Race Day Anxiety And How To Deal With It

[caption id="attachment_7974" align="alignright" width="184"]race day anxiety - tips - success Source: Psychology Today[/caption] Race day anxiety is something we all suffer from in one form or another.  Your race day anxiety can range from:
  • Can I finish this race?
  • How will I react to getting hit at the swim start?
  • How hard is this going to be?
  • How fast can I go?
The questions can go on and on and race day anxiety can build to the point of leaving you frozen in your tracks.  The key to dealing with race day anxiety is to put yourself in race day situations during your training so that the race becomes nothing more than another training day.    I recently read this article on Active.com  by Marty Munson on 9 ways to deal with pre-race anxiety and they are good points but I have my own tips on dealing with race day anxiety that I want to share with you. Before we get to my tips on dealing with race day anxiety I want to point out that the race is nothing more than your victory lap after months and months of grueling hard work.  You have been pushing the rock up the mountain for a long time and when the gun goes off the rock starts to go down the backside of the mountain, or what is the easier part of the journey.  Yes, there will be bumps in the road along the way to the finish line but you have the ability to overcome them because you have been dealing with tough circumstances during your training.  Now, if you haven't trained then you had better hope for luck because nothing else is going to help you.

Tips For Dealing With Race Day Anxiety

  • Envision yourself in the race during your training.  Envision yourself reaching your goals and beating them.  During your training each session should have a purpose and you train to achieve that purpose.  The purpose can change during the session but there should still be a reason that you are doing it so that when you are in the race you know your purpose and are going after it.
    • Examples of training with purpose:
      • On Saturday we had a house showing at 12:30p.  Karen had a 10 mile race to run that was 30 minutes away and we figured she would be close to the house around 10:30a so I could start my 2 hour session of training.  I had completed the first session from 5a-6:20a so she could leave.  When it was determined that she wouldn't be home until closer to 11am I got on my trainer and did the 1 hour plus ride and was ready to run the moment she got home.  I hopped off the bike and knew I only had 1 hour to get in my run.  I envisioned this hour as the last lap at Ironman Texas with a sub 11 hour finish time on the line.  The pain in my legs was there but I had a focus and that was to run that hour as hard as possible and not give up.  When I got to my driveway I threw my hands up in the air and saw the final clock at the race and it read 10:59.
      • On Sunday when I got on my bike I immediately knew that I was not going to enjoy this ride.  Instead of focusing on trying to hit the heart rate goals that Maria and John set out for me I changed to a purely 5h30m constant ride in Zone 2 with a 30 minute warm-up and 10 minute cool down.  This would leave me with about 5 hours of consistent effort.  As I was riding I remembered that Maria said that I spent 63% of my time in Z2 from the previous week.  New goal.....70% in Z2 for this ride.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice your race day routine.  As everybody knows, race day is not the day to experiment.  No new nutrition. No new shoes. No new tri kit or clothing.  This should all be taken care of well in advance of the race.  For the past three weeks I have been doing my 5 and 6 hour rides in the shorts that I will be wearing on race day.  I want to know that my nutrition can be held in the shorts pockets on the ride.  I want to know what my ass and my legs will feel like after spending all that time in the saddle.  No surprises and potentially unexpected circumstance avoided.
  • If you eat breakfast before a race make sure that you are eating the same food at the same time as you would on race day.  This will help you understand how the food will react and be processed before you get to the start line.  Knowing what and when you will be eating will also help you establish a routine for using the bathroom so you aren't running to a toilet just seconds before the gun goes off and establishes anxiety in your routine.
  • Create, review, memorize and understand your race plan.  In addition to knowing it, write it down on your hands.  When I raced 70.3 San Juan in March I had my bike strategy on my left hand and my run strategy on my right hand.  There was no guessing or having to try to remember what the plan was.  It also made it easier to stick to as there was no thinking and just doing.  Our mind can be our worst enemy and if we are forced to think then we can sabotage our best laid plans.
  • Lay out all your clothes, nutrition and anything else that you may need for the race the night before and use a checklist.  Cross off items as you are assembling them so that you leave nothing to chance.  Once everything is laid out go over it two or three times. It seems redundant and a pain but you are better off dealing with the non-sense now rather than in the middle of the race.
  • Believe in yourself and your training.  Set a mantra for yourself during training that you can take with you to the race.  My mantra has been I CAN AND I WILL for this training cycle.  Virtually every email I receive from Maria and John ends with You Can And You Will.  It is re-affirmation in myself and gives me the confidence to know that I can accomplish my goals and I will accomplish those goals.
I have gotten through the overload weeks and am officially in taper.  Today I will do absolutely nothing related to triathlon in terms of training but I will be repeating my mantra to myself.  I will be envisioning the race course and how I expect the race to go.  I will see myself swimming around the buoys and into the canal.  I will see my heart rate starting the bike and how I can push or need to pull back and continue to go strong.  I know the run course inside and out and know each and every step I will take and where it will hurt and where it won't.  I will see the woman pointing to laps 2 and 3 as well as the finish.  I will know where I am at all times and I will see myself and the clock and know that my training has put me in a position to succeed. Race day will come with its share of unexpected moments when we have to make a decision.  The key is making a decision and not worrying about it but also knowing that you can adjust your thinking as you go.  The race is the fun part and the day will be what the day will be but race day anxiety is for real.  Putting it to the side as much as possible is what will allow you to succeed.  Race Hard. Race Fast. Race Safe.

How Do You Deal With Race Day Anxiety?

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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.