The chance for amateurs to mix with elite athletes is one of the great benefits of the State Beach Series, says psychologist Sara Chatwin of Auckland-based MindWorks.
"You can observe how the elite athlete prepares mentally and physically for an event. There are definitely secrets to their success."
The elite athletes Chatwin works with exhibit common characteristics that the casual sportsperson can learn from, and that can be adopted by the "weekend warrior".
One participant in the State Beach Series who is keeping an eye on his Olympian competitors is 14-year-old Scott Fairbairn.
The Westlake Boys' High School student is coached by Cameron Stanley at the North Shore Swimming Club, is a member of the Mairangi Bay Surf Life Saving Club and is the current national age-group surf iron man champion for Surf Life Saving.
He is fifth on the State Beach Series points table in the men's 1500m ocean swim, and says the Beach Series aids his goal of one day swimming at the Olympics.
"I watch the Olympic swimmers at the State Beach Series and just the other week I saw Steven Kent," said Fairbairn.
"He is a great swimmer and a surf ocean athlete like me, so I would certainly like to be competing up with him one day.
"I also see some of the past Olympic athletes and really good local ocean swimmers that compete every week at this very high level.
"I like the idea of being able to compete alongside the Olympians and maybe learn a few things from them," he said.
Fairbairn believes the Beach Series is a great opportunity for him to do some ocean swimming.
"It's really different from competitive swimming in the pool because not only do you have to swim fast but you need to 'swim smart', navigating and making sure you swim to the conditions."
"There are times when you need to work out which is the quickest route by looking at the wind and tides, so it makes it an interesting swim rather than just going up and down the black line in a pool."
Events such as the State Beach Series are a great experience and accessible to everyone, Chatwin says.
"They give people the opportunity to participate at entry level, yet they can perform to their potential without too much pressure.
"The social side of these events also means that people are surrounded by other athletes who provide a supportive environment."
Chatwin has some advice for the weekend warriors looking to develop their competitive psychology:
*Be prepared and organise yourself for an event well beforehand. Rushing around to get things ready in the 11th hour is a complete waste of energy that could be better used for the event.
*Make sure you are sufficiently hydrated and nutritionally sound two weeks out from the event. If you are feeling healthy and physically sound, you will have a psychological edge.
*Stick to your plan. Every event should have a "game plan" in which you have considered the course and all the determinants that comprise the specific event. You will also have your own unique modus operandi for every event. Trust your plan.
*Train to win, and ensure that you have trained to achieve the best result for you.
*Debrief to learn. After the event, don't rush into analysis. Choose a time to talk to someone who has known about your effort and work through the peaks and troughs of your performance.
State Beach Series
When: Every Tuesday night until March 26, from 6pm
Where: Takapuna Beach, North Shore, Auckland
Swim 1500m, 1000m, 500m. 300m
Paddle 3000m, 1000m, 500m (4 x board sizes)
Ski Paddle 5000m
Social Walk 2500m
Junior Run 2500m
For more information visit www.beachseries.co.nzBy Peter Thornton