Do you think your education or your career has helped to prepare you mentally for racing?
I think everything in your life, both small and large, helps you prepare for racing. Every hard and easy time, studies, challenges, training and so on, is a part of who you are and affects how you behave during races.
Have you been an athlete all your life or did you have some sort of epiphany that got you in to it?
I have been doing some kind of sport my whole life. Starting with swimming at a young age, continuing on to skiing, running and then triathlon where I am today racing professional.
What do you do when you are not training or racing?
Do you behave differently in your life compared to during a race?
Hehe yes… At least I hope so! During races you are very focused and everything is about getting from A to B as soon as possible. I hope that I am a bit more relaxed in my ”normal” life and able to take things easier. But I think it is important to be able to relax when you are off the racecourse… I want to bring all my best in the sport for the next 10-15years, so I think it is important to ”save” some focus for the next years to come.
How do you normally feel before the start of a race?
Before a race I am always nervous… Not nervous about my performance, but nervous about what is to come. As soon as the start goes, everything disappears. But again, I think it is important to be a bit nervous… Not too much, but still some kind of “tension” is good.
What is the most rewarding feeling you have ever had from a race?
I think that is the feeling when you have performed well and reach the finish line…
What has been the worst moment in a race? What did you do to overcome this?
I had a good swim and an ok start to the bike during Ironman 70.3 Europeans in Elsinore 2017. After 30k(?) I could feel that my back wheel started to feel different… I looked down and I had a flat. I tried to change it, but without success. After a long time I managed to change the tyre, but my chances in the race where gone and I pulled out…
What does concentration mean for you? What role does it play when you train or compete?
Concentration for me is to be focused, to get the job done. To be focused during training can be to keep the pace or power up during intervals and during racing to be in the moment and make the right decisions.
Your worst enemy in your mind?
I always think that your worst enemy is yourself. You are able to destroy a race before it has started, you are the only one to make the decision to pull out of a race. It’s the same during training, you are the only one that can fail a session before it even started or quit when it starts to hurt…
Do you have thoughts of escape during a competition? Can you describe them?
I think most athletes, no matter what type of endurance sport, entertain thoughts of pulling out every now and then… It is mostly about quitting: “that it is hard, I cannot do it, I am too tired and so on”. Mostly it is just for a short while and then it is important to find that concentration you asked about earlier.
When you feel you can not go any further, when you want to give up, what goes through your mind? What does your body tell you and what does your mind come back with?
Most of the thoughts I have during races is about quitting, that it is hard, I cannot do it, I am too tired and so on. I try to find motivation from my son Matteo, that I want to be a good inspiration for him and show him what is possible. I know the thoughts are there for a short while, but afterwards the reward will be much bigger. I try to tell myself that the pain is ok, that it will go away and the reward will stay forever. “Pain is temporary, but glory is forever”
Tell us the main differences you see between physical and mental strength.
Physical is all about muscles, heart and lungs. If you cannot use them, because it starts to be hard during a race, the physical strength is of no good. On the other hand, if you are a “super hero” in your mind and keep pushing, it might give some success, but still just limited. To become one of the best in the world you need both… The result will never be better than your weakest link (in this case body or mind).
What is your mental strength?
I believe that my mental strength is that I do not want to give up. I try to go all the way and get to the finish line no matter what. At the end, it always pays off not to give up and to keep fighting till the end.
In triathlon is it necessary to have inner strength? Be made of iron maybe?
Well… Yes. Maybe not necessary, but for sure it’s a big advantage. To keep up the training day after day, week after week and month after month, it does require something more than mental strength “here and now”. You need to have a mind of “iron” to keep the motivation, routine and quality in training to one day get to the start line with energy left in the tank.
- PATRIK NILSSON
8th Ironman Hawaii
3rd Ironman Frankfurt
4 Ironman victories
Multiple Ironman podiums