Pre-race nerves

Pre-race nerves

The jitters

I wrote a post about tapering a few months ago, which addresses some of the things that may come up in the weeks leading up an event. If you want to take a look then it is here.

Its nearly Ironman Wales race day, and I know how a lot of you will be feeling… nervous, excited, and scared, to name a few emotions, and on top of that you need rest before the big day. The main thing you need to do is let go of these negative emotions. By this I mean acknowledge that you feel a certain way, try to work out why, and then let go.

Have a plan

I encourage my athletes to make a race plan, so that if any worry crops up before race day they know that they have planned for it and are prepared. A plan needs to be adaptable, as unexpected things happen. You can plan for these events to a certain extent but bear in mind that on race day something may happen that you haven’t planned for. Dealing with these events is what racing is all about as you learn about yourself and can develop as a person. So even if it goes wrong you will learn something!

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Uncontrollable’s

If its a fear about the weather, or conditions then there is nothing you can do about it. Everyone is facing the same thing, you will get through whatever the race throws at you, if you have prepared properly. There is little point in worrying about things that are beyond your control just let go and accept.

Never mind about the weather!

Never mind about the weather!

Use the force!

If you are excited, then channel that energy into positive thoughts about the race. Any time you feel a surge of adrenaline then think of a key phrase or song that motivates you. One of my favourites is “I am the best that I can be”, as it doesn’t rely on a result or time to be achieved. You will be the best that you can be on race day whatever happens.

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Relax

Before the race you may be very nervous and stressed, you may find a relaxation CD, or some relaxing stretching could help you in the days before, if you can’t sleep . On the day I found deep breathing was useful. Last year as I was standing in a group of nervous athletes I told a couple of my friends to try to breathe in slowly then breathe out longer that the breath in (similar to birthing and yoga breathing) A few people turned around when we did it together, but I found it really helped to calm my nerves before I got in the water.

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Smile

Enjoy the race. Remember how lucky you are to be able to race today, smiling relaxes your body and makes you feel good so I’m hoping to see some happy faces on Sunday!

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The best laid plans

The best laid plans

Stick to the plan? I am a great believer in plans, but sometimes unexpected things crop up that are not part of the plan. I have had a few of these this year, and how you react to these unexpected “challenges” are what makes you you. We can learn a lot about ourselves by observing how we react in these situations. If the way we react is harming us in some way then hopefully we can change in order to develop and grow.

My year I have not had the best year this year. The plan was to have an easier year doing 2 half Ironman distance races with a view to doing Ironman Wales again in 2016. I planned my season around my A race The Wales Triathlon. I was feeling pretty good, I had accepted my DNF at The Titan, (you can read about that here) and improved my FTP by 10 watts this year, a goal I had set myself last year. Screenshot 2015-07-30 16.14.37 A week ago I was in the sea with my boys and I jumped over a wave and landed on a stone that impacted in to the arch of my foot, it hurt quite a bit at the time but I thought it was ok, and stayed in the water. When I got out I could hardly walk up the beach. My mum drove me home, and I tried to convince myself that it was fine and it would be ok in a few days. I iced it and rested. The next day I went out on the bike, tried to run and couldn’t so rested again. On Sunday I did a brick session. I ran for 20 mins and felt fine, On Tuesday I tried to run again, no chance, and exactly a week later, my ankle was still swollen and foot hurting. Throughout the week I have had many different thoughts in my head. First feeling I needed to stick to my plan and watching my fitness on the decline as my taper did not go as planned. Screenshot 2015-07-30 16.28.48 Then realising that I couldn’t run, so maybe I could just do the swim and cycle, and then feeling like not doing any of the race, but entering a race at the end of September, as I didn’t know if I could face starting a race knowing I wouldn’t be able to finish. I decided it was time to get my foot looked at!

Foot diagnosis

I went in to A&E, the nurse examined it and confirmed my initial thoughts that it was just a bruise on the bottom of my foot that had caused soft tissue damage. This had been aggravated by me continuing to try and train. I told her I had a race the next day and had been training all year for it, and she said that if I did do it then to expect it to swell up again after. So I went away still in 2 minds.

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Decisions, decisions…

After a lot of thought I decided that I wouldn’t race, my heart just wasn’t in it, I couldn’t run on my foot anyway, (too painful and would cause too much damage) so I would have been going in for just the swim and cycle. My husband has also had health issues the past few weeks and we are dealing with the stress and anxiety associated with that too, so I feel that the stress of not finishing another race may have been too much for me.

