We all have our own form and volume of anxiety before a big race. However, we do not have to be a victim to it. Remember, spend most of your focus on the things you can control. The training is done – channel extra jitters in a way that is useful to prime yourself for your best performance possible.
As much as triathletes enjoy the intensity of our lifestyles, the pressure of race day is likely to still trigger nerves. You may be an exception, but many of us relate to the race day jitters – that anxiety experienced on the day of, and days leading up, to executing the culmination of so many hours of training.
If you are one of the many who suffer from the 48-hours-pre-race-through-the-start-of-the-swim-jitters, try the following tips for managing -- keep yourself sane and focused for race day.
1. Make a List Ahead of Time
Written down, of everything you need for race day. Put it on paper pre-nerves so that you are not scrambling in a panic searching for a rubber band or shoelace at the last minute. Racing three disciplines equates to a long list of items needed to successfully compete – you do not want to forget a key piece of the puzzle that leads to a day of spectating instead of racing!
2. Fine Tune Your Bike at Least a Week Out
Get your bike race-ready well ahead of race day so that you can do some test riding the week leading up to the race. Whether this involves a trip to the mechanic or your own garage, it is better to discover and trouble shoot a rubbing brake or maladjusted derailleur prior to rolling in to bike check-in.
3. Write Your Race Weekend Itinerary Prior to Beginning Travel
Review the athlete guide for check-in instructions, locations and times for the athlete briefing, transition area(s), hotel, packet pickup, etc. After creating this weekend outline, fill in pre-race workouts and meals. Add the equipment you need for pre-race routines to the gear list from Step One!
4. Do not Force an Early Bedtime
A 4am race day wake-up call is going to hurt no matter how early you go to bed, and we all know the adrenaline will be pumping when the alarm buzzes despite the lack of Zzzz’s. Do not force yourself into bed at 7pm if you are not one of those people who miraculously sleeps on command. Do not carry stress and worry about a special race weekend bedtime -- you will just lay wide awake and ponder how little sleeping you’re accomplishing.
5. Do Eat an Early Dinner
Sometimes nerves can tie up your stomach, so eating early the night before a race ensures that you do not feel full when you wake up. Even if you fuel properly leading up to the race and your glycogen stores are ready to rock, getting a sufficient breakfast down the morning of the race should be considered a part of your race day fueling plan. Ensuring that you do not feel too full from dinner the night before to eat on race morning will set you up to confidently start and execute your race day fueling plan, beginning with breakfast.
6. Breath Mindfully on the Start Line (And in Life in General!)
Waiting for that swim start can be the most nerve-racking moments of the weekend. When the gun finally goes off it is normal and natural to feel your heart rate shoot up and your breathing quicken. However, it will do wonders for you race plan execution if you stay calm and aware -- you do not have to be a Yogi to utilize a breath relaxation practice! Direct your focus on the first buoy and do not spend too much time or energy worrying about the others splashing around you. No matter the race distance, you still have a long journey ahead and the start of the swim is not going to make or break your day. After settling in to your zone, focus on executing each next step of your race plan until you cross that finish line!