Embracing Pre-Race Nerves

I’m in Ogden, Utah. The weather is beautiful and sunny, about 25 degrees celsius, and the leaves are turning beautiful colors of red and yellow along one of the most beautiful Xterra race courses. Here is a sample of what the scenery looks like as we wind our way up the trails riding and running…

If I flashback to exactly one year ago, I would say the same things at this point. The only difference was I started vomiting all night before the race, and instead of starting the race at 9:00am with everyone else, I was heading back onto the Interstate northbound to start the long 13 hour road trip home. A big bummer!! So I must say, I am rather excited to be back again, fitter and a heck of a lot healthier condition than a year ago!!

And going into races these days, excited is often the word I use instead of nervous to describe my feelings. Of course, it hasn’t always been so…I’ve had my far share of bundles of pre-race nerves over the years! But maybe now that I’ve been racing for almost 25 years, and that I know every single race is a personal choice, I don’t like wasting any time being nervous in a negative way or dreading the race in any fashion. So here are my reminders to keep races fun, and nerves on the excitement end of the spectrum:

1. Accept any physical signs of nervousness as N-O-R-M-A-L! Everyone is unique as far as nervous symptoms but when I get dry mouth, lose my appetite a bit, get testy with my family, and start taking extra trips to the bathroom, I just go with the flow (excuse the pun!) and remember it is just my body getting ready for “go time”, and let it do its thing! No need to freak out when you start to feel a few butterflies.

2. Keeping investment-return worries in check. Yes, I’ve trained hard, yes I’m hoping to do well, but as I always like to remember and remind others, racing is only about 10% of the time you spent doing your chosen sport. There are just as many victories to be celebrated in the other 90% of the time you spend training, developing relationships and living the lifestyle that goes along with your sport. If you’ve done your best to make it all come together on race day, and can say you gave your best effort and focus at the end of the day then a “result” is icing on the cake!

3. Its your choice to race so you might as well enjoy the experience. What if I said you’re not allowed to race tomorrow? Or you’ll be sick? Or you’ll get injured or in an accident and won’t even be able to attempt your sport for awhile or forever? If you’re lucky enough to be in the position to choose (e.g. fit and healthy to go the distance as a start!) then don’t give yourself any excuse to hold back! Have a few perspective reminders in your back pocket in case excitment tips towards dread from time to time – also normal!

4. Stay focused on the “controllables”. As related to the above, if you’ve done everything in your control to be as prepared as you can for any given race including training, equipment checks, course scouting, strategizing etc within the time you have to do so then you can just enjoy the countdown to race time! And this also means sticking with what you know works for you as far as pre-race routines. I’ve seen and heard too many stories of athletes full of pre-race adrenaline thinking they need to make changes, and suddenly try something new right before a race, not always the best time to experiment – save that for training!

5. Finally, at the end of the day it is just a race! If you put all your self-esteem eggs into your racing basket then your life might be an emotional roller coaster! If not, you can give it your all and no matter how it goes, you can have lots more to look forward to when its all said and done. When I remember to smile during races it is because it takes way less muscles, helps relax the rest of my body and is because I’m looking forward to unconditional love at the finish line from my favourite little fans 🙂 Nico is with me at this race, but I’ll look forward to getting home to see “Princess Zoe” on Sunday….

Zoe, wearing her new Minnie dress, every day this week and counting since receiving it on her recent 4th birthday!!

1 thought on “Embracing Pre-Race Nerves

  1. Congratulations on such a great finish today Danelle. It was great talking triathlon with you today in the lunch line after the race. Best of luck to you @ Xterra Worlds & the ITU Long Course Worlds as well.

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