How to Keep Calm on Race Day
So it's RACE DAY.
You've worked long and hard for this amazing day. You've thought about DAILY for the past several months. It's been on your mind at least some part of each hour of the day since you first started training 4 or 5 months ago. It's no longer a thing of the future and here it is- the MAIN EVENT.
So if you're like me, you have the pre-race jitters. Or you are just flat out NERVOUS. Your stomach feels queasy and you have a lump in your throat when you think about getting in that chilly water among hundreds of athletes.
You probably didn't sleep well the night before thinking about getting up in the dark for the major event that lies ahead.
The reason you feel nervous is because you CARE. You care so much because of your desire to be BETTER.. It's not just a race to you- it's so much more than that. In a way it has become part of the person you are and you identify with it in a way that nobody seems to understand except another athlete. You are tied tightly to that feeling of accomplishment, success, badassness, and it all MATTERS to you incredibly much. If you are like me, you are HUNGRY for a victory or a podium finish or a personal best. Whatever your reason racing, you're INVESTED in it in a way that maybe you don't even understand. You CARE and therefore you are NERVOUS.
So here is my BEST advice having done MANY of these events over the past 15 years and how you can calm your race day jitters and feel more relaxed.
1. Know that you have DONE THE WORK. You wouldn't be at the starting line unless your were confident that you can actually complete the event. Think of those endless hours of training as a huge supply of fuel to get you through your race, kind of like a vehicle with a loaded fuel tank ready to take a trip. Be CONFIDENT that you ARE READY and nothing can stand in your way.
2. SLEEP- although you may not have slept well before race day, don't worry about that. The most important sleep you can get is the 2 nights BEFORE the race. Make every effort to sleep well race week to rest your body for the journey ahead. My coach actually told me to go to the health food store or the healthy section of the grocery store and get a bottle of MELATONIN. I took these when I was racing in Europe and they helped a lot. If you are on a new time zone for your race then do your best to STAY AWAKE until it's bedtime. This will help you get on a normal sleep schedule the few days before your race. Realize that you probably won't get the best sleep the night before the race. Not a big deal because adrenaline will take over and get you through the day.
3. Decide ahead of time that you won't freak out when something goes wrong. Focus on the things you have control over, not the things you don't. Have a plan if you get a flat tire. If you don't know how to change one well, practice using your bike pump or CO2 cartridges ahead of time. Carry at least 2 extra tubes in your blow out kit. If available, put the number of the sag wagon in your phone (if you decide to carry it with you on the ride) Get a feel for where the aid stations and bathrooms are along the course. Study the course ahead of time. Knowledge=Power and therefore less freaking out on race day.
4. Have a good race PLAN. Lay out all your gear and nutrition the night before. Be sure to attend any swim practices, athlete briefs, etc ahead of time. Again, knowledge equals power. Take the time to really think things through for race day. Know what goes in transition and have all your bags where they need to be. I always pump up my tires the night before to avoid having to find the bike service tent on race morning. Usually a race day checklist is available in your athlete guide so make sure you read that document carefully.
5. Stretch/Breathe/Meditate/Pray for a few minutes on race morning. You are most likely up very early so just take 5 or 10 minutes to completely relax. VISUALIZATION is super helpful at this time as well. Picture yourself completing the event relaxed and strong as you stretch your quads, glues, and hamstrings. Use deep breathing as you stretch and fill your stomach first with air then your lungs. Load your brain with healthy thoughts by listening to positive affirmations the night before. Anything you can do to relax is helpful. I personally always take time to pray for just about everything.
Know that you worked hard for this race and you are READY. Realize that once that gun goes off and you are in the water you are on your way to AWESOMENESS.