The Flow Experience
Races are going to be challenging at some point or another. Whether it’s getting through the long ride or getting into a rhythm in the swim leg, it can be challenging to keep a high effort for a long time, without losing focus and losing speed.
Some races will be better than others. That’s just the nature of racing at your personal limit, sometimes things won’t workout. Even just feeling an unexpected difficulty part way through a race can cause make you lose focus, having a negative effect on the remainder of the race.
Getting what is sometimes referred to as a “flow” experience can be really helpful during these tough parts of racing.
Another way of thinking of flow is being in the zone. It’s a mindset where you become completely immersed in the task at hand, almost in a trance.
How is it done?
Although the flow itself is during the race, it often requires preparation beforehand through visualization as well as practicing it during workouts. It is best to get all transition zone set up done so that there is nothing to worry about other than the race itself. Next take some time, it can be before your warmup or after if there are at least a couple minutes between the end of the warmup and the start of the race. From here just relax, think about nothing and take some deep breaths. Following this, at the start of the race, while making sure to get into a decent position, don’t be bothered by the arms and bodies knocking you around (maybe a bit easier said than done if swimming isn’t your best sport), instead focus on keeping you stroke as efficient as possible. Throughout the run and bike, just think about the movement, or a part of the movement that keeps you in good form. For example, some people may find that if they think about driving from the hip during the run, the rest of the run falls into place. The pain will be there, but if you are truly in the zone, you may hardly notice it. Also, a good way of making sure you can stay in the zone when things go wrong is to have visualized them before the race. I always go into a race expecting that something will go wrong, whether that’s losing a bottle on the bike, getting a cramp on the run etc. This makes it so that when something does go wrong, it just feels like part of the race, and if it’s something I visualized before the race I already know how to react and don’t lose focus.
Why do it?
Personally, in races where I’m able to get into that “flow” state of mind, I always race well and consistently up to my expectations. I also find it makes racing more enjoyable when all I’m thinking about is racing, not another thought in my mind to distract me.