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Richard Allen forgets the destination- for him it’s all about the journey.

As I look out of the window of the tiny Air Canada jet I can see the vast Canadian Rockies almost touching the plane. I am just about to land in Calgary for the Ironman 70.3 event, but even though I am excited to be in this amazing part of the world for the first time, something is just not right. For the first time in three years my wife Tonya is not by my side. She always travels with me to races but this time, being eight months pregnant, she could not travel. This leaves me in a bit of a situation as it is usually Tonya who gives me my pre-race pep-talk, telling me that I can do it and filling me with positive energy. Oh well, I guess I’m going to have to do it myself this time.

I still have the bulk of my season still to go this year and it has to be onwards and upwards as I was extremely disappointed with my first few races. Although I made the top 10 I had far greater expectations. Over the winter I had trained so much harder and so much more consistently than the previous year when I had achieved three podium finishes in major 70.3 races. Naturally one would expect that with this improved training I would be in the hunt for a few victories rather than just second or third. Unfortunately triathlon is not that simple.

I have been bashing my head against a wall for weeks wondering what I am doing wrong. Am I over-trained? No. Am I too old? Probably! As the plane touches down I realised it was none of these and quite simply I need to practise what I preach. I am forever giving pep talks to athletes I coach but I have failed to take on board any of this useful information myself.

My athletes always say to me that they want to do a specific time or finish in a specific position in their age group. I have been no different in that I started 2012 with the goal of winning, or at least getting a podium in the races I entered. Surely there is nothing wrong with this? Being confident is a good thing, right? Well maybe for some people but for myself and many athletes out there it puts immense pressure on our shoulders and we lose sight of the process.

I realised that my 2012 thought process has been so different from last year and this has been the problem. During my last few races I would fall apart when the going got tough. I would be focusing too much on the other athletes and losing a good position rather than focusing on my own efforts. I was also extremely tense before my last few races and if you are not relaxed then you don’t perform well. I guess the higher the goal, the further the fall if you fail and this thought subconsciously lingered in the back of my mind. I think 2011 was a solid year for me because I was simply lining up with one goal – to push myself to the max from the first to the very last mile, regardless of what others may do. I always say to my athletes that if you can look back at a race and say that you did your best every step of the way, then you should walk away happy. This is so true and is really the only thing that’s totally within your control. After all, you might have a top three goal and then four athletes have a better day than you. You just don’t have any control over that and therefore should never be disappointed if that happens.

So as I get prepared for Ironman 70.3 Calgary, I am not giving my finishing position a second thought. I have no control over how the other athletes will go. I am just going to push myself as hard as I can for four hours. This makes me sound crazy but knowing I am in control of that goal means I am far more relaxed.

So how did it go? Well, I came fourth in a stellar field and I was in the mix up front for the whole race. It was by no means a perfect race but I am content because I focused on working hard 100 per cent of the time. When the going got tough, I focused on my effort and pushing my pace rather than worrying about the other athletes. It just goes to show – it’s not about the training you do, it’s about pushing your personal limits on race day and focusing on the journey, not the destination.

This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine. Save time and money by having every issue delivered to your door or digital device by subscribing to the print edition or buying digitally through Zinio or Apple Newsstand.

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