Psychology of racing

2 weeks 1 hour 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"
etc

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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1 week 4 days 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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1 week 4 days ago #34677 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic Psychology of racing
"...my 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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