No matter if you’re a novice athlete training for your first triathlon or a seasoned World Champion, facing ups and downs during both the preparation and the race day is all part of the journey.
The way you cope with setbacks will ultimately determine whether you’ll reach the finish line with success or disappointment. By focusing on what you can control, particularly your attitude, you can overcome any obstacles that come your way.
Whenever you encounter a challenging moment in your training or during the race, like a flat tire, a side stitch, overheating, nausea, and so on, it’s crucial to recognize the issue and assess what might have caused it. Then, find a solution to fix it (e.g., change the flat, take deep breaths, pour water over your head, induce self-vomiting). With experience, you’ll learn how to handle these situations better.
Before the event, it’s advisable to create a “What if XY and Z happen” list and determine how you’ll deal with them. Here are some tips that every athlete should know:
- If you’re cramping, take in some salt and water and slow down if you’re exceeding your planned pace.
- If you experience a side stitch, you may be breathing shallowly, so try to relax and take some deep breaths.
- If you struggle with heat, consider putting ice in your tri suit, hat, or pouring water over your head at every aid station. When signing up for a race, think about the heat factor and choose events in cooler climates if you need to.
- When your energy drops significantly, it’s likely that your blood sugar is low, so take in some calories in the form of an electrolyte drink, gels, or whatever you’ve prepared for race day.
- A slight headwind on the bike may annoy you, but remember that everyone else has to deal with it too. Your negative response can drain your energy, so train in windy conditions to develop the mental toughness to overcome it on race day.
- Slightly colder water may cause breathlessness and panic. To acclimate yourself to the temperature, warm up in the water before your wave starts. Check out some cold water acclimation tips here.
- Don’t let weather or terrain get in the way of your fitness. Prepare for every event to be hot, windy, and hilly.
- Flat tires and other mechanical issues are common. In case of a breakdown, try to assess the situation calmly, and call the race official to send the bike mechanic. Take the delay as an opportunity to regroup and refocus, and get back on track with your nutrition and pace.
Your mind is a powerful tool. It can either be your best friend or worst enemy. Use your head, not just your fitness, during the final portion of your race, and remember to smile for your finish line photo!
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