How I got my head round it

It is so hard to make decisions like this, especially when your whole season has been geared towards something that you had expectations of. I was really hoping to do well in this race, and my fitness is at a peak, so I have had to let go of that fitness, and my expectations from the race. I have had to accept the decision that I have made, and believe that it was the right one to make, there is always next year, and I have goals for that too.

I have entered The Snowman which is at the end of September so that at least I complete a triathlon this year, my fitness won’t be what it is now because I had planned to have the summer off training, so we have a few camping trips booked, and I won’t be able to train as much, but I’m looking forward to the race and I’ll be going up with Patrick for the weekend without the kids so we get to spend some time together too.

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Takeaway lessons

It is important to be adaptable and able to change your expectations.

Remember the positives from the season, if you are in Triathlon for the long term then you have still benefitted from any things that didn’t go exactly as planned, endurance builds up over years so the training that you have done in one year adds to the next years training.

Accept any obstacles that come your way, the sooner you do this the less energy you will waste fighting against an uncontrollable, accept what has happened, you can’t change it, and make a decision that you feel happy with, then stick to it.

Enjoy it, there is always another goal out there for you, and sometimes things are sent as a wake up call to check how much you really want your goal.

Don’t underestimate other factors in your life, you may feel that your stress at work or in your family has nothing to do with triathlon, but any stress impacts on your life and affects your ability to train and race.

Tapering and what to expect

A lot of athletes are tapering or will be tapering for an event round about now. This is arguably one of the most mentally challenging parts of your training so far. You may feel a variety of conflicting emotions. I will run through some of these below, and hopefully put any last minute anxieties to rest.

You may feel you have not done enough training

Look at your training plan, did you complete most of the sessions? Have you remained consistent? If the answer is yes then well done, you have no reason to be worried about what you have done. If you haven’t then it is beyond your control now. Let go of any fear you may have about not doing enough training, you did what you could do at the time, and that is enough to get you through your event. Don’t try and cram in extra workouts now, you will not gain fitness by training hard in the last few weeks before the event, your work here is done! Screenshot 2015-07-09 17.20.49 You may have niggles/heavy legs

As race day approaches it is common to notice every twinge and become concerned. It is more than likely your mind is playing tricks on you. Your legs may feel heavy and tired, this is normal, and you are not alone. It can be down to your muscle tissue rebuilding so think of it as a good sign, and make sure you rest enough to allow your body to do what it needs to do (Recover) Stretch, and massage. Make sure you don’t massage too close to an event as sometimes it can move things around and cause problems to flare up. There is a stretching routine here which may help you to calm down and relax.

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Trigger point therapy with a tennis ball!

You may have specific fears about the race

For example one of my worries at every race I go to is being late. I have never been late for a race, so this fear is unfounded. Make sure that you write a plan that covers all eventualities, e.g. what time you will wake up, what you will eat, what you will wear, any equipment that you need etc etc. This will set your mind at rest. Think about your specific fears, is there anything you can do about them? If you can do something to ease those fears then do it. Now is the time to put those fears to rest and have strategies in place to help you cope with race day nerves. I find myself writing lots of lists which helps me cope with my anxiety.

The Titan checklist

You may think you are getting your taper wrong

This is similar to thinking you have not done enough training. Just as there are many different ways of training and racing, there are also many different ways of tapering. Hopefully you have followed a plan that has been designed by someone who has knowledge of endurance sports and is aware of the science and research behind tapering. You may feel like you have tapered for too long or not enough. Put trust in your programme. If you believe that what you are doing is the right thing then you will benefit mentally as well as physically. If you spend your taper worrying if you have got it right you will waste a lot of energy. Let go of your worries it doesn’t matter what others are doing, it matters what you are doing. If you have followed a plan so far don’t deviate from it now or you will risk jeopardising your race. Stick to the plan.

You may feel grumpy and or depressed

You have built up your training to such a level that when you taper you may feel like there is something missing. There may be a gap in your life that you think needs filling. Don’t try to cram more stressful activities into your life now. Relax and enjoy the rest, eat healthily, and enjoy just being. Read in the sunshine or just chill out. Make the most of your spare time by mentally preparing for the race. Fill your head with positive imagery and words. You need to minimise any negative energy. You can do this by repeating a phrase that means something to you, for example “I am the best that I can be”, or by visualising parts of the race course and imagining yourself feeling strong, and enjoying yourself. Smile and remember how lucky you are to be able to do this! 2015-07-09 18.43.44Race day

Remember, on race day everyone will be feeling nervous. Find a way of coping with your nerves, become aware of your breathing, listen to music, whatever gets you through. Once you start you will get in to your rhythm. You have practised for this day 100’s of times during training, and it will all come together. If you can do these things you will have a great race.

