Take the lead
Have you ever had someone pass you? On the track? In the water? On the road? Or in any competition? This is an interesting phenomenon to watch in action. It can happen at the beginning of the race but causes more of a reaction in the middle and towards the end of a race. When it happens, some feel like they don’t have any more mojo and can’t quite kick it. Some get a charge and are motivated by it. Others don’t react and keep doing what they know they should be doing. Which one are you and why?
No more mojo
You may not have another ounce of juice but chances are high that you are caving to the thought of someone passing you. What could really be happening? The thinking usually sounds something like this – I can’t believe I am being passed. I am so much better than that person. What’s wrong with me? This kind of thinking pulls you right out of your ability to race and into a cycle of thinking. When you are pulled into negative thinking, your blood and oxygen move away from your muscles and are sent to the brain and used to think. This leads to rapid heart rate and muscle tension. Now, there truly is no way to respond. There are no other gears – no mojo – no more juice. From there, you may continue to fall back and lose time.
What can you do instead? Change your language to something more positive and do it quickly, such as a mantra like – I’ve got this! I can do this! Bring your focus back to where it should be and concentrate on taking a couple of deep breaths.
Fuel the fire
If you can and it is realistic, try to stay with them or as close as you can when they are trying to pass you. If someone is much faster than you, then it may not be feasible but see if you can use this person to push you (even a little) rather than demotivate you. When someone is passing you, say to yourself – Stay with them, stay right here. Set small goals – I am going to stay on this person’s wheel for the next 3 miles or I can hang right by their side while I take a few breaths and then re-evaluate.
Stick with your game plan
Most of my clients have a game plan for each race and if they don’t, I encourage they talk with their coach to develop one. For example, in a 100 meter, my swimmers need to know what their focus should be during each lap – breathing pattern, arm turnover, slow-medium-fast kick or an all-out sprint to the last lap. When you have a solid game plan, it makes it much easier to stay away from distractions because you have something to focus on – the right thing to focus on. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stick with someone who is trying to pass you but your game plan should address this. You need to practice it.
It’s your performance
Should you stay with someone who is trying to pass you or should you stick with your game plan? That depends on a lot of factors – what was your original game plan? Will you flame out if you go for it? It’s important to know what the factors are in the decision and learning to respond in an appropriate way versus responding just because your ego gets the best of you. When you get passed by another competitor, multiple things can happen: you might not be able to respond due to physical or mental limits. Or, you can use it to motivate you. Or, you can stick with your game plan and not get caught up in what others are doing. It takes a lot of confidence to stick to the game plan.
Practice these different scenarios and see which one works the best for you. There may be different circumstances during the actual race, but if you have practiced your options, you can make the best decision for you.