It’s time to start to play with Visualization, it’s such a valuable tool. You can use it on so many levels. At its most simple it will help you think through what might go wrong in a race and what you will do to over come it. In this way you are less likely to be rattled by the problem. At the other end of the spectrum, athletes will have the whole race mapped out in their mind and have rehearsed it time and again in minute detail.
I believe the most effective way for you to use visualization is to help you be prepared for anything on race day.
Step 1: Be specific and detailed
In order to properly visualize the way your race day will play out, it is important you build as complete a mental picture as possible covering all five senses. In order to do this watch You Tube videos of the race so you get a good visual sense of the terrain, the accommodation, the start, the aid stations, the numbers of people around you as you run etc.
Think about the start:
What are you wearing? What can you hear? how do you feel? What can you smell?
When the gun sounds, envision the acceleration in your heart rate and the feeling as the stampede begins. The Helicopter buzzing over head. By conjuring up these emotions, sights, and sounds, you can prepare yourself to remain calm, collected in a chaotic environment.
Think about the race:
how will that feel in the heat? What will I do in a sandstorm, how will I deal with hills? How will I deal with rolling sand dunes which are sapping your energy? What’s the scenery like? What will I do if I am spent and I can’t see a check point for a while? What will I do if I feel my feet rubbing? What will I do if my pack is rubbing?
Step 2: Don’t just visualize the positive – expect the unexpected
No matter how fit you are, it is probably going to hurt at some point. Imagine yourself working through those bad moments during the race. This way, when they inevitably occur, you’ll know exactly what to do and be confident you can work through them.
Furthermore, visualize what you’ll do and how you will feel should something go wrong then you’ll have a specific plan in place and instead of panicking, you’ll be calm, cool, and collected.
Some things that you might want to think about:
Racing with a group
Blisters – feet rubbing
Wardrobe malfunction – nipple chafing, gaiters tear, kit gets wet!
Fueling malfunctions – losing a gel/food
Camp life – someone in your tent is irritating you, tent mates are messy, someone snores, you can’t sleep, you have very little space.
Step 3: Boost your self-confidence
Another advantage of visualization in training is the opportunity to boost your confidence. We know that high confidence correlates to an increased level of performance. By visualizing yourself succeeding, you can subconsciously improve your belief in yourself and your abilities.
Create your own self-affirmation phrase and keep repeating it to yourself. Before you know it, there won’t be a doubt in your mind you’re going to perform on race day. I used quotes people had said to me prior to the race. For instance: you are amazing! During the race if I wanted to stop I just needed to say to myself “if I want to be seen as amazing I have to earn it, I just can’t stop.” It worked for me, see what works for you.