An educational photo series captured by Danish Sports Photographer, Jesper Grønnemark with words by Helle Frederiksen.
To be our best and to race at our best we need to recognize the things that help us perform. This photo series captures my environment that, as a team, we have invested in, providing me the best opportunity to race at my best.
Build your team
Triathlon on paper is an individual sport, yet to be successful in triathlon it is anything but an individual sport. Like most things, the environment that we create for ourselves is something we have a lot of control over. People and the people we work with contribute to this environment. Never under estimate the importance and impact good people have on your performance, irrelevant of your targets. Patrizia Pastwa has become influential in bringing me back to the top of this sport from injury, and is one of those people who enables me to race at my best. I wanted to race at my best at The Island House Invitational Triathlon and having Patrizia on hand was going to enable me to do this.
Recognizing event logistics and eliminating stress
Being 9 years a professional and having raced in over 120 international competitions, you learn to recognize quite easily the things that cause stress and negatively impact a race. Going into competition, your goal should always be to eliminate as much stress as possible. Familiarize yourself with the surroundings and logistics of a race. Ask yourself “Can you ride?”, “What are the logistics to riding?”, “Where and when will you train?”. Asking yourself these questions prior to your travel can help you plan for the best environment during race week.
Capturing real-time for future improvement
As athletes we should never try to change or implement new things in the days leading into a race. Yet, as Patrizia is responsible for my year round conditioning and injury management, having her around pre-race enables her to analyze how my body is performing in those days when fresh off of a taper. Patrizia uses the opportunity to gather data and goes about putting it to good use when structuring my every day stability, core and strength training. It is like a research opportunity for Patrizia, helping her create a picture and impression that allows us to be detailed and focused in the future.
Stay connected to speed
Each of us has a different physiological make-up, as a result of this no one approach is right for all. That being said one of the most common mistakes I feel athletes make in race week is they completely disconnect their body from hard effort. Come race day it can then often take their body by surprise. During my workouts in race week I always spend moments getting my body familiar with the type of output I expect of it on race day. As Island House Invitational was predominantly a short-course effort it meant some high output efforts were needed.
Never switch off from becoming better
Never be ignorant to becoming better. Ben took this opportunity to reinforce the importance of gear selection and chain alignment. Be open minded to taking in information from those around you that have experience and expertise in areas you may not be so strong in. The details matter, whether it be gear selection, chain alignment, riding position or something else, when wanting to race at your best never overlook the details.
Be mindful of how much you do
Get those feet up, well at least make a concerted effort to stay off them. My advice when approaching a race is always protect your race performance. Now that is not to say be a hermit, do nothing and become lazy, well, to some degree that is OK. What it is saying is take any opportunity to rest and conserve energy. It ranges from sitting instead of standing, being out of the sun instead of in the sun, just being mindful to the fact your body and legs are going to perform for you if you protect them and enable them to do so.
Focus on what you want to get out of your performance
Never be overwhelmed, never focus on other competitors, control what you can control. As this Day 1 image displays very well, under the watchful eye of 3 World Champions of our sport; Flora Duffy, Leanda Cave and Mirinda Carfrae, I could have so easily been intimidated yet my experience tells me that we get our best results when we focus on our performance and our outcome. When going into your competition understand why it is you are competing and what it is you want out of that event. Focus on those things and recognize that a focus elsewhere and a concern for another competitor is not in your best interests.
The Island House Invitational was a unique multi-day event. It really required us as athletes to think about how we get our body from one day to the next in the best possible condition to race again. Swimming is a great way to loosen up and flush the system as active recovery. Both between Day 1 and 2 and then Day 2 and 3 I used swimming as a cool down after each race. If you need to train shortly after racing consider using active recovery as a way to flush the system enabling it to go again shortly after.
Equipment choices do matter
Being such a unique event, The Island House Invitational Triathlon challenged us athletes to prioritize equipment choices. If you are wanting a race best performance I encourage you to consider your equipment choices. Race clothing and the fit of which is important. Helmet choice, wheel choice and rim depth, tyre pressure, drivetrain efficiency are all proven features that contribute to bike performance and aerodynamics. If you are a beginner to triathlon my advice would be choose fast equipment in moderation. If you are an experienced athlete wanting to go faster, my advice would be never neglect fast equipment and the role it plays on performance.
Leave it all out there and know why you committed to this
Aside from being 9 years a professional athlete, I’ve coached amateur and elite athletes for 7 years. During this time of racing and coaching, two of the biggest contributors to “underperformance” is A) not doing the right work in training prior to racing and B) overthinking and not committing to leaving it all out there on that one day. We must never forget what commitments we have made to get to a start line, we must always trust that our body is trained, prepared and ready to execute the race we want. Racing isn’t meant to be pretty, hard racing and pushing the body to its limit is going to be painful and you are going to suffer. Know that it is OK to suffer and tell yourself if you suffer they are suffering also.
Absorb disappointment and use it as a tool to progress
Initially I was disappointed with my finish position of 7th. An error during the swim on the final day cost me a few places and I was quick to beat myself up about this. Yet immediately post-race, having absorbed the result, I managed to eliminate the disappointment and recognize how much road we have ahead of us for improvement. I encourage you to try and do the same. Use disappointment and defeat as a tool to help you become better. Too often you see people dwell on something that could have been.