To successfully navigate a world level elite triathlon a large number of split second decisions have to be made often under significant pressure.
Physical competence is huge in triathlon, however the closer athletes get to an Olympic podium the closer the margins of victory and differences in physical abilities become. Arguably the better athletes make better decisions and not only that but they are fearless in their exploitation of their own and others capabilities.
Our best athletes operate in a very fluid and ever changing environments across three disciplines over 2 hours where courses and opponents vary hugely.
There are 2 key elements to intelligent racing; one is the bank of knowledge and experiences that athletes have gained through their life in the sport. The second is how ready and available these experiences are, how quickly they can be drawn down to best support the athlete in making the best decision.
Here is what Vicky and Jonny have to say:
How many decisions do you make in race?
VH - Loads! Obviously I go into the race with a plan, a checklist of things that I would like to do. Sometimes this goes out of the window straight away though. You have to be really flexible as things are changing all the time. I enjoy that about racing, I like the fact that it is ever changing – I really enjoy racing and especially the tactical elements of it.
JB - All I seem to be doing in a race is making decisions! You can definitely categorise them into big and small ones but it is non-stop from choosing your start position till you cross the line.
How aware are you of critical moments in a race – has this improved over your career – has this made you a better racer?
VH - Looking back I think this is something that I have always been good at naturally – I do prepare for things to happen … I scenario plan. For Rio I planned for everything! I am a real student of the sport, a total geek! I can tell you everything about my opposition about their strengths and weaknesses – I really study the start lists and will often set initial plans from this according to the type of race I think that a particular list and course will create.
JB - I like to think I am pretty aware - for me and the way I race the critical moments are often in the swim and involve getting through and around athletes and groups to get to the front of the race. I have also got much better at this through my career. I have certainly got better at not panicking under pressure – 2012 and the time penalty I got taught me that. Leeds this year (2016) was a good example I had an awful transition and missed the lead group, I could have panicked but instead kept a clear head to sit on and then jump (Javier) Gomez at the right time to bridge up to the front.