Race day can be nerve-wracking for all athletes, regardless of experience or ability. But if you let the butterflies take over, your heart will race, your muscles will tighten, your energy will be drained and your performance will be impaired:( Thankfully, taking a few pre-race steps to channel your nerves positively will ensure you’ll TRIUMPH. Here’s what I would do…
Anxiety the night before a race can make for a restless night, especially when you’re worried about the race or the possibility of sleeping through the alarm or when you are staying in unfamiliar surroundings. One way to counter one of these issues is to clock as much sleep as possible during the taper week. One restless night then won’t matter.
Being organized will help stem nerves. Well ahead of my trip to the race I focused on making my journey as pleasant as possible. I liked to come up with plan. My goal was to gather as much information as possible. Some of the areas I would like to turn my focus on was to find out everything about the race, transportation, will I need to bring my own food to the race, nearest grocery stores, the training facilities (swimming pool), weather forecast, book a quiet hotel room, day & time of race briefing, check in time etc).
My goal was to arrive at the race venue with plenty of time to spare which allowed me to set up transition peacefully and not feeling rushed, to meditate and to check my equipment one last time (well, this really should be sorted out well ahead of race day. Niggles like pumping up tires etc). I tried to be finished with all of that about 60-75min before race start and then would go for a light warm up jog of 10-15mins.
Next, I walked to a quiet area near the transition area where I could hang out away from all the noise, avoid chitchat and pump myself up with great music. Fully concentrated now I enter race mode, remember my goals, rehearse my race & nutrition strategy, and repeat my mantra. I see myself strong, fast and unstoppable. Check out the swim course (current, sun, landmarks, transition run) the day before or so.
Preparation is key to overcoming negative nerves. You’ve done all the training and arrived safe and sound at the race. Recall all the hard work you put into this. It’s your day you worked so hard to get to. Learning some relaxation techniques will ensure you control nervous energy. I focus for example on my breath. Close your eyes and breath slowly through your nose until your stomach expands. Hold your breath for 4 seconds before blowing out slowly and repeating. Writing down a race goal (or, mantra “be strong; relax; great form” and plan will give you something to visualize at the start or even during the race as I put sometimes a sticker onto my frame with a quote or similar (mantra: “be strong”, “I feel light and strong”, “I can I can I can”) and provide extra confidence.
When you get eventually to the start line, ignore the other athletes and focus on yourself (tunnel vision). Remember this is your day (be selfish for a change). Put your relaxing technique into place, think about the training you’ve put in, what you want to achieve and visualize your race plan. For years I have been repeating the following which worked for me, namely I like to clinch a fist and simultaneously tell myself “I can do it!” (3-5 times, and every time with more power in my voice). Visualize your race plan one more time. That’s it! Use the race atmosphere around you to give you wings, suck up the adrenaline and excitement to remain sharp for the race–giving you a mental and physical edge over the other competitors.
Safe training, travels and a great race.
T3 Transitioning to the next level.