On the weekend I stood on the sidelines and watched a number of athletes go around in their various races. For me as the coach my work was done. Apart from a few coaching cues whilst athletes went past and a high five or two at the finish there was nothing more I could do. We had been on our mini journey towards that race together. We did everything we could to develop mentally, physically, tactically and technically as a team.
Race day for me is a similar sensation a chef must go through when plating up. They place the finished meal carefully on the pass and stand back. They have done their absolute best to prepare and present their food in the best possible way. They stand there and watch as the waiter takes the plate to the diner. Nothing more can be done now. We just have to see if we were good enough.
When you look at the differences between chefs and restaurants, the outward differences are the visible end product. But that end product is a direct result of the care and attention that was given along the way. The meat wasn’t simply grilled over a hot plate. It was probably seared first and then cooked off over a low heat in the oven. Thus giving a great caramelisation and texture on the outside, whilst maintaining the moisture on the inside. The vegetables were lovingly peeled and perhaps blanched first before cooking finally in the best quality butter available. The sauce was most likely the result of the blending of many flavours, herbs and spices.
When we work together, for me, its a similar concept. I want to know that when its time to “plate up” we have worked together to do everything possible to get the best result on the day. Have we taken the time to discuss personal issues that are currently holding you back, have we got the training load perfectly balanced so you are achieving overload and adaptation, have we made sure that the equipment you will use on the day is perfect for the task and maintained in perfect condition so that its ready to perform.
When the final judgement comes on race day and we ask the question “how did you go?” we aren’t just looking for “good” or “bad”. We are looking for things like you felt better on the run when you hit a bad patch and were able to answer the pain with a firm no. We are looking to see if you were affected by the wetsuit / non-wetsuit decision. We are looking for if you were able to stay in the moment during the race. We are looking for if you held form under fatigue. We are looking for how your pacing and nutrition strategy worked and if you were able to stick to it under pressure.
What I am looking for should look simple and beautiful on the day but was the result of a lot of hard work to get us there.
The best bit, is that like a chef we get to come back and try yet again for excellence at the next race. That’s the exciting bit for me.