I believe that everything can be explained in a way that makes some sense. Call it spin, or relativity, but my perception will be different than your perception. And we both will be right, even when one of us is wrong.
Take the case of the "eye witness" to a crime. Now you would think that a person who sees a crime would be an excellent witness in the courtroom. But it doesn't always happen that way. It has been well proven that the eye witness doesn't always perceive the events the way they actually happen.
Another example: my residents present their patients to me after the initial evaluation. The resident physician tells me why the patient is in the ED, tells me their pertinent history, their physical examination findings, and then synthesizes a diagnostic and therapeutic management plan. Frequently, the resident reports that the "heart exam is normal" or the "neuro exam is unremarkable." On the surface, this seems a reasonable statement. But if I ask for the result of a specific neuro or cardio exam finding, I might find that they did not perform that part of the evaluation. So, what the resident reported to me was true to them because they did not know for which truth to look.
And the truth you seek frequently is both the result and the creator of your perception.
How does this apply to triathlon training?
I was running this morning on the treadmill. The temperature here in Alabama has dipped back to the 40's and I needed to run this morning, so I hopped on and started hamsterring.
I was planning on running 8 miles with negative splits and a tempo pace. I wasn't too excited to run 8 miles, but I knew it wouldn't be that difficult for me. Perception. You see, not long ago 8 miles was a long run for me. In fact, as recently as 6 months ago I had never run 8 miles in my life. Then, I would have told you that 8 miles was both a long run and a hard run. Then, truth to me was that an 8 mile run was hard and long.
Today, truth to me was that 8 miles was short and easy. Miles 1-2 in 8:31/mi, miles 3-4 in 8:00/mi, miles 5-6 at 7:30/mi, and miles 7-8 at 7:00/mi. And it wasn't hard either. I don't wear my heartrate monitor like I should so I can't tell you exactly how not hard it was, but I was breathing quite comfortably throughout.
My perception has changed.
It's getting to be that time of year when many of us are starting to realize substantial training gains. We have completed 1 or maybe 2 builds, and our aerobic base is (hopefully) solid. Our bodies are being trained to handle the rigors of raceday.
As we start our race season, our perception of our abilities will play a major role in raceday performance. If you perceive that you are supposed to be at the starting line, that you are fit and ready, you will succeed. But if you enter with a negative attitude, a perception that you don't belong or that you are undertrained, you likely will suffer. Even if you are in top shape, you have to be convinced of that.
So the mental approach to raceday is probably just as important as the physical training. I am the first to admit that I have struggled getting in some of my training sessions. My time is divided tediously and spread across a large number of demands, and quite frankly training for this hobby of mine is just not as important as some other things.
But I am seeing positive gains physically, and that is helping create mental gains to the tune of believing that I really do belong in this sport and that I can compete reasonably well. I could easily have a negative perception of my whole training process, and feel like I am ill prepared for racing, since I have not met all of my training goals to date.
But instead, I am happy with the progress I have. There is noone but me depending on my performance. There is no money, no sponsorships, no contracts - nothing is dependent on my outcome.
So progress is progress. Perception drives reality. And the reality, my reality, is that I'm going to kick ass come Ironman time...