In my blog post ”Norseman 2018 – the failure” I wrote about how I needed to change my mindset if I was going to avoid a whole life of beating myself up for all the small things I am not doing perfectly.
Some people believe that eternal strive for «perfection» is the only way to achieve excellence. Work harder, work more and never be satisfied with the achieved result. My experience shows that this mindset has its disadvantages.
A strong focus on the details makes it difficult to see the bigger picture. By the time you have reached your own level of perfection, you most likely have spent at least twice the time needed to reach the desired outcome. The time you could have used for other activities with even bigger performance potential.
Personally, I am very into the details and need help to see the bigger picture. To help me with this, I have been working with my mindset coach, Adelaide Goodeve, who I met through Norseman when she was working there.
Adelaide is by no means an expert on triathlon and is just starting out on her own triathlon career. She cannot teach me much about the details in triathlon; however, Adelaide has broad experience with high performing athletes in other sports. She is helping me figure out what my “work” is and what my key focus points are, in order for me to perform at my best, consistently. We discovered that my work description is the following:
My work is to swim, bike and run as fast as possible.
My 5 key focus points to achieve my work
- Be able to hold a hard maximum effort on the swim for as long as possible with a sharp focus until transition.
- Cycling as economically and efficiently as possible
- Excellent nutrition plan
- Conservative race pace at the start of the run
- Maintain focus and motivation and keep pushing in the last 20km of the run
It is all very practical and we have a strategy for improving each point of focus and metrics for measuring the improvement.
Then we have the “mental” side of it, the mental training. I am mentally tough. I am a mental badass who truly can whip the horse (a.k.a my body) until the brink of collapse. The problem with this mental state and attitude is that it only works as long as the body is responding well.
On okay days, the performance becomes mediocre but on bad days, it’s really bad. You resent yourself for not being able to perform and are not “man enough” to take the pain and suffering. I would never ever talk to others in the harsh manner I talk to myself. While this mindset has brought me a long way up the road, it definitely has its shortcomings. It’s just not a positive and healthy mental state to race and train in. After having a great 2015 and a good start of 2016 I started my negative spiral. Working harder and burnout in races. Compensate the poor race performance with even more and harder training which lead to even weaker race performance.
In the mental training with Adelaide, we replace the whip for carrots. We change the negative judgmental self-talk with positive affirmations and self-love. It may come across as a bit of new age hippy talk, but from my experience, it truly works. And even better, it works fast.
After our first session addressing this issue, I changed the way I looked and talked to myself. It did not make Ironman Barcelona easy, that is hardly possible and not the goal of the mindset coaching. It did however profoundly change my subjective feeling of the experience.
Instead of blaming myself for not being able to keep up with the swim group I wanted to, I focused on technique and keeping a maximum sustainable effort. On the bike, I focused on being efficient, economical and being spot on in my nutrition plan.
When things got tough on the run I did not blame myself for slowing down, I encouraged myself to keep on pushing, on fighting and reminding myself of the amazing effort I have achieved so far.
The result was a PR of 8 minutes. More importantly, it was a good experience where I was able to dig deep without digging my own mental grave at the same time. I finished leaving everything out there and finished happy.
Before Ironman Texas we worked on fine-tuning my focus points and mental techniques. It was no surprise that heat would be a challenge. To meet that challenge we laid out a strategy, which included:
- Be as efficient on the bike as possible and keeping the nutrition and hydration plan spot on.
- Start the run easy and avoid the high effort peaks
- Cool yourself with water and ice when possible
- Pour an imaginary bucket of ice water over your head to cool you down (this I trained on in the sauna sessions before the race)
There is definitely more to achieve with these mental techniques and we are just in the start pit when it comes to finding what is most effective for me.
If you are interested to check out more about Adelaide Goodeve just visit her webpage https://adelaidegoodeve.com which also have some very useful blog posts. Her podcasts are also really good https://adelaidegoodeve.com/podcast/