Keep Your Focus: Mental Strategies for 70.3 Prep

Race.  Week.  Is.  Here.  It’s here!  Wait…it’s here?!?  OMG IT’S HERE!!  You’ll hear a variety of responses from athletes regardless of whether they expect to finish at the front of the pack, hope to make the cut-off, or somewhere in between.  Some will feel excited and well prepared, others may be well prepared but terrified, and others will may not feel prepared at all.  No matter where you fall, there are still things you can focus on this week to get the most out of your Chattanooga 70.3 experience on Sunday.  Here are a few tips from CES’s Carrie Smith and certified sport psychology consultant, Abby Keenan.


Less is More

This close to the race, the best way to get faster is to stick to your taper.  You can’t gain more fitness in the next five days, but you can decrease the fatigue you’ve accumulated over the past weeks and months of training.  And decreasing fatigue is going to pay dividends on race day.  Keep the workout durations short.  Short bouts of higher intensity can be great, but minimize the time here.  You should feel refreshed after workouts this week! Less can also be more mentally.  Some people can benefit from disconnecting, and even distracting, themselves to not overthink the race. If this is you, try to focus on the physical aspects of your taper and other areas of your life to get your mind off of race day, at least until it’s time to make your final preparations in the days prior.

Visualize your Race

Know your numbers, whether you’re using power, heart rate, or perceived effort.  What will that feel like?  How might that change with the weather?  Right now it is a little warmer this week with highs in the 90s, but race day is calling for rain.  How will you adjust?  It’s important to stay in control of your visualization by experiencing – not just seeing – yourself being successful and making corrections and adjustments with ease. This helps with preparation and speeds up your reaction time on the course if you do have to make an adjustment as you’ve already done it in your mind!

Build your Confidence

One element of having confidence is leveraging your past experience.  Take some time to reflect on your training and races (perhaps even with this course) and how it can help you to be successful on race day.  What have you accomplished in training that is going to make this race easier?  When have you raced this course or distance and what did you learn that you can improve this race?  The bottom line is this: use your past successes and failures to remind yourself to trust your training and be better Sunday than you’ve ever been in the past.


Chill Out

Literally!  Especially if the temperatures are higher than during your normal training.  Pre-cooling and staying cool during racing can improve performance (Coen, et al).  The most practical way to do this without changing up your normal routine is to add ice to your morning drinks.  Having a bottle of ice water or a sports drink while you’re waiting in the start line to swim is an easy addition.  On the bike, at least start with ice in the fluids and on the run you can grab ice at aid stations to ingest and put in your tri top, shorts, or under your hat.

Focus on your Plan

There are likely going to be a variety of emotions on the course this weekend.  Happy, sad, angry (dude, quit drafting off me!), elation, despair…just fill in the blank.  It’s a long day, you’ve put in a ton of work and sacrifice, and you’re out there racing one freaking awesome but HARD event.  No matter what you feel, though, keep your focus on your plan.  Stick to your pace targets when you get that adrenaline surge from the screaming crowds and competitors.  Steady and consistent are fast today.  One way you can reset your attention if you get sidetracked is to ask yourself W.I.N., which means What’s Important Now?   Is beating Billy up the climbs really that important if you’re spiking your numbers and wheezing at the top of each hill?  Stick to your plan to have your best TRIATHLON race…not just your best swim or bike!

Remember your Purpose

As you go through mile after mile braving the elements and your competitors, it’s easy for fatigue, pain, or fear to take over and prevent you from hitting your goal time or performing at your best.  In those moments, it’s important to remind yourself of your purpose – in this sport, in this race, in this moment.  Why are you here?  What makes today so important to you?  Knowing the answers to these questions ahead of time and finding a way to remind yourself on the course can help you to dig deep and push forward, even in your worst moments.

Congrats to everyone toeing the start line this weekend.  The hard work is in.  Be confident in it and stick to the plan on race day.  Can’t wait to see you all out there!


Abby Keenan is a certified sport psychology consultant located in Atlanta, GA.  She mentally prepares athletes to perform at their best when it matters most.  To learn more about mental skills training, visit Intrepid Performance.



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