Process Not Outcome
Racing is the pure expression of your preparation and training. It is no more complicated than that. Part of the training process is to develop self-belief so you arrive at the starting line feeling confident and ready to enjoy your day.
Some athletes are better than others at handling stress and pressure, but so often I see athletes give away performance by over-worrying about potential consequences before they even happen. Put yourself in control and drown out the noise of external factors by shifting your mindset on race day.
Why focus on process?
Eliminates the noise of external factors. So you swam 34 minutes instead of 32 minutes? Perhaps the course was long? Conditions were more challenging? Your swim focus should be on maintaining a strong effort, sighting well, and swimming a good line. Don’t judge yourself on your swim time as the race is only just beginning!
It encourages experimentation. When you’re completely focused on a specific result, you are less likely to experiment. While race-day is not the time to test new things, being open to experimenting during training might lead to different and more successful race day processes. After all, successful racing is a combination of execution of your race plan and smart reaction to the dynamic environment that is racing.
It puts you in control. A favourite race-day mantra is ‘control the controllables.' You have only partial control over whether you reach a specific external goal, but you do have control over the process you use. Weather, wind, and other factors (e.g. who else shows up to race) impact time and placing goals so dismiss them and put your focus on how well you pace, manage the course, etc., things that are within your control!
4 Ways to Focus on the Process
Don’t pursue the rewards directly, trust that they will come. Regardless of your dreams and goals, whether qualifying for Kona, achieving a podium placing, or beating last year’s time, those are outcomes that need to be shoved to the back of your mind on race day.
Your race day focus is on the journey towards those goals and your personal task list.
Bring awareness to your performance. Your best course of action is to focus on form, fueling, pacing, and course management. Success will emerge from executing one step at a time without looking too far forward or back. Sounds simple, right? It requires practice and confidence to remain in the moment.
Choose for yourself how to rate your performance. Rate yourself based on the effort, not the outcome. You train hard and are consistent. In this equation, you are going to have great days where you feel unstoppable and other days where you feel ordinary. Give yourself the best opportunity to put together your best swimbikerun day in the race. That is the goal. It won't always happen, but if you treat your race as a liberating experience and give it your best effort, you’ll have a great day.
Race like no one is watching. If you want to know who the best racers are (regardless of level), they are the ones who are ready to take the floor. What do I mean? Imagine a crowd surrounding a dance floor, spotlights ready, the best racer is the one who will proudly walk onto the floor, turn and face the crowd and kick off the best dancing they can do! Big smiles and self-indulgence streaming from the inside.
Get to that celebratory feeling and ignore the potential consequences and thoughts of what others think and then you open the door for your training efforts to come flooding out.
Your training process is extremely important and should include a mindset that is focused more on the process and less on the outcome. With these shifts, you develop a stronger self-belief and will be on your way to a more enjoyable time out on the race course.