4 up TT and The Titan Triathlon

On Thursday it was the Port Talbot Wheelers 4 up time trial, our team only started with 3 so we had less of a break from riding on the front, but it was a similar team to last year, Mel, Kirsty, and myself. Lats year we had Clair, this year we were meant to have Karina, but she couldn’t make it. We arrived and unpacked, I think we were all a bit nervous and Mel nearly started riding with a piece of insulating foam attached to her bike, then as we were practising we were turning right and slowed down, and Kirsty, who was behind me on her TT bars came off and got some nasty road rash and swellings! Not the best start, and we were a bit twitchy on the first section of the course. We soon settled in though and seemed to work really well together, we were only a few seconds off last years time (with fewer riders) and came second female team, so won £80 between us :-) Results are here

Photo courtesy of Il Mio photography

Photo courtesy of Il Mio photography

The weekend saw us camping at Parc Bryn Bach so that I could compete in the Titan Triathlon. The week before the race I didn’t run at all as my knee had been hurting and locking up after running for more than 40 minutes, so I really wasn’t sure if I would be able to complete the run anyway.

My diary entry

My diary entry

As it happens I had a mechanical on the bike which took the decision away from me to a certain extent, (its funny how these things happen) You can read my race report here. Things didn’t go to plan but my plan was not really fixed as I was unsure about my knee. I always think there is a reason that these things happen, so I’m thankful that I didn’t complete the run, it could have been a lot worse! Anyway we had a lovely weekend away and ended up climbing spiral staircases in a castle after the race, (this seems to happen frequently, Caernarfon, Dinefwr, and now Caerphilly!) Then the next day we walked up a 500m peak with the boys, and picked bilberries. (not enough recovery for me!)

Tasty pickings!

Tasty pickings!

The highlight of the walk was at the top when Devon found a sock, and announced this to the people who arrived at the top just after us. They didn’t seem too impressed, so he shouted “I bet you won’t find a sock”! We giggled just a little bit 😉

Dragon, and yin.

A bit like Yin and Yang. Its really important to balance your training. As triathletes we are used to pushing ourselves and using yang (masculine energy) but we often overlook the other side of yin (feminine energy) recovering and nurturing ourselves. Recently I have read 2 articles explaining the benefits of stretching and prolonged stretching for injury prevention so I decided to make a video of relaxing stretches that you can do before bed. The first article is about fascia, which is connective tissue in your body. It covers all of our internal parts, and basically holds us together. If you do repetitive exercise/sit at a desk for prolonged periods, your fascia forms adhesions which can limit movement. It does this in order to prevent injury. To look after your fascia you need to stretch, keep hydrated, relax, and massage. (all yin energies). You can read more about fascinating fascia here! The other article I read, was about yin yoga. If you haven’t heard of it, its pretty fashionable right now, and is also used as a balance to those hard and strenuous yoga poses that some people do. Each pose is held for 3-5 mins. It is really interesting to do, as you relax into the pose lots of feelings come up, and part of the yoga is how you respond to those feelings, read more about yin yoga here. So my Yin and Yang videos are below, I hope you enjoy them, and a report from The Dragon ride is here

