Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What Happens In Your Head

The night before the race I told myself this race would be won in my head not my legs.

My head would be ready as much as my legs. Because the night before a race, I had a conversation with myself that I wrote on paper as I the race played out in my head. Before eery race, I write a story of the outcome I want for my race. As I write, I reflect on and reconnect myself to all of the hard work and pains that I went through leading up to race day by piecing together the quotes, phrases, or thoughts that pulled me through different training sessions week to week.

You can call this mumbo jumbo, hocus pocus, or bs. But as I sat on Monday night, thinking about the race, I realized that everything I wrote the night before the race actually happened and came alive. There's nothing magical, genetic, or secret about a win - you get there by what happens in your head.


So here are my thoughts, here was my plan. This is what moved from the page of my notes to the course on race day.

When I showed up on race morning, and it was 38 degrees, I knew the cold wouldn’t matter to me. Because in my head I had chosen three things to focus on, one for each part of the race. The race wasn’t about the cold – it was about my plan for the race. And doing what it would take to make it my race – my outcome.

Possession – I possess my goals and make them come alive. I embrace them with everything I have. With that, I will possess this course. This course I know so well, this course I have mastered before. But each time is different. I must race my race as it unfolds. Respond to the race as it happens. Keeping in mind that I will do what it takes to possess this course. I possess myself and everything I have done working up to this goal. Possess my memories, my pain. I take them all and make them come alive. I use this possessive force to connect to the course knowing that I must seize it right here, right now to make it mine. I possess the opportunity. I know that opportunity never arrives, it is here and here is now. I possess the now and make it mine.

Standing at the start line the word ‘possession’ kept repeating in my head. When the women were crowding around me, when I was shivering from the cold, when the Race Director said 1 minute to go, I said to myself you are here to posses this race, possess this course and make your goals come alive. About twenty minutes into the swim as I got closer to the red arch, I picked up the pace and thought of the word possession over and over again.

Confidence – the confidence and maturity to know that this race will be won in my head. And to know for that I am prepared. This is not about strength, or endurance or speed. It is not about who will power through any one part of this course. It is about who is willing to suffer the most for the longest. And I have suffered more than anyone else in these past few weeks. I have hit a bottom so low that I was not sure I would ever bounce back. But in bouncing back I have become stronger than before. For that I am prepared. And now I will let the preparation meet the opportunity and confidence to carry me through.

When my entire body was cold on the bike, when I didn’t want to eat because it was so cold, when I was pushing my frozen knees up hills, and fighting the headwind, wondering if I was giving enough, I found myself saying you must have the confidence to execute your plan. To trust myself and everything I had learned from racing and training up to this point. This takes patience, maturity, and belief yourself – to race your own race, and race your plan.

Drive – is what keeps me going, what keeps my goals alive. I want to nail all three of my late season goals. Not for the glory, or the title, but for myself. I am driven to prove myself by improving myself on this course. To pursue my best performance on this day, these hills, no matter what this course throws my way. Drive is what burns inside of us and what I must use to light fuse that has been simmering for quite some time. Light it up. Light the legs on fire and burn from inside. See it in your mind, have the drive, the dare to make it happen.

When I dismounted the bike with over a three minute gap between myself and the next woman, I said the word drive to myself and set out on the course. At every turnaround, I noted the time between myself and first place knowing I would slowly chip away the time. I kept telling myself to have the drive to just chip it away, stay focused, stay strong. I would run into first place - any other option was not an option. Not the way it played out in my head, not the way it would play ount on this course. Soon after mile 9, I was running in first and held it to the end.

I wish I had an epic story to tell with drama and details of everything I did, what I ate, the pace I went, transition times, cadence, mile splits along the way. But none of that makes a win. Those are just the things you practice in training to set yourself up for a win. What makes a win is what happens in your head, what you do to make your outcome come alive. By taking full possesion of your goals, by having the confidence to race your plan, by being driven to succeed no matter how the race unfolds.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth,
When you know what you want, and you want it badly enough, you'll find a way to get it - Congrats on your win!! Kona or bust...Jennifer

Anonymous said...

Very inspiring-that's what sets winners like you apart from the others. Congrats on your win!

Anonymous said...

You crushed the field. Not even close. While the head may have been strong, clearly the body was stronger. Impressive. Congrats...Oliver

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your win! I was heading out on lap two when I saw you enter the grass to the finish. You Rocked. I loved the course and hope to be back...hopefully a little faster. --Katie

Alicia Parr said...

You're so right that mental preparation is as key to a great race as physical preparation. It's what allows us to say, "Screw you lactic acid, I'm going hard anyway, because backing off just isn't in the plan today."

Congrats again on your victory!!