For many first time triathletes one of the biggest obstacles of racing is getting over the anxiety that can go along with showing up to your first race.
If the simple act of swimming, biking and running in succession isn’t enough, you must also contend with; finding a place to park, transition areas, body marking, setting up your spot at the bike rack, other nervous athletes etc. etc.
A lot of the things that cause anxiety for the first time triathlete also causes some stress for the experienced athlete, so if you are new to the sport and feel like you are the only one going through this, trust me, you are not alone. I have been doing this sport for almost 25 years and I still have nerves on race morning.
What I have learned over time is how to control the nerves so that they are not debilitating to the point that they negatively affect performance. You do not want to cause yourself unnecessary stress. The best way to do this is to have a plan and a strategy for race morning and know WHAT TO EXPECT!
Here are some tips to help you be prepared on race morning before the gun goes off.
Get There Early
Don’t show up 30 minutes before you are supposed to start. Give yourself time to find parking, set up your transition area, get body marked etc. This one simple tip will reduce your stress level immensely. I go so far as to scout out a good place to park the day before the race. Just make sure when scouting out a parking spot that this spot is not ON the course or else you might run the risk of getting towed. This is something that will cause stress AFTER the race.
I go so far as to write down a timeline for the morning of the race. From when I get up to when I plan on eating my breakfast to when I plan on leaving the house or hotel for the race. I like to have a good idea the day before of how the morning is going to look. Does the plan sometimes deviate a little bit? Yes. But having a plan is better than getting up when ever you decide to get up and winging it.
Have A Routine
Take your bike into transition and rack your bike. Get the lay of the land. Find where all of the entrances and exits of transition are. See how they relate to where your bike is racked. Many big races set up transition the day before so you can do this the afternoon before the race. Once you have racked your bike go and get body marked and get your race timing chip if they are using them. Once you are body marked and have your timing chip you can go back to your bike and lay out your transition area. Make sure that everything is set out exactly as you have practiced (and this is something you should have practiced). Make sure that your tires are pumped up and you are in the right gearing to start the race. Have your race nutrition/hydration on your bike. Try and get all of this done at least 30 minutes before you are to start. This will give you time to do a short warm up, stretch, use the port-a-john one more time etc… I like to get what I need done in transition and get out. There is a lot of nervous energy in that small area and it can be a great cause of anxiety. Know what YOU need to do, get it done and be gone.
Ask A Volunteer
If you have a question, ASK. Volunteers are there to assist you. If a volunteer doesn’t have the answer they can find out for you. Having questions is normal. It is better to get clarification than to risk getting a penalty or disqualified for not following the rules.
A Couple Other Tips
Scout out a washroom the day before that might be a little farther away from the transition area. If you want to stand in line and wait with a number of other nervous athletes then the line up for a port-o-john on race morning is a great place to be. If you are like me and you don’t want to get stuck in this situation, it is a good idea to go for an easy jog as part of your warm up to a pre scouted out washroom.
Find a quiet place not far from the transition area and listen to some music for 5 or 10 minutes. Whether you are someone who needs loud music to get pumped up or someone who needs some nice relaxing music to bring your amped up level down a notch, taking some quiet time to yourself and getting yourself in the right frame of mind can set up your race.
These are just a few simple tips and tricks to get you through your race morning.
For many people, starting their first triathlon is a trip into the unknown. That unknown doesn’t have to cause anxiety and stress you out before you have even gotten wet.