The Miracle of the Mantra

Years of racing have taught me wonderful lessons.   Some of this lesson’s have carried over directly over into other aspects of life.Other’s haven’t.   Like GU.  Does it serve any other purpose?
One of the key pivotal points I picked up along the path of the racing school of hard knocks is the power of a mantra.   By this I mean, a memorized saying that becomes the focus of repetitive thought when things turn tough.  Some races have required only minimal mantra usage but others, well, have been left to the miracle of the mantra.
My race on Saturday gave me great practice, starting very early in the race. It’s a personal thing but I love XTERRA triathlons. Open water swimming in high mountain lakes, mtb biking through forests and meadows, and the absolute joy of trail running. Truth to be told, it’s awesome…but brutal.   Which for me makes it all the more inviting.  And so, I train.  For the past few years I’ve trained really hard to be ready for the local long course XTERRA race at Snowbasin, just outside Ogden. This is home to me, which puts the icing on the cake.
At 9 am last Saturday morning over 1000 athletes gathered to give this XTERRA thing a go.  Emotions were high and the best XTERRA athletes in the nation were all standing on the beach together. Open water swimming takes some time to become accustomed to and has been described as a “washing machine” or the “spawning of salmons”.  And, on this Saturday morning, for me it was more than I was obviously prepared for.  No more that 1 minute into the race,  the beating was taking a toll.  Lots of bodies means lots of contact.  Attempts to breathe meant mouths of unexpected water.  And without any notice my brain said, “You’re in trouble with no way out!”.
As I assessed the situation, the pressure mounted.  “You’re not going to make it”, came another thought.  Very quickly discomfort led to fear and fear led to panic. Fortunately , a forgotten mantra came to the rescue.  BLOW OUT HARD!  BLOW OUT HARD!  It was all I needed to distract my mind from what it thought was certain death.  I learned this mantra years ago while overcoming the fear of swimming in water without a visible floor.  Blowing air out hard overrides the issue of hyperventilation, immense fear, and in many cases, panic attacks .  Early on, this mantra got me through every open water swim but has been set aside over the past few years as feeling comfortable in the water has begun to come to me.  In a matter of a few minutes a very negative situation was reversed and I got the opportunity to resuming chasing my targets and goals.  Hence, the Miracle of the Mantra.
What really can a mantra do for you? It can make or break awful situations but it can also make an average race experience and amazing one.  When reckless negative thoughts begin to sweep over the brain they paralyze the ability of the body to rise above the commonplace.   As these dangerous thoughts escalate through our minds, they weaken our ability to stay firm to our goals and the under pressure and pain we are tricked into conceding defeat with miles to run. A positive mantra can distract the brain and re-ignites the dying flame regardless of fatigue or fear.
I have my favorites.  STRENGTH, POWER, SPEED.  FOCUS, ACT, BELIEVE.  And when injury threatens it’s ugly face, I AM A HEALING MACHINE!  But you must find yours.  It needs to be personal and trained to come without premeditation.  Discomfort, fear, and doubt need to be the trigger for it’s release. It needs to be said over and over.  This takes practice and patience.  And for a time, it may take someone yelling it from the sideline!

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