Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dealing With Pre-Race Jitters

My aunt was down visiting this weekend.  We rarely get to see each other but she is a lovely person and we pick up right where we left off every time we do.  The last time I saw her was in Chicago.  She had planned to come watch me race to begin with, but when a hurricane came to Orlando, she was gracious enough to let me come stay with her a few extra days to avoid getting stuck down here in the storm.  This was the first marathon weekend she had ever experienced with me, or anyone for that matter.  So I'm sure it was quite interesting for her to say the least.

I'm planning on heading back up that way this Fall for another marathon and was discussing with her if I should come spend time with her before or after the race.  She (politely) insisted that I come see her after, that way I would be "less stressed."  I think that was her nice way of telling me she didn't want to deal with me before the big day. <insert laughing cry face here>

Makes sense though.  I'm typically a bit of a mess leading up to a race.  I could see why someone who's not used to that not wanting to deal with me.

Let me say I am not ALWAYS a total wreck (in my opinion).  Like when I'm pacing or running a race for fun with no major goals.  But other times I can be a bit of a disaster, like when I travel out of town for a race and/or have a big scary goal in mind.
No matter how many races I do and what I'm doing them for, one thing holds true there is guaranteed to be some pre-race jitters to some extent.

So here are a few things I like to do to help alleviate my insanity in hopes to have an enjoyable race weekend and of course, a great performance...

It's Totally Normal 
Whether I'm racing or pacing, if it's in or out of town, or it a marathon or 5k, I am not immune to race day nerves.  No one I know seems to be either. Getting the jitters before a marathon (or any other race for that matter) is totally normal.  So don't feel weird or bad because you find yourself a little on edge the days, or even weeks leading up to a big event.  Recognizing that it is normal to be a little frazzled helps remind me that I am not completely losing my mind and that I will be ok.
Seriously about to cry, barf and scream all at once while picking up a race packet. That poor guy helping me!
Use Them To Your Advantage
No matter how prepared I am for a race, nerves always creep up on me some point during the taper and of course on race day.  But I tell myself "the nerves are there because I care."  I've trained hard for this and it means a lot to me.  I put in the work and I want it to show on race day.  Like I said above, race day nerves are normal, so why not use them to your advantage.  Of course you don't want to be balled up in a corner rocking back and forth talking incoherently to yourself (not normal).  But feeling your heart racing, needing an extra potty break or too, and wanting to screech out in a nervous excitement are all good.  Those nerves mean this is important to you.  Let those nerves fuel your adrenaline when you toe the line and throughout the race!

Trust Your Training
It's as simple as it sounds.  I tell myself and all my athletes this before every race.  You've trained for this, you are prepared for anything and you will give it your all.   Don't let your nerves overshadow all the handwork, dedication and recuperation you put in during your training.  Trust you are ready and go prove it.

Reference Your Training
Speaking of training, tap into some of your best workouts throughout your training.  What was it that made those particular runs click for you?  I like to scroll back through my old posts (blogs and Instagram) to remind myself of those times.  How I was able to power through a particularly tough workout, what it took to get through and how proud I was to accomplish that.  Reference those workouts to help remind yourself that you are capable, you can do it.

Seek Help 
No, I'm not suggesting you need professional help for your pre race jitters, but some "group therapy" may do you some good. Seeking the advice, help and comfort of fellow runners can help ease your mind heading into a race.  I have a few friends I met through my MRTT group who I probably drive a little crazy leading up to a race.  They are my sounding board and the ones who talk me off a ledge when I fear I may lose it with my nerves!  I also always like to try and make a new friend or two while at the event.  Small talk with a stranger, learning about their running journey and experiences as well as getting to share yours is a fun way to take the edge off.
My MRTT chapter helped me and everyone else to calm our nerves before the Space Coast Marathon.
Find A Mantra
When I ran Chicago last Fall, I had to leave three days early to elude a category 4 hurricane, leaving my family, home and business in its path.  This meant flying into a different state to stay with family for a few days, then make a 7 hour drive down to the race weekend.  I.Was.A.Mess!  But my husband kept reassuring me that everyone was ok (fortunately they were) and to give the race my all.  He told me in one particular text he sent that I was UNSTOPPABLE, and boom there it was, my race day mantra.

One little word or phrase can make all the difference in a race.  Having some words that hold a special meaning to you to repeat to yourself when your nerves get the best of you can really give you that extra motivation to push you through.  Find something that really resonates with you, write it on your arm, order a bracelet with it, and/or just repeat it to yourself when the going gets tough.

Just Breath
Yoga is a great form of exercise for runners of all levels and distances, at any point during training. But yoga also offers some great mental benefits leading up to a big race.  The breathing and relaxation tools are tremendously helpful during taper madness, not to mention the great stretch your body needs to relax too!  Consider taking a yoga class or two (in a studio, live stream or dvd) during your taper and of course use those breathing techniques on race day to help calm your nerves.

Enjoy The Ride
And last but certainly not least, have fun!  We're not professionals, this is not our career, we will not lose a sponsorship or contract if we do not PR.  Don't get me wrong, our races mean something to us and we want to do well.  We use running as an outlet in our hectic lives.  It is our escape, our "me time" and a great way to push ourselves and test our limits.  But don't let the pressure of it all get the best of you.  Running and especially the races are so much fun.  The crowd, the energy, the camaraderie, the pure awesomeness of it all is an experience like no other.  So soak it all and enjoy the ride!

Once you get rolling, it is INCREDIBLE!

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