A lot of my FAQs are about racing: how to handle nerves, how to approach a big race, and how to reach your potential in races. Since we are officially into outdoor track season, it seems like an appropriate time to write down some of my thoughts about RACE DAY. So here it is!
Do I still get nervous for races?
Every time I toe the line. Sometimes more than others, but there’s always butterflies. Why? Because I care! I want to do well and I’ve put a lot into the preparation so I want it to pay off. If you can relate, no wonder you’re feeling nervous too. The trick is figuring out how to channel those nerves in a positive way and use that energy as fuel in the race. If you spend all your energy being nervous in the days leading up to the race, you will feel exhausted by the time the gun goes off.
To stay relaxed, I spend time hanging out with my teammates, keeping things loose, laughing, remembering to enjoy every part of the experience. I also make plans for after the race- I find rewards for myself that I will enjoy when the work is all done. The best thing to calm my nerves is a race plan. I take solace in having at least a general framework for what I want to accomplish and how I will do it. I come up with this plan with the help of my coach and it helps me focus my energy and keeps me accountable to my goals.
Key Words: Relax, Focus, FAST!
The race plan is slightly different almost every time, but there are certain aspects that are constant. It’s important to break the race up into bite-sized sections so that it’s easier to tackle than taking the whole thing on at once. Depending on your race distance you will have to adjust this, maybe make more sections for a longer race, etc. For the steeple, it’s easy to break it up into 3 separate 1k sections as follows:
- In the first part of the race, my key word is RELAX. I need to stay calm in that first kilometer. I try to find my rhythm and pace without exerting any extra energy panicking or overthinking this part.
- The second part of the race is the toughest, and here is where I need to FOCUS. Falling asleep in the middle of a race is common mistake. The end still seems like it is so far away, so much work still to be done, and you’re starting to feel fatigued. “Am I gonna make it to the finish at this pace? I gotta slow down or I’m not gonna get there.” These are normal thoughts, but they are not helpful. No time to back off; recommit to your goals here in the middle of the race.
- The last kilometer is where the fun really happens. Here my key word is FAST!! Time to let loose and fly! Give it every last bit you have, pour it all on, leave it all out there and cross the line on empty. The only times I’ve ever had regrets about a race performance is when I feel like I should have been braver, should have gone for it when I held back. I hate that feeling of regret and do everything I can to avoid it.