Five things to nail going into a competitive event
It’s well and truly events season here in Townsville and, whether you’re an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, many of the principles of doing a competitive event remain the same: Just as in life; with sport, what you put in determines what you get out. Prepare well, and you are more likely to enjoy the experience.
“It is not ‘hit and miss’ — you need to consistently do it, week in and week out, in order to maximise the gains” – Deborah Latouf
Do the training
It’s an obvious one, so that’s why it’s first on the list. Unless it’s a 5km charity walk along The Strand, most events are going to be more enjoyable for you if you do some preparation. It’s not going to be any fun being in the hurt locker from the get-go. Of course, how much preparation you need to do depends on the nature of the event. Your first mini-triathlon or adventure race might require eight weeks of training, three times per week. There are two key principles of training that I always emphasise – specificity and consistency. Specificity means that your training mimics what you are actually going to do in the event. For example, if your event is a mountain bike race, then training on a road bike will be of some benefit (especially if you are coming off no base), but closer to the event you will need to actually go out and experience the thrill of a mountain bike. Secondly, consistency is everything. This means that you prioritise your training and commit to undertaking it every week. It is not ‘hit and miss’ — you need to consistently do it, week in and week out, in order to maximise the gains.
Set a realistic goal
Even though most of us are not going to the Olympics, it is still important to set goals. This could be as simple as deciding that you want to complete in an event and enjoy it. In fact, that is probably the most important goal of all to have; enjoyment; because if you don’t enjoy it then you certainly won’t come back to line-up at the start again. For those of us who are more competitive, then the goal might be time or place related. It could also relate to technique or a specific component of your performance. Many multi-sport athletes break the event down into manageable sections, where their focus and goals can vary. The swim can be particularly intimidating for new triathletes, and I have heard athletes say many times, “I just want to get through the swim and then I can enjoy myself”.
“Study the maps, train on the course…. know your equipment – don’t trial a new pair of shoes on race day” – Deborah Latouf
In elite sport we always say, “control the controllables’”. You can also do this by making yourself familiar with all you can regarding the event. If it is a running, riding, or multi-sport event, then know the course as well as you can. Study the maps, train on the course, then you will know what to expect. Know your equipment – don’t trial a new pair of shoes on race day. If you are borrowing equipment, then try to familiarise yourself with it beforehand. For those doing longer events, don’t experiment with race day nutrition. The fuel sources you use in training are the ones you should use on the day of the race.
Plan well, and don’t cram in the last week
Let’s face it; we all know life is busy. But involvement in a competitive event normally requires a degree of planning. A bubbly work colleague plants the seed of an idea to do a ‘corporate challenge’. You take on the challenge and then you need to plan it into your life. Sometimes things go awry, and you are a week out from the event and start to panic as you have not done the work. Don’t stress, but more importantly, don’t try and cram the training into the last week. You’ll just end up sore, or even worse, injured. Accept the situation, adjust your goals and continue on.
Race at your own pace
Adrenalin can be your friend, and well — you know — sometimes it can be your enemy. You are on the start line, heart is pumping, the starter sounds and you take off. A minute later you are in lactic debt and wondering how on Earth you are going to finish this thing. Instead, at the start take a step back. Unless you are going to be competing at the pointy end of the field, then you can afford to start a little further back, take a deep breath, and then race at your own pace. Oh, and remember to smile.