Visualization can play a role in any sport you undertake, just ask a sport psychologist. Don’t know one? Then just take my word for it. Imagining yourself crossing the finish line (running strong, with a big smile on your face) can be a powerful motivator when you’re gutting out one of your tougher workouts… but I’d prefer to discuss visualization as a tool with more tangible benefits than that touchy-feely stuff.
Triathlons come with a lot of logistics – you’re doing 3 different sports, with different equipment needs and other considerations, back to back, as fast as possible. While practicing them as part of your training is definitely a good idea, there are some race day logistics you won’t be able to simulate; e.g. where the entrances and exits are, bike racks and how other races have placed their bikes etc.
This is where visualization comes in. Look at the swim exit – you’re jogging out, catching your breath, taking your goggles off (then maybe your wet-suit)… do you turn left or right to make from your bike rack? Similarly, imagine pulling on your helmet and pulling your bike off the rack, which way to the exit? Run through it all in your mind for both Transition 1 (swim to bike) and Transition 2 (bike to run). Once you’ve ‘seen’ it in your mind before the race is on, it’ll be that much easier to execute it during the race, in spite of your nerves and any other ongoing chaos.
Looking at the course map provided by a race website can be a good way to soothe your nerves if you’re worried about navigation or even safety: you’ll see how many and what kinds of turns you’ll have to make. The information age, however, allows us to do so much more these days!
You can use Google Streetview to get a look at what the course will look like without having rode/run it ever before! I charted (to the best of my ability) the Ontario Women’s Triathlon Bike Course (as seen above) and I’d like to share it with you here:
(If that doesn’t work for you, try clicking on this link). If you look at the elevation profile you’ll be climbing about 90 to 100 m from the lowest points on the course the the highest. To be honest, elevation numbers never meant that much to me… what’s that going to feel like? I can tell you the next best thing which is what it might look like.
Enter modern technology, specifically satellite and street view imagery like on Google Earth. If you open a Google Map, you can see the little yellow man representing the Street View, and drag it to what you want to see.
Since it’s an out-and-back course, the downhill stretch that shows in the first few kilometers will be an uphill climb on the way back, so I’m going to drop the little man within the first two kilometers east of the park entrance on Kelso road and see what it looks like. Let’s start just West of Tremaine Road.
|That doesn’t look too bad…
Then I can simply click ahead on the road and see how it goes…
|It gets worse around the bend…
|By this point the worst should be over.
Can you imagine yourself pedaling up that road? Your legs will be burning, but you’ll be so close to the transition to running then finishing the race! Now that you’ve seen some of the bike course, it won’t seem as intimidating, and you can do the same thing for the run.
We tend to fear the unknown, but visualization techniques can increase our feelings of familiarity and squash that fear, and that means more fun on race day. I wish you the best of luck in September’s Ontario Women’s Triathlon or whatever multi-sport endeavours you seek to take on.
Axel Kussman is a happily married father of two boys (toddler and baby) who works as an engineer in wireless communications, and blogs about triathlons, everything that pertains to them and any other multi-sport and fitness activities he can take up at Iron Rogue.