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It's March 23rd 2001 and I'm sitting here in a hotel room in Birmingham Alabama two days before Powerman Alabama and I’ve just decided the topic for another article. There are three parts, but I’m not sure on how to convince you that each part is equally important individually and to the effectiveness of the other. Maybe as I draft this on my laptop, I’ get me thoughts more organized. Bear with me…
The weather on Sun the 25th here is forecast to be rainy and in the high 30s at race time. Having done (survived) the Gonzo Duathlon last weekend, however, puts the potential for adverse weather in a more tolerant perspective. I did a 30-minute run on part of the Powerman run course yesterday after driving the bike course. Today, I did about an hour ride of the bike course; tomorrow I’ll just relax, scope out the Expo and clean and check out my bike and other gear for the umpteenth time.I always feel good about how I’ do in a race because of three things that lead up to a successful duathlon, triathlon, marathon—even life: past experience, preparation, and attitude. Those are the three topics I’ touch on— using what you’ve learned from previous events, doing the specific training and planning for certain goals, and most importantly, finding, getting into, and maintaining the right outlook on competing.
Most recently in the area of race experience was Gonzo’s—for those of you who did it, I don’t have to say anything more. For those who weren’t there, the weather sucked. Period. But I digress…Anyway, I had a flat (first time in a race) at the turnaround (where else). I discovered that the spare tube stem wasn’t the right size for my deep-dish racing wheel (I’m smarter now) so I tried to patch the hole in the flat. It was so cold I was shaking too much to put the patch, but it didn’t matter because it wouldn’t hold anyway since it was raining so hard. The sag wagon showed up and they helped patch the tube for me, remount the tube and tire, and pump it up for me. Here’s the points to my rambling:
Point #1: Check out your gear thoroughly before the race; plan for any contingency—flats, cold, rain, whatever you can imagine. Practice for contingencies. If it can happen, anticipate it and plan for it. If help is offered during a race and it’s authorized, accept it. It’s there, you need it—use it. As for specific training for the particular race upcoming, I again use the Gonzo Du. I’d biked most of the new course, but not all of it. I felt comfortable on the bike course while racing until I got onto the portion I hadn’t been on before. Combined with the weather, not knowing the route can work to your disadvantage psychologically.
Point #2: Check out the route(s) you’ll be racing on; become familiar with the hills, flat portions, water temperature, road surfaces, etc. For a duathlon or triathlon, bike the run and drive the bike portions if practical. Swim in the lake or river before race day. For a marathon, drive the course, but run the last five miles just for practice. And any time you drive a course, stop frequently, get out of the car, and look at the incline and feel the wind. This last one is the toughest to express as important to being satisfied with preparation and performance—its your attitude; how you feel mentally; your confidence. Again: Gonzo. For every one who completed the race, congratulations! The real test was how you dealt with the psychological downside of the rain, the cold, and the wind.
Point #3: Physical preparation for a race is often easy compared to the mental gymnastics and stresses the elements and circumstances may put on you. Be a Boy Scout; Be Prepared. Mental outlook and perspective play a major part in race performance. Get an attitude and develop it through practice and testing—make it positive, realistic, and use it to get you across the finish line—physically and mentally. I’ve rarely done a race I didn’t learn from, that didn’t refocus or reinforce my future training, or didn’t help me become mentally stronger and more prepared for the next race.
The experiences of competing are too valuable to waste. Don’t miss any opportunity to compete, learn, try again, and grow. Train smart and stay safe.