Today we’re talking pre-race jitters. And this, once again, feels well timed for me. With Ironman 70.3 Syracuse only 19 days away the thoughts of self doubt and feelings of unpreparedness are creeping in.
Last week I went into my training week with a plan and determination. Then I got sun poisoning and I crashed and burned, literally. And now with this being my last build week before my taper begins, I’m nervous that I didn’t do enough. It’s hard not to go back through my training logs and question everything.
I mean, I don’t doubt I’ll finish, but at what cost? How much suffering will it take to get me over that finish line? If I didn’t miss that workout or if I pushed harder during this workout, would it make a difference in how I feel and preform on race day?
And the thing is, I’ll never really have the answers to those questions. I can’t say for sure that certain things will make or break my race for me. But I’m sure I’ll pick my race apart afterwards and compare it against my training and try to figure out where things went right, wrong, or could be improved.
Race day nerves can either destroy you and eat you alive, or they can motivate you to push your limits. It’s really difficult in those days leading up to a big event not to drive yourself crazy. And even standing at the starting line, waiting for the gun, air horn, cannon, whatever, to go off can be anxiety inducing.
So, what can you do to calm your thoughts and nerves?
1. Practice mental fortitude. Being mentally prepared for a big race is just as important as being physically prepared. Many of strong, capable athletes have crumbled and succumbed to their own negativity in a race before. Don’t be that athlete. Most long course races such as half ironman and iron distance races, half marathons and marathons, are just as hard on the mind as they are on your body. You need to train for both.
2. Visualize your success. It sounds corny, but people who have the ability to visualize themselves accomplishing the task at hand are more likely to make that come to fruition. This also goes hand in hand with number one. Think about how you want certain aspects of your race to go and keep your thoughts positive. Don’t fixate on the possibility of failure.
3. Listen to music. You probably can’t (and shouldn’t!) have music on you on the course, but while you’re getting ready or setting up transition put your headphones on, put on your favorite training tune or pump up song and just zone out to your favorite tunes. It can help you feel calm and put you in the right frame of mind to get out there and crush it.
4. Have a mantra. When the tough gets going, you get self talking. Have a mantra, a word or phrase, that you can repeat over and over to yourself that makes you feel good and encourages you to push forward. Mine is “I am capable“ and I came up with that during a really long, frustrating day at work that I tried to sweat out but couldn’t shake. Make it whatever you need it to be for whatever reason means something to you, then plant it in the back of your brain. Then when you’re feeling the negativity creep in and the self doubt starts to cloud you, yank it out and say it over and over. Say it out loud, who cares if you sound crazy. This works. I know it works because I do this often, in more races than not. Positive self talk and powerful mantra can really push you forward. Just like number one up there says, train your brain too.
5. Set realistic goals. And be flexible with them. When I first signed up for IMCuse I was gungho and blazing along saying “yes, I will finish sub-6 hours!” Except IMCuse is NOT first timer friendly and apparently sub-6:30 is actually incredibly competitive for this course. So I have scrapped that original goal and while “finish” is goal number, sub-7 would be my secondary goal for this race. Based on my training and current speed and endurance I know that’s possible, although I will have to seriously work for it. Picking an unrealistic goal sets you up for failure though, so make them attainable, but make yourself work for them too. That’s how you get stronger, physically and mentally.
Sounds like I could use my own advice. But seriously, the taper crazies are their own beast that I fully expect will turn me into a snivelling hot mess during my two week taper period.
Next week’s theme is BALANCE! And by balance we’re talking about life and training. Unless you’re a pro triathlete, you have a million other things going on in your life and training isn’t your full time job. So what do you do to find that find that balance? Also, if you plan to link up please be sure you’re participating in the theme of the week.