Racing and training: process over result 


As Kincardine approaches, I’m thinking again about race performance and personal goals. This is a constant theme for me. We all like to achieve personal bests and to see the results of consistent training.

The whole complete versus compete thing continues as an ongoing conversation I have with myself. I like to go out there for the fun and the camaraderie, and for the challenge of pushing myself. But I also feel some sled-imposed pressure to do better than I did the last time. And sometimes that can taint my experience. 

So I really enjoyed this article, “Brain over Brawn,” by Danelle Kebush,” where she talks about attitude and why racing sometimes seems not to go as well as training. One obvious factor is that we spend 90% of our time training and only 10% racing. What that means is that we have a longer body of experience to draw from in training than in racing. 

This is a great point that makes a ton of sense. I remember like it was yesterday how completely panicked I felt before my first Kincardine Women’s Triathlon. I didn’t even know how to set up I. The transition area. And why should I? I had no experience at all. None. Never done it before. 

Now, though I could for sure get faster on those transitions (couldn’t we all?), I feel completely comfortable with setting it all up. That came from experience. 

The other thing Kebush asks is: 

When you are disappointed and don’t get the result you wanted or expected, can you still recognize the parts that went well? And find motivation from the challenging learning moments that you will build on next time?

This falls into line with the idea of learning from experience and of remembering that racing, like training, is a process. And we can learn from each event. Instead of thinking of each event as a discreet moment in time, considering its place in my overall athletic career can put it in perspective. It also gives the event a larger purpose for me beyond my result. 

Of course she talks about focusing on more than just results. What is the plan for the race? 

Race result goals are motivating but to get the most out of yourself, think about and plan out how you’ll achieve it; things like a well-practiced pre-race routine and warm-up, where will be the key mental focus points of the race – for example the start line, various time or distance intervals, laps, physical landmarks etc. What are the most important cues for you to remember for each segment? 

Finally, how about this: permission to fail and permission to succeed. We can do both. And race day, no matter what your training, is unpredictable. It could be awesome and it could be disappointing. Permission for either can help with this

In permission to “fail”:

As a Buddhist saying states, “The arrow that hits the bull’s-eye is the result of a hundred misses.”

And on permission to succeed: 

 Belief and perceptions are powerful. Just as setting expectations too high or too rigidly can become a mental barrier, so can setting expectations too low. Sometimes the perceived stress of achieving their ultimate goal causes some athletes to subconsciously sabotage their own performance, and chances of succeeding. Ask yourself: Can I commit myself fully to the work it will take to be successful? Can you say, “Why not me? I’ve worked hard and deserve to succeed as much as anyone else” And on the flip side can you commit to accepting yourself regardless of whether you ever reach your dream goal(s)?

What resonates most with me is her thoughts on the whole thing as a process. With the 90-10 split between training and racing, it makes good sense to consider it all as part of a learning process with ups, downs, opportunities and new adventures. 

This will be my fourth Kincardine and my eighth triathlon ever. Going in with the attitude of “what can I learn?” and “what can I achieve?” can help me have a great race day next weekend while keeping in mind that it’s just one day in a continuous process of training. 

About Tracy I

Writer, feminist, vegan, triathlete, sailor, philosopher, sometimes knitter.

3 thoughts on “Racing and training: process over result 

  1. duffrunning says:

    This is really interesting and useful. My coach often says it’s not a case of ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’, but ‘I’ll see it when I believe it’. Good advice to expect good things of yourself but let it go when it’s not your day.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. stephkkeating says:

    Woah. The permission to succeed bit has hit a chord with me. I’m going to need to mull that over for a while. Great post – wishing you all the best at Kincardine!

    Liked by 1 person

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