Let me make this clear right from the start: I’m not very fast.

But I surprised myself my second time racing the Cebu 70.3 (Philippines) on the bike and I can safely put it down to this tip: I focused on the numbers.

Here’s an excerpt from my race report:

“As I tucked down, I was amazed at how many people I was passing. It was like all those faster swimmers were slow cyclists. All the while I was focused on my numbers, intently monitoring my power, average power, averaged normalized power, speed, average speed, distance, elapsed time, heart rate, and cadence with obsession.”

“I try to do everything with deliberate intent while on the bike. I do not want to let my mind wander. I try to monitor each figure as often as possible. Is my power ok? Speed looking normal? Heart rate fine?”

“This mindfulness can be obsessive and draining but it almost guarantees I will meet my target figures. If you want to perform your best, ignore the crowds, the scenery, the novelty of a new place.

Focus, obsess, worry. Count, calculate, add, divide, multiply, subtract, average, estimate. Repeat.”

Pure, devoted focus is really hard.

This extreme focus meant I hit my numbers. I was shooting for a goal time of 2:39 at 200 watts but when I realized I was going faster than that, I reduced my wattage and ended up with an even better result: 2:29 at 184 watts.

This put me in second place in my age group and I’m really not that strong of a cyclist.

Compare that to my result of the previous year, a dismal 2:47. But at that race I was not focused on the bike one bit and did not even have a power meter.

Furthermore, for this race, I had a great coach I had been training with for the past 7 months, and I put in the hard work.

Still, I’d bet money that other, much stronger cyclists, got distracted by the massive crowds or otherwise just didn’t focus on their numbers like their lives depended on them.

It’s not easy. I have not been able to replicate this in other races of this distance. And surely not in a full Ironman, where I totally lose the numbers on the bike at some time or other.

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