Endurance athletes of all kinds regularly rely on times to help them measure overall progress, plan for upcoming races and, during a race, to effectively execute their race strategy. During training, learning to hold the proper race pace is absolutely critical for race day success. However, what most endurance athletes don’t realize is that an over-focus on times and splits during a race will actually slow them down, contributing to a bad outcome.
You will never get a PB when you go into a race focusing on getting that time and the specific splits necessary for its’ accomplishment! It is a huge mental mistake to take your goals into any race with you, especially the really important ones. This is because your goals are in the future and, as a consequence, create two significant problems for you: First, they distract your concentration from where it needs to be during the race, on all of the important things; Second, by bringing your goals or expectations into the race with you, you create a sense of urgency inside of you. You end up making that event and your outcome too important. As a result, you create physical and emotional tension inside of you that will ultimately end up sabotaging your performance.
The trick to getting that PB is to keep your pre-race and during race focus of concentration away from your outcome times and splits, (That’s right!!! I said away from splits), and instead, keep it on the process of the race in the moment. What does this mean? Focus on the feel of holding the right pace, keeping your body loose and relaxed, your breathing pattern or just one stroke, stride, or cycle at a time. Thinking about your splits is just that, THINKING. Thinking takes you out of the race, away from the feel of the right pace and puts you in your head. Understand this: You’ll NEVER go fast when your concentration is in your head! You’ll never get that breakthrough when you’re consciously thinking about and trying to get that breakthrough.
Those personal best times will come when you stop trying to get them. When you go into your event focused on staying loose and relaxed and running/swimming/rowing/or riding your own race.