With the 70.3 World Championships this weekend and the end of the year containing many of the Championship races, it's timely for those preparing to compete to remember to keep a level head and trust in your training.
Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to watch the Australian national road race titles from the comfort of my lounge room chair. It was a warm day throughout Victoria and Ballarat was no exception with the mercury hitting the mid 30’s for the riders during the elite mens road race.
Endurance sports bring with them challenges on ‘favorable’ days for racing and no doubt many have experienced how the challenge can become so much greater in extreme conditions. This is part of sport and also part of the endurance sports name; we must endure what is set in front of us. No matter if you’re shooting for podiums or pb’s , the same conditions are experienced and you must endure them to succeed.
A break away had formed in the Elite mens race and one of the members of the group was Jack Bobridge. Jack had some publicity last year with his attempt for the 1hr record on the track last January. Jack has been a world individual pursuit track champion, joining the likes of Chris Boardman & Bradley McGee in a long list of esteemed time trialers. Earlier in the week Jacks ‘pet’ event, the individual time trial was on. This is what he had worked so hard for in the months leading into the nationals. Jack from all accounts had a very ordinary ride by his standards and managed to finish 10th. Fast forward to the road race and commentators at the time were going through possible contenders for the win in the breakaway, the main consensus was that Jack wasn’t a big chance as he wasn’t inform in lieu of the TT result.
What unfolded was something special. For those that watched the event either live in Ballarat or on television you will no doubt remember what an incredible display it was. For those that didn’t here is the short version. A 20 man break away formed on the first lap (including Jack). After 6 laps Bobridge and another rider attacked the break away and stayed clear. With 90km still remaining in the race and his accomplice fading from the heat, Jack continued on solo and despite the best efforts of the whole peloton, including the Orica Green Edge team, they were not able to bring back a storming Jack and he took the win.
Now this is blog is not to talk the tactics of the race but the enormity of staying away from a large group for so long, particularly the Australian Championships. The importance of being in the ‘right’ head space to get the most out of an individual performance can never be underestimated. Sometimes by ‘trying’ more athletes put unnecessary stress on themselves that detracts from their ability. Performance anxiety. Some athletes can be the opposite and don’t really want to be racing will under perform. Its finding the right space for you that gets the results. Now I don’t know Jack personally and my observations are exactly that, mine. For all I know he could have had a dodgy curry the night before the TT and that was what held him back. But it certainly isn’t an uncommon trend for athletes to have ‘bad’ races after having a great lead in.
One of the most prominent examples of being in a good head space is Usain Bolt. To the world he is a showman. The famous Bolt pose and antics pre-race get the crowd involved and leaves some wondering if he is taking things seriously. He takes things very seriously! So seriously in fact the he carries on before races like he does to settle his nerves. He has said that by doing this it’s not until the moment he is in the blocks and bows his head that he goes into game mode. He has created a pattern to help control his nerves to achieve his optimal performance.
I know plenty of athletes out there that are committed to their racing and training and take it seriously. Is it to the point that it helps or hinders you performance? Some people need a rev up to get to their optimal ‘state’. Others are nervous enough and need to settle and calm down to get to that point. Find what’s right for you and when you fully embrace it the change is instant. Remember, there is no right or wrong way of doing something, just what works for you to get the results you want. Sometimes taking a step back and readjusting where your energy is going can be the difference between finishing and wondering what happened or walking away a smile on your face.
*Photo credit: First Off The Bike