Learning Lessons the Hard Way
So if you followed my results during worlds you will have seen that I had a pretty terrible regatta, really off target from where I expected to finish.
I thought I had prepared really well: I was feeling really fast in the training days leading up to racing, I was feeling strong and had been hitting PRs in the gym a few weeks before leaving, I had great boat handling in the practice races, I knew the venue conditions well (windy if a low was sitting over England, shifty off-shore breeze otherwise). Unfortunately my mental game was not were it needed to be and I didn’t really identify that as an issue before the event.
I put a lot of expectations on myself going into the regatta, and I expected to continue on the upwards trajectory of improvements I have had in the previous few months. I also had a really hectic and stressful few weeks leading up to the trip, and I was not focusing on the upcoming racing but rather on work and other responsibilities, which then added to my stress because I knew I was supposed to be less stressed!
Even though the training days in Holland went well, I was pretty nervous going into the first day, and was thinking a lot about what I wanted my results to be rather than on the racing. All this build-up made for a really bad first two races and after that I totally collapsed. I felt terrible after that day, like I was disappointing everyone who supports me, and like I had no business being at a world champs. I really fell apart emotionally that evening and I wasn’t able to pull myself back together completely for the rest of the event. Turns out it is pretty difficult to focus on racing when you are feeling super upset, so of course the rest of the regatta was not my best sailing.
I have spent time in the past working on mental skills like focus shuttling (moving through a preset list of things to focus on, so you don’t get stuck thinking only about trim for example) and visualization. I know that I should be process oriented rather than outcome oriented. I know I need to have a certain activation level before the start. However, mental skills have not been a top priority in my training, and unfortunately it took a big disappointment for me to realize that was a problem.
So there is a silver lining: I have a new area to work on! If I can make improvements on the water and in the gym I can make improvements in my mental skills. I am excited to get back on in the boat and practice. One step at a time.