There is a saying in boxing that goes something like this, “all the best laid plans go out the window as soon as you get punched in the face.”
The same is true for the Gold.
The Coolangatta Gold is as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical one. Within the entirety of the race you will have the full spectrum of emotions and at some stage you are going to have to push your way past negative thoughts. The best way to keep yourself focused and push aside any negative thoughts, emotions or reactions that may occur due to conditions, other competitors, your handlers or even officials is to concentrate on the things that are under your control and try not to worry about the things that aren’t.
Many competitors will prepare themselves mentally by having a detailed race plan of how they may wash-ride someone on the ski or how they need to hang on to a certain group to drag them through the swim leg. This is great in theory but once the gun goes you lose all control of what other competitors do or don’t do and whether the predicted conditions change unexpectedly. By concentrating on the things you can control such as your technique, your breathing, the rhythm of your stroke or stride, your speed control / pacing and the course you are going to take you are breaking a large race down into smaller, more manageable parts and you will find that you race more efficiently.
This breakdown of the mental side into elements such as technique or stride rhythm or rhythm of your breathing is something that can easily be tried and refined in training and then transferred across into the race setting. By also ensuring that you left no stone unturned with your equipment (PFD, drinking systems, goggles, etc) and possibly having backup plans in place such as a second set of goggles or an alternative drink set up for the ski leg you have given yourself the mental reassurance that if something goes wrong, you already have it covered and there is no need for concern.
Remember, you will be out on the course for a number of hours so wasted energy in one part will always come back to bite you somewhere else before you cross the line. This applies to every single athlete regardless of whether they are elite and experienced or if they are participating for the first time.
– Grant Wilkinson, SLSA Coaching Coordinator