11 Sep 4 Problem Solving Tips to Overcome Race Day Challenges

By Carrie Lester, Pro Triathlete, 10 x Iron Distance Champion

It is no secret confidence comes from being prepared, and by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.

In endurance racing we train ourselves every day to prepare for race day – what we eat, what equipment we choose, what physical and mental training we do. Everything we do prepares us for how we will perform when race day comes. But, there are some things we just cannot prepare for through our training, things that are out of our control, things that we aren’t expecting, things that happen in a split second that can ruin our hard work and leave us feeling completely shattered. Things that come to mind, for me personally in my racing experiences and for which I have not been prepared for, have been as small as simply going off course, to more significant like leaving my entire bike nutrition in transition, to catastrophic events such as crashing my bike in Embrunman 2018. Sometimes, I will admit, things happen that we cannot recover from, and all that can be done here is learn, don’t dwell, and look forward to giving yourself another opportunity to test yourself. But many times, we can recover, do our best problem solving in that moment, and still have a great day – perhaps an even better day because you know you went beyond what you had prepared for and challenged yourself in a way you have never done before.

Here are a few tips to remember if on race day you find yourself in a position you may not be prepared for:

Stay calm.

The best way to be able to make rational decisions is with a calm mind. Remove emotion from what is going on in that moment and then make your plan to move forward.

Act, don’t react.

Or react, then go back to step one, and act again in a better state of mind.

We all quickly react with emotion when something happens that is out if our control. But it is important to not get caught up in just reacting to the situation, but to ACT, and fast. If you find yourself wasting valuable time simply reacting to what happened to derail your race, stop, breathe, take a moment, and when calm, make your plan to move on.

Be positive and confident. Back yourself.

This can be a hard one when things go pear-shaped. Most of our confidence comes through training, but when things go wrong, it is easy to forget everything we have trained ourselves for, and react in a way we would not usually plan for. This is a time when you need to trust your instincts, even trick yourself to be confident, be positive and when you carry on, do so with confidence and don’t look back.

Be present.

Everything I have just mentioned about how you can navigate an unknown situation really comes back to being present. Not letting your emotions carry you away into thinking of outcomes that you can control in that moment if you deal with them IN that moment. Your race is not over, you have not failed, you can still do this. Take the emotion out, stay calm, bring yourself back into the moment and SEE what is happening. Deal with it with a calm mind. And move on.

When it is all over, reflect, learn and know you are a better athlete and person because you were able to take something out of your control and make lemonade out of lemons. In endurance racing you can NEVER be prepared for everything. It is impossible. So, don’t try. Train, prepare, be confident and ALWAYS trust your instincts.

Frederick Sexton
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