The 2k yesterday went… ok. I wrote yesterday after it was over that I felt like I had Silver-medal Syndrome: simultaneously happy but also disappointed in my result. It was the first test in a while that I haven’t PR’ed on, and that was a letdown. The fact that I was just .2 off of my PR is just irritating. And that many of my teammates came out with significant PRs of a couple seconds or more had me pouting for most of the afternoon. Why do I do this to myself? Why can’t a success just be a success and left at that? I realize what I will have to do is to tell myself that the next test will be better; that I can use this result to prepare me for a better test next time. I have to.
On a happier note, the palpable sense of joy and [temporary] relief that floods the boathouse following an erg test is a wonderful thing to experience with your teammates. Almost immediately afterwards, we commence with the recounting of our individual tests, where we struggled, where we kicked ass, and figuring out who-got-who and by how much. It’s very good natured, despite the cutthroat competition that drives us to perform these tests.
One of the things we talked a lot about yesterday were the different mental strategies we employ during erg testing in order to make it from one point to the next. It varies between athletes, and even from test to test (2k vs. 6k). But what I found is that many athletes create a dialogue for themselves that –often but not always– consists of a series of lies that they tell themselves while racing. One athlete I know tells herself that if she just holds a faster split for x more meters, she’ll let herself go easier for the rest of the test (but then doesn’t). Another tells herself that she just needs to hold the same split for the rest of the test and not push any harder (but then goes for it anyway).
My personal strategy is more a number game than a game of internal deception (I learned a long time ago I can’t lie to myself). It goes a lot like this:
2000m: Take your 15 high strokes and then you can lengthen to your base pace. Nice and relaxed. Breathe here.
1500m: Stay on base pace. Count to 30 twice, and then you’ll be halfway done.
1250m: 30 more strokes and you’re at the 1000. Count the strokes, stay steady, and the 1000m will come.
1000m: Focus. Get excited. Count to 30, and then you’re at your favorite part of the race: 750 to go.
750m: It might be more than 30 strokes now that the rate has come up, but whatever, it’s probably only 1 or 2 extra strokes. Count to 30 and you’ll only have 500m left. You can do anything when you only have 500m.
600m: Ok forget this 30, sprint now. Go now for 10 and get to the 500m.
500m: **** yes, this is almost over. Count 10. Then 10. Then 10. That’s 30. Less than a minute of work to go.
250m: Go. More. Go. More. Only 30 strokes to go.
I count compulsively to focus, keep my position and my pace both on the water and the erg. It’s my mechanism that I have developed to help me stay focused and consistent when I perform.
What’s yours? Leave a comment! I want to know what other people to do help them make it through tests and races, or if I’m the only one with such an elaborate inner monologue. No mantra too short or too long. Let’s hear it!
Long Live the Dream,