Trigger Words and Mental Mistakes

Marion set a good course for AOTC this Saturday on Telephone Track which was a great opportunity to redeem myself after my messy runs at Tour De Peninsula. My session aim was to use my trigger words consistently to drive technical process and forget about the bigger picture of my training and performance. I call this process focus.

Firstly take a look at my GPS on my DOMA page.

I was relaxed at the start and ran very smooth through the first 7 controls with a stable and thorough technical process of simplifying the route, identifying the next feature to look for, looking for the feature, and finally using my compass to confirm my direction. I began to lose some focus on the way to 8 and was immediately disappointed that I had deviated from the straight line and these thoughts began to take over my mental space. This happened again leaving 8 until I triggered my process again. My thorough here navigation helped me handle the strange mapping at 10, but my process there after fell away again as I tripped over, got a distracting spider web wrapped around my face, and was also faced by the recently felled area which wasn’t looking entirely fun to run across. Here I totally lost contact with the map because my mental process was non-existent. Effects of this also included having a poor visual image of proportions within the control circle at 11 and no planned exit direction. I stopped for 15 seconds, relocated and fumbled on to the control. BAD!!!

I made 2 small technical errors, one just before 18 where I drifted to the left and again leaving 18 where I drifted left again. They were purely technical errors because despite planning and executing my process I was not accurate enough with my compass. I made 3 more small errors later on the course which were all mental errors, and not technical errors. You can see my deviation from the straight line on the way to 22. This was me regretting that spicy pizza my flat mate gave me the night before – my suffering insides were easily enough to take my thoughts of my process. The deviations before and after 27 were because I was thinking about running harder and not actively looking for the next feature, so 2 more clear mental errors there.

So it’s very clear in my mind that most of my mistakes are in fact mentally derived while only a small number of them are technical/navigational errors and working on my process focus will remain a major component of my short term goals.

Marion's extended middle distance training course

Marion’s extended middle distance training course

Tour De Peninsula

Tour De Peninsula marks the build up to the 2015 orienteering season in NZ with its series of 8 races over 3 days with the cycle tour inspired concepts used by Sprint the Bay in previous years. This year I was open to compete for as many of the leaders’ singlets as I could.

It’s pretty hard to summarise 8 races into a short write up so I will just look at a few interesting things, some good some bad.

Starting with the bad…

Over the past year I have come to express my orienteering performance based on the “Triangles of Orienteering” model, but like any model there are always simplifications and assumptions. I had great success applying this model in 2014 but not such great success so far in 2015 and a number of things have come to light this weekend.

The first race at Ferrymead was pretty poor with a lot of time lost to the first control. This was a result of looking on the wrong side of the map for the start triangle, as we had a map flip, and then still taking ages to find the start triangle on the correct side of the map. In this time I managed to cross a train track, which was uncrossable in this particular race. There was also a large wall on the map, and I was so focused on determining whether or not I was allowed to cross the wall that I didn’t even think about the train track I was crossing. I corrected myself by returning the way I came losing almost 1 minute in total. I think a major part of this error was not being mentally ready for the race. With no mental and emotional warm up I was essentially “winging it”. I’m not entirely sure on how to reduce the time taken to find the start triangle but visualisation and more awareness of my surrounds could have helped a lot.

Another massive stuff up came on the on the 4th stage when I exited control 2 as if I was at control 3. I was very confident doing the first 2 legs and had planned ahead to control 4 before I got to control 2. I seem to do this a few times per year and I know other people do it too but I haven’t come up with any good solution to prevent it from happening. My understanding of it at the moment is that it’s just unfortunate timing of thoughts but I would really like be able to bring a solution to it. Is there something I can including into my mental process or is it something that isn’t worth worrying about?

The good bits…

The sections of these races that I raced well proved again to me that trigger words really do help drive my technical process and enhance my concentration while reducing the amount of story thinking that goes on inside my sometimes frantic mind. So I remain confident that I am taking the right approach to improving my orienteering by focussing on my mental processes and specifically applying trigger words to that effect in training and racing.

Another thing I’m really happy with is how much more I’m habitually using my compass to sharpen my direction. This was actually quite important at Tour De Peninsula because 6 out of the 8 races were non-urban. I simply found myself checking my compass more and at the right times. I believe this is part of my progress from conscious competence to unconscious competence – at least with this component of my performance.

Also on the physical side of things, my body held up to the stains of 8 high intensity races in 3 days but the same niggles I have had for the past 2 months remain. My good use of my specialist rolling pin is helping with some of the prevention and its importance is obviously acknowledged as seen here with my fan club. fan club fan club

At the end of the weekend I finished 3rd in the general classification for the yellow singlet, and 2nd in both the sprint and hill climb points competitions.

I’ll let my GPS do the rest of the talking, so check out my routes, including some massive blow outs, on my DOMA page!

My GPS for Tour De Peninsula stage 1 at Ferrymead

My GPS for Tour De Peninsula stage 1 at Ferrymead