"Be prepared to handle a low point" - this is what I tell to my endurance athletes before every race. Because even if you are über-fit and mega-prepared, it is practically certain that at some point in a race you will hit a low point: drop in energy, onset of fatique, lack of focus, etc. How to deal with it effectively? Painful situation - but truly the essence of endurance racing and being an unbeatable mind!
The navy SEALs would say: "When you are going through hell - keep going!". Tough, brutal - but wise? I say: "Race smart" - and help yourself overcome a low point. Two decades of endurance racing did teach me many lessons, especially how to get to the finish line over (sometimes painfully low) low points. I actually have an algorithm for you - which I had "the pleasure" to test one more time this weekend during the 238km/5500 altitude meters cycling marathon in Austria.
For some unclear reason, actually at the easiest part of the course, the only more or less flat 20km at ça. Km 80, I suddenly felt horrible, my heart rate jumped to over 200, lactate shot into my legs like a waterfall, my power went down the drain and my speed dropped to quite literally zero - I actually had to stop. I guess it was a kind of heat shock after a fast descend from a cold mountain pass into a hot industrialized valley of Innsbruck. "No panic" I said to myself watching hundreds of cyclists passing by.... I fueled and hydrated - and continued pedalling at a seemingly crawling pace for quite some time, enjoying the scenery and trying to think happy and motivating thoughts. What else can you do? And then it happened - I felt better, my propulsion force retuned to me and I got back to attacking the cols. The strategy and the algorithm worked again!
This magic algorithm is actually very simple: When you are not ok, i.e. suddenly super low on energy, power, focus, when you feel fatiqued beyond normal racing fatique, or when you start cramping, this is what you do:
1. Slow down (to your base endurance Zone 2 pace) - or stop.
2. Eat and drink (sensibly - not too much and not too little, and only your normal race nutrition. By the way: Coca-Cola can do magic almost always!)
3. Wait untill you feel better - Engage in positive self-talk to manage your mental state. Use your mantras, visualize and motivate yourself. Connect with your purpose and with your "best self" - are you a person who complains and whines, when going gets hard? Are you someone who gives up? DNF is no option! Pain is temporary - glory is forever! You are alone out there and only you decide how you feel and what thoughts you think at this very moment!
4. Get back to your race pace.
You can use it in racing - or in daily life. When you "hit a wall" or get stuck - slow down, or stop if needed, recharge by eating and hydrating, engage in positive self-talk to alter your mental state, connect with your purpose and your best self, wait and get back on track!
Have a great ride!