Why women don’t participate in sports

Forums and chat As a regular forum user, and competitive female athlete I am often frustrated and upset by comments that are made on forums regarding womens participation in the sports that I enjoy. As a minority in these sports I also feel intimidated to post a response, even when I am offended. This is why I decided to write this post. If you choose to read it hopefully some people will take the time to think about their words and choose them a bit more carefully. One of the reasons that I don’t challenge comments that frustrate me is that I don’t want to upset anyone, but obviously some of the men posting on these forums do not feel the same way as I do. Twitter_chat_image My experience I would consider myself to be a reasonably confident woman, but when starting out at Triathlon I often felt that I was not “good enough” to participate in time trials and I waited until I was at a fairly high standard before I attended one. I know I am not the only one to worry about this, women that I have spoken to are often concerned about coming last or being too slow. I also participate in mountain bike events, which are very poorly attended by women. I am usually faster than men uphill but slower downhill, but instead of just riding in these events at my pace, I will let men go ahead, as I have been conditioned to believe that men are faster and better than me. I have discussed this with friends and they also react in a similar way. In the pool, I worry about getting in peoples way if they are faster, and I frequently see women giving way and jeopardising their session in order to let someone faster go ahead of them. I recently watched a poem being performed called take up space it is about being yourself and allowing yourself to take up space. If I sometimes feel like I can’t take up space then imagine what women with lower self esteem must feel like. Sad-Depressed-Silhouette-The-Trent-e1390586144853 Facts Obesity and low self esteem are a growing problem, girls and boys are subjected to stereotypes and social pressures from an early age. I am going to look at this from the female angle, as I am female, and I feel that women are often overlooked and marginalised by sports, we have to fight to get recognition, and equal opportunities, as the world has been run by men for so long. There are systems in place that are unfair to women purely because men are the people who made the rules, and often they do not consider women, for example; the Time Trial scene. A look on their forum reveals some attitudes that, frankly, belong in the dark ages. Usually there are less prizes for women. The reason being that there are less women competing. How this encourages participation is beyond me, when you don’t even get recognised for your efforts, and believe me, the women that compete in these events DO put in the effort. Generally speaking the women who enter these events are highly committed, they have to be, to overcome gender stereotypes. However these women are a different group to the group of women who need to be encouraged in to sport. A Sport England Report identified areas in which women aged 15-19 are dissuaded from participating in sports, and found that what one group disliked about sport and physical activity were “feeling intimidated and self-conscious, and the competition associated with doing sport.” This would support what I have seen in a local time trial where results are not published from the event. I saw more women at this time trial than I have seen at any other time trial in the area. “This research also investigated the role of three main determinants upon participation in sport – the environment, lifestyle transitions, and psychosocial issues. Overall it was found that: Young women did not consider environmental issues, including the provision of facilities, as very important when explaining their current level of sports participation. Transitions, including lifestyle changes for example from school to college or from education to employment, had a negative impact upon sport participation, due to a decrease in levels of spare time, money, and energy. This finding was consistent regardless of current level of participation. Psychosocial issues were very important when explaining levels of sport participation. In particular, family and friends were considered to be the most important factors influencing participation in sport, regardless of participation level. Furthermore, complex psychosocial issues such as self-confidence, and perception of personal ability, were also found to play a significant role in the decision to participate in sport.” 3120882.large What to do There are a lot of good campaigns out there to empower women to participate in sport and break through stereotypes, for example This Girl Can, we just need to bring these attitudes and ideas into clubs at grass roots level and not just pay lip service to “there should be more women participating”. Women will not respond to bullying or male banter, they need acceptance and encouragement. If clubs really care about women participating then they would do well to read the report by Sports England and implement the recommendations. They could also consider the words used on public forums and think about how these may affect other people.

Rest and recovery

Wow what amazing weather we have been having. It makes it so easy to train and motivate yourself when there is sunshine, and it also makes it easy to get over enthusiastic and overtrain. Sometimes training gets tiring, and its difficult to know if you should take a break, or keep pushing on. I think most of us know when we need to take a break, but we can also sometimes get attached to our training plans (guilty) and feel that we need to tick off everything that we have set ourselves to do. It is useful to keep track of your training then you can see what you have been doing and there is evidence to show that you may have been overdoing it. I use training peaks which gives me a TSS (training stress score) which is explained here. This explains why I’m feeling tired at the moment, and had to abandon my turbo session! Screenshot_2015-03-25-18-49-32 Training is stress that we put on our body, and it is good to do this, if we didn’t then we wouldn’t get faster or fitter, BUT if you don’t rest and recover then the body does not have time to repair itself and your performance either stagnates, declines, or in the worst case scenario you get to the stage when your life is negatively affected by your overtraining. If you need more recovery time your body will let you know, you just need to listen and be observant if you have any of these signs.

  • You feel sluggish and tired for consecutive days
  • You lack motivation to complete workouts
  • You can’t sleep even though you are tired
  • You get ill more often

There are a lot more symptoms of overtraining which can easily be found if you google them, remember though that everyone is unique. We all have different tolerances for training loads and recovery times, so what might work for your friend will not necessarily work for you. There are ways to monitor how recovered you are by checking your heart rate in the morning, amongst other things. I will leave it for the experts to explain here. Don’t underestimate the power of good quality sleep, and staying hydrated. Recovery is taking care of yourself. Sometimes we can be our own worst critics, if you catch yourself beating yourself up about missing a session or feeling tired then listen to what you are telling yourself and ask if you would talk to someone else in that way? It is important to nourish yourself with positive words and by allowing yourself recovery time. It is not a weakness, and can make you stronger in the long run.

