Practise and Repetition
Last October I took part in the London Fields aquathlon; a swim of 400m and a 5k run. It was the first time I had ever swum or run in a competition. Yet completing it, under wonderful blue skies and the warm Autumn sunshine, was not a problem. Besides, for someone who had only ever been even remotely active in the stressful environment of a big news event, it was a pleasure.
This weekend’s race was a completely different experience – but one with much more value.
I always find it is relatively easy to commit to a project, train and and achieve a single goal. It is much harder repeat the endeavour with the aim of consolidating and improving an earlier effort.
I think this is true for many people.
Last Sunday I was back in East London, only this time in freezing cold temperatures under leaden skies, wondering whether I had done enough to repeat (let alone better) my earlier time. Adrenaline and the support of friends and family can do a great deal to keep you focused on a goal. In my first race I had raised money for the charity of which I am an Ambassador, the Victoria Foundation www.thevictoriafoundation.org.uk so everyone knew about it.
This time I told very few people and it felt lonely and cold when I turned up at 7.00am. If my wonderful coach, Beate Vogt www.tri50.co.uk had not been there, I am not completely sure I would have had the heart for it.
But I know from my work as a presentation coach and media trainer that it is pointless believing that one session in front of the camera will get you over the line. Any successful performance – on air, in a pool or on a track – is the result of practise and repetition.
So I knew in order to move forward toward my goal of running in a triathlon I needed to keep practising at a steady level. Beate had done a great job in getting me to believe I was capable of participating in these events but I had lost a little faith…..and it was very, very cold.
I started the swim fast. Too fast. As I turned into my third length, I started to hyperventilate and had to change from front crawl to breast stroke which lost some valuable time. I knew I was slower in the swim than last October as I climbed out of the pool and headed for the transition area.
I was much quicker in transition. That would not have been difficult. Last October – to the consternation of a race steward – I put my hairbrush with my track shoes! This time, I had talcum powder to dry my feet and my laces already opened on my trainers. I had aimed to put on my zip-up jacket but left it off to shave off a bit more time.
As I went into the run, I thought of the time I recorded the links for an entire news programme in Tokyo during temperatures of minus 4 having left equatorial Jakarta 17 hours earlier. On that occasion my cameraman wrapped his jacket around me from the waist down. I don’t think I felt any colder then than I did at London Fields.
As I thumped around the course I tried to keep on top of the technique Beate had taught me. I may have remembered some of it but mostly I focused on maintaining momentum. When I started the final lap, I could see Beate (who had completed her race) on the final strait. I had enough to make a small sprint to the finish.
Beate told me, “You swam slower but you ran faster.”
She was right.
I knew I had made a strategic error by starting too quickly in the pool. Frankly, I didn’t think I had run any faster but all that practise and repetition running along the towpath near my home in West London had made a difference – it was just hard for me to see.
When I got the results I saw I had shaved five minutes off my time.
I was really surprised. Now I have resuscitated my motivation. No dramatic answer, I just sustained my practise and repetition.
The 10k is next month.