Psychology of racing

2 years 6 months ago #34653 by mrcharly
We all know that psychology pays a big part in racing performance: 
"heart wasn't really in it"
"couldn't be bothered"

How many of us train our brains to race?

I had a big race on Sunday. I was also, for my sins, 'team captain', which meant handling the logistics of getting 30 people (and their kayaks) to the race, plus the entries. A very stressful week at work. I arrived at the race not really caring about the race, and boy, it showed in my performance.

Normally, I set off in a race like a hungry animal. A third of a way through this race I found myself going wide on a bend so that a competitor didn't get caught in weeds . . . erm, they were behind me; taking the fast line through the bend and forcing *them* wide (or through the weeds) would have been the valid racing option!

I raced like I was on bloody holiday, didn't get shifting until halfway through.

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2 years 6 months ago #34672 by PSwitzer
Replied by PSwitzer on topic Psychology of racing
This is an interesting topic, thanks for bringing it up.  I think it really comes down to asking yourself why you are racing in the first place.  For years, I was motivated by external factors like my rankings compared to others.  Eventually I learned this is a hollow pursuit, because after you vanquish one rival, there will always be another, and it is a recipe for misery to link your enjoyment of life to factors you cannot control.

Now I race because I enjoy the purity of working hard totally focused on something I enjoy.  And I really like sharing that joy with other people!  These days the ultimate in racing for me is to pull up next to someone on a bombing downwind run and trade waves back and forth, hollering and giggling and smack talking if necessary, then finding that person at the beer tent later and re-living the moment all over again. 

I have no problem helping others during the race even if it means my own ranking might suffer a bit.  For instance, one of my training partners was set up to edge me out by a few lengths but missed the last turn heading into the finish.  I yelled out to him, allowing him to correct course even though it meant losing a podium spot, because he was doing really well and I know it would have felt terrible to screw up the race that badly right at the end.

So for me, mental training is really just training on how to be fully present in the moment while paddling, and racing.  That includes a self-assessment at the start line, and if your heart and head are not going to enjoy going flat out, then don't!
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2 years 6 months ago #34677 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic Psychology of racing
" rankings compared to others.."
That is a game that I'm never going to win (and I'm, ahem, not young). I race (currently) in Hasler series flatwater marathon kayak racing in the UK. This has divisional rankings - if you perform well in a race, you get moved up a division (not optional). There is always someone better out there (turn up for a club race and it won't be surprising if there are one-two members of the national squad racing that day, in the top divisions). 
So I'm racing for Club points, to try to get the best position I can in my race in that day, and to perform as well as I possibly can.
Two races ago I was tipped in, blocked from getting to the bank to recover, but then hammered my way back up the field from last to fifth. I raced well and was happy with my performance.
I know that my performance was poor in the most recent race, but even if I had been on top form and done my best, I would have been 4 minutes behind the race leaders (they were blisteringly quick this year). Would have been happy with my performance though. 
Instead, I paddled like a lame duck and I know it. 

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2 years 4 months ago #35072 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic Psychology of racing
I've had my first race since my disasterous showing 2 months ago. 
A break in training. Then a bit of a poor training regime (too busy at work).
Went to an 'out of region' race, down on a bigger river (the Thames). Expected a bigger field (up here, 10 is a biggish field). 
41 in my division!
The start line was crazy. Found out later that 3 retired at the start. 
I had 3 goals; overcome my timidness at the start, paddle hard (put in a good effort) throughout the race and finish feeling like I'd 'raced'. 
It went fairly well. My overall time was poor; I don't cope well with chop and there was never a time when the water was 'clean'. I pulled the second group for 2km from the start, then sat in someone's wash for a bit. Couldn't get a diamond going in the second half of the race (people just wouldn't work together). Had a bit of argy-bargy with someone at a buoy (I was ahead, he didn't want to drop back to let me pass the correct side of buoy and objected to me moving over).
Realised I'd left a bit too much in the tank at the end; I took 2 minutes out of one paddler over the final 700m. 
A good race, I learnt a lot. Had some fun. 

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2 years 4 months ago #35073 by kwolfe
Replied by kwolfe on topic Psychology of racing
I'm with you.  Mid 40's, don't live in a ski area, 4 kids, etc., I really paddle because I just love it.   I've done one OC1 race the other year and my first open water surfski race last year.  That was a humbling experience.  I had never paddle the ocean before and the race was 14 miles to boot.  In the end,  I swam 6 times and finished completely exhausted however I did it!  That was the real accomplishment for me.  Plus, when I saw the finishing time of the top three....Wow they were fast. 

Anyway, I like the atmosphere.  My wife gets a kick out of seeing me finish (cheers like hell even if I was last) and the people are great.

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2 years 4 months ago #35074 by robin.mousley
Replied by robin.mousley on topic Psychology of racing
This is an interesting topic.

I'm a mid-packer, aged 56, started paddling in my mid 30s.

I live for downwind paddling - and generally do better in races where there's rough water and at least something in the way of downwind.

I sometimes wonder what the hell I'm doing on the starting line when I've had a bad day or am feeling demotivated.  But almost inevitably, someone will be just ahead of me and the race will turn into a match between me and them.  

For me a "win" is if, at the end, I feel as though I gave it my all and paddled competently.  


Currently Fenn Swordfish S, Epic V10 Double.
Previously: Think Evo II, Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others...

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2 years 4 months ago #35079 by Epicpaddler
Replied by Epicpaddler on topic Psychology of racing
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of surfski races in my area. I usually have to travel a couple of hours to find a race. I  started paddling a surfski a year ago, but knew immediately that I'd want to get into racing. It's not a beginner friendly sport. The elite paddlers are impressive to watch and I hope to be at the front of the pack someday. I've managed to become a middle of the pack paddler with my Epic v8Pro. What I've realized is I  like being around other paddlers and like minded individuals. It's fun to share stories and get to know new folks. I like finding one or two paddlers close to my level and having a good head to head race.  

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2 years 4 months ago #35083 by waverider
Replied by waverider on topic Psychology of racing
This created some controversy in the 2019 ICf K! sprint. end of mens 5000m. lead paddler deliberately cut across bow of second boat on the sprint to the line cutting him off. ( Time 2:16:13)

Also what do you guys think of the technique of cutting close to buoys and lapped paddlers in an attempt to force someone wash riding to fall back to avoid collision/forced inside course?

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2 years 4 months ago #35090 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic Psychology of racing
Lead boat dictates the line.

There is a bit of a fine line here. If the lead boat doesn't actually need to move over (they could hold their line and have a clean course), then it is dirty racing. I think the lead in that vid was Tim Brabants, he was being a little dirty - he left safe room for the boat on his left, but forced them off his wash. That's ok. If he'd forced them into the buoy, not ok.
I'm not sure how precise the rules are in kayak racing. Yacht racing specifies this according to the exact relative boat position.

In my race, the rules said we had to pass to the right of a buoy. Group of 5, I was on the left. I had 4 choices:
  1. Ram the buoy.
  2. Go left of the buoy and take a time penalty.
  3. Speed up before reaching buoy and edge right.
  4. Drop back and move right.
I chose the third, put more than half my boat in front of the other boats. Boat to my right tried to move up, we clashed paddles, he was 20cm to my right. I put my hand on his bow and gently moved him away before we both ended up in the water.
I didn't want to drop back because the group was going a little slowly for my liking. If I'd dropped behind them, I would have had to push through their wash to get past (wasted energy).

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