Record-breaking wind. Waves taller than athletes. Over 90 degree heat with high humidity. Talk of the anticipated weather conditions was the number one topic discussed around athletes the week of the race. It was easy to get caught up in the hearsay and let fear and anxiety creep in. This is the pep talk Dan offered his athletes a few days before to help them mentally prepare.
You wouldn't be in this sport or any sport that competes with the weather if you didn't have a strong will, body or both. You've worked on the body for months even years to overcome such feats of endurance. You know you are going to finish, so let us nail that point on the wall.
Let's talk to the Monkey. In psychiatry, this is the limbic system or the small brain. The part of the brain that screams "we are all going to die." It's a necessary function that rears its ugly head when trying to focus on your race. You want to concentrate on the Frontal Cortex. The logical brain. Now don't overthink this which is easy to do. Take a deep breath, and let's go over what you already know.
SWIM: The Anticipation of Big Waves
Stroke Rate: Increase your stroke rate. Example, my average race stroke rate is around 68-72spm. Face with big waves or lots of short choppy waves I will intermittently increase to 75-80spm. Think of a song or a rhythm that will help you. Or sing a familiar song a little faster.
Wide PULL: It's common in the pool to have the hands right under the shoulder as you pull the water. Try moving your hands a little wider to stabilize your balance.
High Swells: This can hinder sighting. Try switching to a breaststroke for a few strokes. When your body reaches the top of the swell, the head will be steady, stable and your head will be high enough to see clearer. Don't worry out losing speed. For some, you won't lose a beat.
For a lot of people, this as the recovery between the swim and run. Try and manage your nutrition. Stay as relaxed as possible. If you're feeling rigid, have the monkey do a system-wide check. Hands relaxed, elbows resting comfortably, feet turning over the paddles smooth and relaxed. No mashing. Tension burns calories and tires the mind. Most accidents occur when this happens. 5-10 miles left quick body check and formulate a plan for the run. Give that Frontal lobe something to do.
Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate. In the heat, I try to do negative splits. We all want to finish like Mark Allen or Paula-Newby Fraser, but it's not going to happen if you chase those rabbits too soon. Get in a lap then check your reserves, do you have what it takes to push the pace a little faster, how are you feeling. Are you managing your body temperature? The two I like are ice under my hat (yes I wear a hat on hot days just for that reason) and ice in the mouth under the tongue. Protect the brain from the heat first, then move to cool or cold water on the spine. Drink cold fluids, stuff sponges under your shirt.
The takeaway? KNOW what you want to do. EXECUTE your plan. ADJUST were needed. LOOK forward to seeing what can happen and prepare for it. IF and IF it arrives you will be READY.
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