There are but moments before the sound of the gun. Where are you? Are you in a quiet solitary place, are you screaming and shouting, are you laughing and joking? Can you feel the blood pumping through your veins with butterflies doing the tango in your tummy? Or is it just another walk in the park for you.
How do you get into your groove? Recently, I took a look around at a wave preparing to start an adventure race and it was fascinating to see the different people and personas coming through.
I have been involved in sport almost since the day I could first walk in one form or another. I’ve been in many a dressing room on big match days and I have always found it fascinating to see how people get themselves in “the zone”. Some were fit to be tied up, roaring and shouting at fellow team mates trying to get them pumped up and others would remain quiet in the corner, focusing at the task at hand.
Personally, I have always leaned towards the latter. And still to this day, when a mammoth task is ahead of me, I’ll go to a quiet place, planning my every move. From the crossing the finish line back to where I am now, standing in the wave…waiting…
I have been doing a little research on this topic, listening to podcasts, watching Youtube videos, talking to fellow competitors etc on different techniques and it is so much a horses for courses for this kind of thing.
I watched a Youtube video of the Columbia Sports UTMB (Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanch). At the starting line, there is the usual fanfare of lights, pumping music, almost 2000 elite competitors and even more well wishers and onlookers. The party is hopping! This video followed one guy who went off about 30 mins before the sound of the klaxon and found a quiet place. The narrative explained that in the 15 minutes spent there, he was reflecting on the journey that got him to this place, the sacrifices from family, friends and of course himself too. He nearly entered a zen like status as starred up at the nights sky and Mount Blanc off in the distance. He was practically meditating. He slowly, almost wearily got up and slowly made his way towards the din of expectation and excitement in the town. You could see he was now in “the zone”. It was amazing to see the transformation in his demeanor in such a short space of time.
I spoke to a fellow competitor at GFW and she made an excellent point. She would always try to surround herself in positivity before a race. If she heard someone give the “I’m doomed, this race is too hard, that mountain is too hard to climb” speech, she would remove herself from their general vicinity. Negativity is too easy to rub off but positivity can be infectious.
I watched another youtube video (http://kayathlon.ie/portfolio-items/climb_any_mountain/) on hill running and running champion Tim Van Orden prepped himself was brilliant. Simple when i thought about it, but effective. Repeats! So you do short tough reps, with the start/finish point by his car. Each lap is tough as hell and the temptation to hop in the car is there but instead turn back around and do another lap and another lap and another lap. It helps build the mental resolve and ultimately gets him in the zone easier. I put this method to test this year for Dingle DAR and guess what it worked! A race that beat me last year. Not this year. I got into my zone easier, no lingering doubts, all positive thoughts and nothing stopped me 🙂
No matter what method works for you, one thing is for sure, to maximize your mental elasticity, you need to have put in the hard slog in training, and eventually what you thought was originally tough, is now a walk in the park. Albeit a long mountainous adventure filled one, but you will have elevated yourself to new mental endurance heights and the zone will come easier.