Hope Isn't a Game Plan


Posted by Coach Amanda Leibovitz

Hope Isn't a Game Plan

Earlier this season, after I finished a strong performance at Ironman Syracuse 70.3, Coach Mark said something to me that has forever changed the way I think about training and racing. He said:

The thing that sets elite athletes apart from the rest is that they show up knowing they are going to perform. It's not a matter of "if" but, rather, a matter of "how."

At the time, I didn't quite grasp the depth of what Mark had so wisely communicated until it was time for my Ironman a couple months later. More specifically, it was after I got a number of texts from friends and family wishing me luck on my race. I remember thinking, "I'm grateful for the support, but this isn't about luck. It's about strategy and how well I can execute it."

 Hoping for a solid performance is all good and fine, but it will only get you so far. It's the endurance athlete's equivalent to throwing everything against a wall and seeing what sticks. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. However, whether you are completing or competing, hope is not a game plan. Here are four tips to keep in mind when preparing for your next event:


  • Honest self-appraisal. It's nearly impossible to develop a solid, achievable race strategy if we cannot be honest with ourselves about what we have to work with. Really examine your training and set race goals based on where you are currently at, rather than where you want to be.
  • Control the controllables. So much of racing is affected by uncontrollables, however, there is a whole heck of a lot that can be controlled (e.g. nutrition, hydration, gear, pacing, etc.). Decide how you will manage these elements regardless of how the uncontrollables might come in to play.
  • Adjust as needed. Triathlon is a "living" sport, and a lot can happen over the course of a single race. Learn to have the flexibility to appropriately adjust your strategy, if needed. Part of this can be done before the race even starts by working through "If... Then..." scenarios, and the other part will require some insight and judgment in the moment. The point to take home is that being able to accurately assess a situation and decide on a course of action is a sign of strength, not weakness.
  • Maintain perspective. Too often, we tie the results of our most recent event with our sense of "worth" as an athlete. We need to remember that for every hour spent racing, we have literally spent hundreds of hours training. All we can do at any time is the best we can with what we've got.

Entering a race with a strategy means we are taking responsibility for our performance, and that can be a scary thing. We need to learn to take "failure" out of our vocabulary; instead, we can choose to learn and keep moving forward after every event. That's how "winning" is done.
~Coach Amanda Leibovitz

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