Notice the title of this blog is not Psychology of the finish which I could probably write another full posting on. This is “the end”, because within this life we have a number of endings. Some of them open new doors, some of them just mean we have more to go. In triathlon, we end each event just to start another one. I have noticed a few things about myself that I need to overcome and maybe they may just be similar to what you may be going through. Some of the tips and tricks I have learned may help, and if they do great, if not you have another tool in your bag to pay it forward to others.
The idea for this posting hits me every time I am in the pool. As I stated numerous times in early posts, I am not a good swimmer by any means. I try though. What I notice is when I am in the pool, I speed up a bit when I see the wall coming up. I end up a little more winded than planned and I stop after 100 m. Interesting enough, I do make my turn at 50m, but the 100m wall I want to stop. This is what I reference as the end, not the finish. In the beginning of the workout I have many more laps to do, but I end up grabbing an extra breath and a few seconds of rest at each 100m turn. I know it psychological, because in open water I can just keep going. Do I change strokes occasionally to check the distance on my watch? Sure, but I continue on in just a few seconds. So why the difference? Is it discipline? Yes, that’s part of it, but it is also, the idea that the wall is right there seems to put the idea in my head that it is the end, so automatically speed up and my breathing changes. Obviously, this is probably not a common problem because I see a lot of triathletes swim lap after lap after lap.
Swimming isn’t the only event where the psychosis of the end comes into play. Have you ever gone out on a run knowing you are going to do six miles and at the end you are exhausted even though you might have run conquered much longer distances? I personally see the end of the workout and something kicks in and I am ready to stop for at least that portion of the session. I am not talking about a tempo run or a track workout. I am talking about just your basic run workout. Different workouts obviously dictate different intensity. For example, a 6 mile tempo run will require and higher intensity level then a long slow distance run, just as a track workout has a higher intensity level than even a tempo run.
The question is how can this obstacle of the end be broken? I have started coming up with a few ways to break through the end in order to keep going in the pool, do the optional mile after a hard track workout or even do that insurmountable transition run after a long hard bike session.
1) Swim – Learn to do flip turns if you don’t already know. My last workout I started to incorporate flip turns. I still am learning how to do them correctly, but because I took my 1000m continuous swim to learn to do them, the wall became an opportunity to practice the flip turn, and the 50m swim became the time I assessed how I did, and what I needed to make them better.
2) Run – there are three ways I usually get through this:
- The optional mile becomes not optional
- Fake it – no matter how slow you end up going do not worry just get it done and after a while your body will learn to expect it
- Give yourself a little extra time for recovery. In our speed workouts the coach gives us a pre-determined amount of recovery prior to the optional mile. Sometimes I need more, so I take it and then run the extra mile on my own.
3) Bike-to-Run Transition run – I have only found one real way to get through this myself. Have your running shoes (and socks) ready to go when you get back and in full eyesight when you either open the car or even pull up. My friend Nick sometimes trusts his shoes right under his car so he can hang his bike and go. If you trust that they will still be there this is the best way. When I personally see my shoes there ready and waiting, I would feel guilty if I didn’t run. Of course guilt is a more negative emotion, but sometimes the negative emotion can be used for a positive outcome. In my experience, if I decide to wait, I usually end up cooling down and I just have no desire to run. If I jump into my shoes and start the run, I feel like I am already running might as well work it the best I can.
In life I have had numerous endings that have also opened new doors to experiences that I would not have had if I didn’t recognize it. The end of my military career brought me to the corporate world where I have been succeeding. I had the choice to either stay in the military and continue my career or leave and start another one. I may have never started on this journey into endurance running and triathlon if I didn’t move on from the military. At the same time I have been offered numerous times after I finish a project to stay at the same location. Almost every time I have decided to move on and my following project has always given me the opportunity to learn something new.
In each of our lives there are “ends” to experiences, jobs, education, friendships etc. I believe the secret lies in recognizing whether it is actually an end or a finish.