimal gains are not sexy and they don't get a lot of attention. They also don't make much of a difference at the time so you often feel like your recent change isn't working.

But eventually, they do add up to something very important over the long-term.

Think small for big things to happen.

10/13/17

IM Kona Race Week - Mistake #5

RACING UNDER PRESSURE

For many months, Ironman World Championship participants have been dreaming about race day. And now, with only one more sleep left to go, excitement suddenly turns into nerves and a calm mind suddenly goes into overdrive.

When you are racing against the best athletes in the world at the Ironman World Championship, it's easy to feel intimidated about everyone around you who is in the best shape ever and ready to perform at the top of their physical game.

But don't let this psych you out.

Athletic excellence on race day comes when your mind is as strong as your body. Don't let yourself get intimidated by the other athletes around you or by the challenging course. You earned your right to be at the start line and you know what you are getting yourself into. Trust yourself that you have the capability to reach the finish line. 

Here are my simple tips to help you perform under pressure while making the most of your Ironman World Championship experience:

  1. Swim - Whereas most sport psychologists would recommend staying extremely focused before the start by tuning out any outside distractions, the IM Kona swim start is something that should be enjoyed. Take it all in as this is a moment to remember. When you see the cameras, scuba divers, helicopter, spectators, volunteers and Mike Reiley, all there to watch you start your Ironman World Championship jouney, make sure to take a few minutes and really soak it all in.

  2. Bike - As most Ironman athletes know, you don't have to have a perfect race in order to have a great race. Make sure you have a plan for what you will do in every situation. Instead of worrying about what the winds will be like in Hawi or stressing about the possibility of a flat tire, equip yourself with the right mental tools of how you will handle anything that comes your way. Visualize different scenarios from all sections of the course so that come race day, you will feel prepared for whatever the Madame Pele gives you. And above all, never make assumptions or jump ahead in thoughts. Be proactive and processed driven. Remind yourself that you have trained the best that you could for the day and what's going to happen will happen - you can only control the controllables.


  3. Run - You are running on an island in the Ironman World Championship. Can life get any better?? When you are running on Ali'i drive with endless cheers giving you positive energy and when you are running on the Queen K and in and out of the energy lab, with the quiet roads of the island trying to such the energy out of you, make sure to enjoy the experience. The moment you stop caring is the moment that you give up on your dream. There's no reason why you can't run happy in an Ironman as this experience (even when you are suffering) as this experience is extremely special. You are not only blessed with the talent/luck/genetics/hard work ethic that helped you qualify but you also had the support of your family/work and the means to get to big island. Never lose your positive can-do attitude, no matter how much you are hurting or how dark of a place your mind goes into during the IM Kona marathon.


  4. Finish - The atmosphere near the finish line is unreal. With every foot strike forward to the magic red carpet, you will find the energy unlike anything that you have every experienced before in a triathlon event.

                                

    As you make your way on to Ali'i drive and run into the finish line chute, take it all in and don't let this special moment pass you by.


    Be sure to thank your body for what it has allowed you to do and no matter how your race went, be grateful for your experience to race on this iconic course with your healthy and strong body. 


And make sure to rock your finisher gear!!!
Be proud to wear your necklace and finisher medal - you earned it!


10/12/17

IM Kona Race Week - Mistake #4

RACING WITH A SPREADSHEET


Racing an Ironman triathlon is dynamic as there are so many variables that affect your performance. Some are within your control and others are out of your control. No matter how hard you trained, you will never feel fully prepared for everything that happens on race day. And in Kona, the unpredictable nature of the wind and heat make for an intimidating racing experience.

Going into the race with expectations and assumptions of how the day will go is just fine if that approach brings you confidence and excitement. But remind yourself that a great race day performance requires flexibility and adaptability.

With a spreadsheet, metric-obsessed mindset, it's easy to fail to reach athletic excellence on race day. Although it's the approach of many athletes, you can't go into an Ironman and expect your body to go on auto cruise for 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling and 26.2 miles of running by trying to hit certain paces/watts/speeds for 140.6 miles. The body wasn't designed to function like this. Additionally, from a physiological perspective, you can not hold the same effort, watts or pace for 140.6 miles - if you can, you are likely underperforming. To perform at your potential, you have to adjust as you go, through the high and low moments, hot, very hot, windy and very windy moments and by listening to your body as it relates to energy, fuel, hydration and mental focus. 

The goal of any Ironman athlete is to be great at not slowing down. In an effort to be great at not slowing down, you have to be constantly in-tune with your body signals. For many athletes, metrics are used to control a given output to avoid under/over racing. But a metric focused, spreadsheet approached racing plan typically hinders performance because it's very difficult to take care of yourself in the moment, when the mind is obsessed about hitting (or not hitting) a certain number. And when you can't follow your spreadsheet, you feel defeated.

As an athlete, you need to put all of your attention and focus into the present moment. A spreadsheet does not help you control everything that you will experience on race day. 

In any competitive situation (like the Ironman World Championship), a spreadsheet doesn't let you "race". When your brain gets caught up in non-constructive thinking (ex. thinking about the swim when you are on the bike or the bike when you are on the run) or if you start thinking that you are not meeting your expectations of what you think you should be doing, this mental chatter in your head can make it difficult to maintain focus and perspective. As an example, if you exit the water in Kona and see a time slower than what you anticipated, you may tell yourself that you are having a bad race. Same goes for the bike - if it's windy and you see a speed that is slower than what you have ever done before, you will struggle to stay focused with self-defeating thoughts.

It's important to make good decisions in the moment on race day - a spreadsheet can not do this for you. As an Ironman athlete, you must remain alert, focused and present, while constantly listening to your body and taking care of yourself. Because most athletes will struggle to meet metric goals on race day in Kona due to the unpredictable nature of the island, you may find yourself with great anxiety frustration and a sense of failure if you have a pacing and nutrition plan that you just can't keep up with on race day. 

I encourage you to go into the Ironman World Championship with a nutrition and pacing plan that reflects what is familiar to you and what you trained your body to do on race day. However, with this plan comes the understanding that you may need to adjust. You must adapt, stay processed-driven and focused throughout the entire race. If you can do this, you will find yourself having the best race performance possible by your body based on how well you managed what you were given on race day.