As a former Olympic Trials marathon runner, Ruth Brennan Morrey is one of the quickest finishers in any pro field.

As a former Olympic Trials marathon runner, Ruth Brennan Morrey is one of the quickest finishers in any pro field, with race-best run splits that earned her fourth-place finishes at Ironman Arizona last fall and at 70.3 Monterrey this spring. She’s also likely to be the most cerebral athlete on any race start list, with a Ph.D. in counseling psychology. The mother of three from Rochester, Minn., understands better than anyone the mental gymnastics our minds go through in training and racing.

A critical element in triathlon is self-belief, but self-belief lies along a spectrum that needs to be continually built upon and honed—whether you’re a tri newbie, ITU Olympian or Ironman athlete.

Without fear, we would have limited courage, and without some stress and anxiety, we would have limited drive that leads us to undertake challenges that make our lives so rewarding. Understanding our own thought quality and our ability to manage emotions will ultimately impact achievement at all levels.

Each race format (sprint, Olympic, Ironman) requires a different mental skill set. The race type doesn’t require ‘more’ or ‘less’ mental rehearsal or execution; they are simply different. ITU racing requires constant decision making, bike handling, strategy and highly tuned focus and attention, whereas Ironman racing requires more mental endurance, prolonged focus, fewer ‘on-the-fly’ decisions and astute body awareness for fueling and pacing.

At a high level of racing, mental games are counterproductive. High-performing athletes typically have strong mental resiliency, which doesn’t allow them to be negatively impacted. Mental games are silly. Just race your own race.

Triathlon truly is a special sport due to its acceptance of any athlete who has high ambition and goal-driven determination. It has the capacity to change lives, and if training and racing are balanced well within an athlete’s other life demands, it can be incredibly enriching to walk within the
extraordinary process.

Triathlon has a wonderful culture of camaraderie. Even before the Ironman World Championship, competitors are embracing each other beforehand, wishing each other a good day. Ironman, in particular, is about the personal journey, and there is certainly a shared vulnerability that coexists between competitors—a beautiful thing!