Sport Science, Finish Lines and this Pandemic

“Teleoanticipation” is basically the science of finish lines, and how their presence (or absence) influences us. @sweatscience

On Nov. 21, Alex Hutchinson wrote in the Globe and Mail about what sports scientists who study this topic might have to teach us about the coming months with respect to the pandemic, vaccines, our ambitions and our mental health.

It’s a great article and I’m grateful that Julie Labach, a runner targeting the Tokyo 2020 team, sent me note and shared the link. She found the article helpful and wow, so do I.

Among other things, the article discusses the intersection of how we physically and mentally plan –and pace ourselves— for finish lines. “Knowledge of an eventual endpoint (or telos) influences the entirety of an experience.”  Well, you can bet those sport scientists had some fun <wink> and did studies where they removed the endpoint and looked at performance during events and races that had no finish line.

No finish line?? Hmmm… isn’t that what makes all of this so hard? Not only is it impossible to know when the pandemic will be over, we’ve all been teased by false summits. After the freedoms that came with success of lowering the curve after the first wave, we’ve been confronted with more restrictions on the steep upward side of the second wave.

How are we to pace ourselves through this?? From the article, I’d like to pull out a few thoughts that helped me with this.

“It turns out that, if you ask yourself “Can I keep going?” rather than “Can I make it to the finish?” you’re far more likely to answer in the affirmative.”


“Knowing that the end will come is clarifying; counting the hours until it comes, on the other hand, is paralyzing.”

On this last point I’ll add a quote from Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer. Speaking recently on the CBC National News she said No pandemic doesn’t have an ending.” It’s a backwards sentence… but, phew! it’s good to be hear from someone who studies these things that this will all pass.

So, take heart; the pandemic will end –and remember—it’s to your advantage to focus on the moment you are in, the thing that you are doing. It is not advantageous to focus on when disruptions caused by the pandemic will finish. Stay in your lane and focus on the step your taking.

Take care and happy holidays. ‘See’ you next in 2021!


The article, an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail by Alex Hutchinson, was printed on Nov. 21. 2020, titled COVID-19 is like running a marathon with no finish line. What does sports science say about how we can win it? Regrets – It is printed in English only.

You Are the Somebody You Are Waiting For! 

<La version française suit>

Back in 2009, I shared a story with Team Canada as they were preparing for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Though 2020 is incredibly different, unprecedented in every way, my message linking laundry with success and happiness still resonates. (Stick with me… it’s not actually about my laundry. It’s about success). The message was this:

        The other day I was taking laundry from my laundry room and a sock fell; I kept walking…. ‘somebody will get it’.

        I must have walked past that sock 4 or 5 times. I even got frustrated waiting for somebody to pick it up. Eventually, I realized it was me; I was the somebody that I was waiting for. (Perhaps it should have been obvious since I lived alone at the time!)

        Well, success and happiness work the same way. Somebody is going to achieve them. No matter how great or how not-so-great the day. No matter how early or late in the season. No matter how fair or unfair the situation. Somebody is going to win.

        Don’t get caught waiting for somebody else – BE YOUR OWN SOMEBODY!

2020 has been an incredibly difficult year. Nothing has gone smoothly. While our goals remain the same, our plans have been dismantled, reconstructed, de-railed, paused and restarted again and again. I can imagine the longing you have for unencumbered training, regular travel and competition. Sadly, it seems very unlikely that the pandemic will be over or adequately controlled soon.

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Tokyo 2020+1 – How is it Going to Look

How are the Tokyo 2020 Olympics going to look? While there is no crystal ball to predict the status of the pandemic through the coming year, here is our current thinking:

In my most recent message I mentioned that the Canadian Olympic Committee has been world leading in planning for its Olympic team to compete at its best at the Tokyo 2020 Games. This is true. What is also true, are these top priorities: 1) Ensuring the health and safety of Team Canada; and, 2) Supporting the highest performance possible at the Olympic Games.

In the coming months there will be many IOC, OCOG (Organizing Committee) and NOC meetings and announcements about how the Tokyo Games will be delivered. Planning is proceeding with the anticipation that a vaccine will not be widely available, if in fact one is available at all. As your Chef de Mission, I believe that this planning information should be shared with you as soon as possible. Know that your NSO and the COC are in complete agreement on this. Giving you a sense of the plans that Team Canada has in place will be better for your own (personal and team) preparation and performance at Games. Gossip and speculation are rarely helpful.

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Turn up the Volume!

I’m not sure about you, but I’m looking forward to moving past messages about patience and flexibility with respect to our goals. While these traits remain essential in the ongoing management and prevention of viral spread, and as a team you’ve done a phenomenal job at them…. I’d like to turn my Chef’s message back to performance and ambition management.

Let’s turn the “Can Do” volume up, and talk about winning again.

I won 6 World and Olympic titles and stood beside the top spot another 6 times.  If you asked me what was the most important ingredient in my mental soup for that stretch of time, I’d give you a list like this;

  1. Be confident in your preparation and training.
  2. Be respectful of the great potential of your competitors
  3. Fear and Doubt will be present at all of your Can I? Will I? moments (in competition and training)
  4. Believe that you are a somebody who can be better and/or outlast others.

 My soup, it seems, was kind of a mash up. Believe in me: Believe in them. Be doubtful: Be confident. How does that work? How can one person be simultaneously both?

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