Nice to go away, but nice to be home, The Big Cheese.

February and March

We have been away twice in the last month, and it is beginning to take its toll! Much as I love visiting friends and family it can also be tiring, and my immune system has taken a battering. During half term we went to visit family in Sheffield, I was looking forward to visiting Ponds Forge, and having a swim in the 50m pool, but there was a gala on so I had to sneak out early in the morning and go to the nearest pool at Graves leisure centre. I enjoyed it anyway, I used to work in the school next to the centre, so it was good to be in familiar surroundings. The next morning I managed a run, and bagged a QOM.

My brother in law is KOM, he does lots of fell running.

My brother in law is KOM, he does lots of fell running.

 

I have discovered that its quite easy to get out first thing and do a workout if you are visiting people, they don’t even notice you are gone, especially if you have small children who wake up early! This is also who I blame for the run of colds that I’ve had, 2 days after returning from Sheffield I came down with a cold, and I am now suffering again after going away to visit friends in Cheddar at the weekend. I have come to the conclusion that disruptions to my sleeping, weaken my immune system, it could also be the 15 mile off road race that I did with Rachel on Sunday, called The Big Cheese, read more about it here.

 

The power of your mind

Swimming Since I started triathlon my swimming has improved a lot, but I have always thought of it as my weakest discipline. I have worked on technique, have had coaching in a workshop situation to improve my stroke, and I have steadily improved. I have progressed from the slowest lane in the tri club swim sessions to the 2nd fastest lane. Recently the swim lanes have changed and a lot of swimmers have moved in to the 2nd fastest lane. I have been reluctant to move up to the fast lane, as I didn’t want to get dropped and hold people up, I tried going in the other week but was struggling to keep up on the warm up.

Some coaching feedback from a while back!

Some coaching feedback from a while back!

Life in the fast lane This Monday I went in the fast lane, I didn’t really want to and still in my head I think I am a poor swimmer but I thought I’d give it a go. We were doing fast 100’s and when I stopped my Garmin at the end of the first 100m I was shocked to see I’d swum the fastest time for 100m I think I’ve ever swum, now part of this is down to having faster swimmers to draft, and also stopping short of the end of the lane (there were so many of us in there!) But I started stopping my Garmin a second after I’d stopped to account for the last meter of the lane, and I still managed to hold on to a consistently faster pace than usual, about 8-10s faster than my usual 100m pace.

Mind power It is really important to see ourselves in a positive light. When negative thoughts come in to your head you need the skills to replace them with positive or affirming beliefs. This is not only important for training and racing, but also an essential life skill, it can improve the quality of your life dramatically (love the rain!) I am very aware that I still view myself as a poor swimmer, and there are many other areas in my life that I do this, BUT I am aware of it, and there are things that I can do to ensure I don’t fall into the trap of overly criticising myself. Next time that voice comes into my head telling me I am crap at swimming I now have the evidence to show that I am not, and that I can push myself more than I thought. As you train and race, make sure that you store these moments so that you can call on them when you need some positive energy in your life, remember you are unique and have many strengths that other people see and admire, be proud of yourself, and love the rain!

Base training

This video was posted on my clubs cycling forum, and it brings up some really good points

I think one of the points that it brings up, about knowing why you are doing a workout is really important. If you have a good reason to do a session then it will be beneficial, for your mind as well as your body. If you are just doing it just to get the miles in then it may be the wrong reason.

You need to know what your goal is and work towards that. 

It is important to have a focus for each session, and when I plan workouts for my athletes I always  describe the focus of the session. This works in 2 ways, firstly you go in to your session with a focussed plan, and you are also programming your mind to believe in what you are doing, so that when it comes to race day you will know that you have done what it takes to prepare your mind and body, remembering this will make you a better athlete.

A snapshot of one of my coached athletes plans

A snapshot of one of my coached athletes plans

It is a good idea to visualise your race whilst you are training too, think about how you will feel when you are racing. All of this will help prepare you for the big day.

There is no doubt that High intensity sessions will increase your fitness, but you must also do race appropriate workouts too, and in the study that is quoted the participants did high intensity (that means all out efforts) for 30 seconds until exhaustion, or worked at 80% until exhaustion.

I am believer in balance and variability. If you do the same sessions week in week out then you will not improve as much as you will if you progress, and work in different intensities, the more time you have to train, the more you can mix it up. You also need to know when to back off. Ask yourself, what benefit am I getting from this session? Sometimes its better to recover and try again another day.

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