When training for a big competition I tend to start envisioning the race up to a month beforehand. I envision the route, how I think my competitors would race (I race against the same competitors quite often) and how I think my body would react during the race /when I should feed etc.
I have been priviledged enough to practice the sport that I fell in love with for almost 14 years now, I was a 10 year old little girl in a oversized red T-shirt dreaming big dreams to not so long ago and now fast forwarding to when I was kitted in my Olympic SA gear in 2016.
So far I have been blessed by accomplishing more than I ever thought I was capable of.
Now, having competed in my 7th South African Championships, I realized once again, no matter what the years of 'experience' I have racing, I still learn something everytime.
This particular race just confirmed once again that:
1. You cannot control the race route
As a racewalker, my main event is 20km. We walk in 'loops' /laps of 1km or 2kms on a flat road as race walking has technique and rules to it.
There are judges all over the route to assure that you are not running.
According to the IAAF, the Race walking definition states the following: Race Walking is a progression of steps so taken that the walker makes contact with the ground, so that no visible (to the human eye) loss of contact occurs. The advancing leg must be straightened (i.e. not bent at the knee) from the moment of first contact with the ground until the vertical upright position. )
This year Nationals were held at the Germiston track. Our route was situated at the back of the stadium. With a route that had a powerclimb of approximately 30m, potholes as big as 2 orange cones and a surface that has probably been tarred 10 years ago. It was safe to say I knew the moment I 'pre walked' the course it was not going to be a fast race.
2. It's best to focus on your own race rather than that of your competitor.
I went into the race not really knowing what to expect from myself, and for this reason I was very focused on what to expect from my competitors. Half -way through the race I realized I wasted so much energy on focusing on anything but myself and my own race that I had lost focus on what I was actually there to do.
3. Prepare to be 'flexible' and not to be too set in your ways.
I have realized time and time again how things can go south on raceday. From waterbottles breaking, shoelaces not being tied properly to watches giving up right before a very important race.
Through all that I have learned to just 'go with the flow' and to try and manage it to the best of my abilities.
4. FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS
This is still something I struggle with in races if it gets too long or if a race is not competitive enough. I always try and motivate from within and try to train my mind this way when I train alone to really help me focus on race day.
So those were some of the experiences I had during my race and things I still experience or have experienced when I have raced previously.
With all that said, SA champs was an amazing race. I love walking away from a race and being able to take something from it other than just a medal, but I would lie if I said I don't still get goosebumps getting onto that podium every year.
I live by believing that I have never failed in a race, I sure have had terrible races, but I have always believed that the reward of suffering is experience. And that is priceless.
by Anèl Oosthuizen