You have been training hard and sooner than you can think, your big race is here. You might second guess how prepared you are, your palms get sweaty, and you can’t think straight! Your stomach might start to hurt, making it hard to eat properly. These are all very normal signs of the pre-race jitters.
Even as I type this, I think I am starting to get my own race nerves. I have done hundreds of races in my life and some I have felt a lot more nervous than others. Usually when it’s a key event or when I try something new such as a different activity, I can get more nervous. There is that fear of the unknown I think that lurks in our subconscious. “Will I fail?” “Will I be last place?” “Am I ready to hit my goal?” And some of that is the social fear of not knowing people, or not fitting in or worrying that if you do fail, what will everyone think.
This was the start of the Absa Cape Epic – an 8 day mountain bike stage race in South Africa. We had smiles of excitement but I definitely had some serious pre-race jitters this day!
This past weekend was my 2nd Xterra triathlon race and the National Championships so I was a train wreck! I nearly forgot to pack my helmet and important bike gear for this race since it is so new to me! You would think I would know how to pack as all I need to do is just pack my normal gear, add some running shoes, a number belt, swim goggles, and wet suit. Anyhow, since my last blog on ‘how to cope with a disappointing race’ was such a hit, I figured it would be good to talk about those pre-race nerves since we all seem to get them and for some of us, it can affect us more than others. Nerves are a good thing but if they aren’t tamed, they can affect you in a negative way so let’s talk about some tips on taming your pre-race jitters!
1. Make a list of what you need to pack and do at least a week before you leave.
List out all of your gear, race nutrition, and all the ‘to-do’s’ you have before leaving town. Having a list and being prepared will help reduce some of that pre-race anxiety as you are less likely to forget something.
I have found organizing my gear into baggies helps keep my things organized, especially for races involving flights. For multi-day events I label the bags for each day.
2. Get your bike tuned up at least a week in advance – you don’t want any surprises.
Bike shops are usually very busy before races so make sure you give them time to tune-up your bike. Check your tires, brakes, shifting, and chain. Having a little extra time will also allow the bike shop to order any last minute parts that you might need for your bike.
3. Read your emails from the race organizer for important updates and race rules.
Sometimes races or events have last minute changes due to construction on the roads, weather, time changes, or course changes. Also, some events have different rules. I have been to a race where the course was completely changed due to flooding. I have also seen athletes disqualified for simple things such as when they crossed the finish line in a 24 hr race. Make sure you know all of the rules so you can be sure to have a finishing time in your event.
4. Visualize your race and focus on breathing.
While you are stretching or laying in bed, take some time to close your eyes and visualize your race. Imagine yourself tackling tough obstacles, riding or running strong, and crossing that finish line. If you are ‘in it to win it’ visualize your winning move. Focus on your breathing. Usually when we get anxious, our breathing can get out of control. I experienced this immediately when our swim leg started at the Xterra National Championships. Water and bodies were flailing all over the place, I couldn’t see and my breathing got out of control. I am not the greatest swimmer so I started to panic. Once I recognized this, I immediately took control, slowed down, calmed my breathing and then proceeded to swim.
5. If possible, arrive early to pre-ride the course.
Knowing the course has huge advantages such as knowing key features, climbs, or other obstacles. If it’s a long race, you don’t want to wear yourself out riding the course so either pick a weekend ahead of time to pre-ride or just ride the technical sections to scope it out. For road events you can drive the course to get an idea of what to expect.
Jennifer Hanson and I pre-rode part of the Xterra National Championship course.
I am sure you may have strategies of your own too! I hope you find these tips helpful in calming your pre-race jitters! When you feel them coming on, just relax and remember that you have nothing to lose!
Good luck and have fun out there!
About Melissa Ross:
Melissa Ross is Co-Founder and Cycling Coach of Potential Energy Training and Nutrition. Melissa’s 11+years in the sport as an athlete and 5 years as a coach has taken her all over the world from touring Italy, racing across Europe and the US as a professional road cyclist, to becoming a pro mountain biker, exploring the trails across Arizona and even recently finishing 13th in the Absa Cape Epic in South Africa, making the podium 2 years in a row in the Leadville Trail 100, and recently made the podium at the Xterra National Championships! Melissa has an incredible desire to help other people reach their full potential and bring the passion of having a healthy lifestyle into their lives.
Connect with Melissa: Melissa@potentialenergytraining.com