As a sponsor of what is known as the toughest and most rewarding race in the world, ÖTILLÖ. We’re always looking to drive the sport to new levels and help to get you involved. With this in mind, we teamed up pro-Swimrun racer and trainer Nicolas Remires to bring you an 8-part Series, running you through everything you’ll need to know before you run your first ÖTILLÖ race. Nicolas has over 10 years experience as a Swimrun racer and hosts the official training camps for ÖTILLÖ, so you could say he is the best in the game.

Next up in our collaboration Nicolas will discuss how to prepare mentally for the challenges ahead as you train and compete for a SwimRun event.

So you’ve managed to build the muscles and lung capacity? Well, often most importantly, you need to make sure your head is in the right place too.

There are a few important points that need to be checked before a race, no matter if you are a beginner or an experienced champion.

Do you know your teammate? Well?

Do you know the environment you will race in?

Do you have a plan? And a plan B …?

Susie Moonan is a former elite swimmer that has competed in European and World Championships. After her swim career, she studied social care and works today as a family therapist and mental coach for athletes on all levels. She is also a swimrun competitor has shared some advice for your mental preparation, which can be used for any sporting event.

If you have competed in several races with your teammate already, you know know his or her shoe size, what she/he has for breakfast and what she or he looks like just before hitting the wall, you have a big advantage. Swimrun is very much a team sport and to make a strong team the communication needs to be smooth. There is no room for misunderstandings during a race.

If you have a new teammate, or you are new to the sport, the team building part of your training is just as important as putting in the kilometers of running and swimming. Start by finding out what strengths and weaknesses you have. What are your roles in the team? Who is the better navigator? Is one of you a stronger swimmer/runner. Who needs pushing and pep-talk during training and racing and who prefers to shut up and dig deep? Maybe one of you needs a bit of holding back sometimes.

Have a coffee (or a few rather!) and talk about it.

Then we get to the point where it’s important that you go through the race course together. Do you have the possibility to go and train on the course? Great. Or can you at least find similar conditions (cold water, slippery rocks, technical trails …)? It’s good to know how you tackle the challenges as a team this will help you to cope better on the day.

Very often we go through a race in detail after the race, what happened? What went wrong? Where did I feel strong? When did I almost lose the will to continue? Try to do this in advance instead. Sit down with your teammate and a map of the race course and go through it in detail. Preferably several times. Where can you see a challenge? How will you deal with it? Try to visualise where in the race you may be able to recover slightly. For a strong swimmer this might be the swim just before a tough run section. This will be the time to gather some psychological strength!

Make a plan and then stick to it! Dare to believe in it during the race.

Even though it is important to have positive thoughts before a race, to visualise how you fly across the finish line as winners, it’s also good to have a Plan B. Like every company or project you need a crisis plan. If you do a race between 3 and 12 hours something is likely to happen … and even if you can’t imagine all the things that you might have to deal with it is a good idea to try to figure out a few solutions for the things you can imagine. Before. Not when you have lactic acid up to your eyeballs and a Did Not Finish (DNF) might seem like a good, easy option.

It’s not just the unexpected crisis you should plan for. If you raced before you probably know that there might be some situations that could drain your will to keep fighting. What goes through your mind if another team pass you on the course? Is there a risk that you’ll lose faith in yourself and start having only negative thoughts? What can you do to break this train of thoughts? Go through it with a fresh head, together with your teammate.

Choose your psychological fights! You need all the energy you can get (especially during competition) that is why you want to minimize energy toward things that you can’t affect and which takes a lot of your focus!

Here are some exercises to minimise negative energy:

- Practise on seeing in your mind how you succeed

- Give yourself permission of being a winner

- Scrutinise the negative thought that has arisen; what is it that you can affect? If a friend would have the same thought what would you say to that person? For some reason we have the ability to be a lot tougher on ourselves than with other persons…. Be kind to yourself!

For more information on Susie and her work, check out her website

Stay tuned for the next edition in the blog series coming next week.