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It stuck me yesterday: my half ironman triathlon is now less than two weeks away.
Race nerves, for me, always start during taper. Like all of a sudden, I realize that my volume is decreasing because holeeeeee shit I have a RACE SOON OMG OMG OMG!
Then Planning and Analysis Karen comes out to overthink and plan the DEATH out of my race plan. A snippet of thoughts: Okay, new tri kit this time, I don’t actually have it in hand yet, so I need to pick it up ASAP so that I have for my scheduled brick workout this coming weekend. If it doesn’t fit, I can totally wear my black tri shorts, even though they chafe me, but it’ll match best with the top. The top should fit, though. Do I have my race belt? Yes, I got a new one. Where did I put it? I think it’s in my wetsuit bag. I should check that. The new shoes I got – wore them without socks already and they should be fine, so that’s set. I should figure out which pair of sneakers I want to wear. Oh man, I have to start thinking about transitions and probably should practice them. Definitely wearing the sleeveless wetsuit. Won’t have to worry about the watch this time, since I have the new triathlon watch, though I should do a practice run with it just to make sure that the screens on the new watch work…
Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Welcome to the inside of my head.
The good news is that I’m not overthinking or overanalyzing my actual training. I am SO thankful I hired someone to help me with this – outsourced the actual training plan to someone who knows that he’s doing. Since I started working with him in January, I have had to skip only one workout because of time. I’ve had some really strong rides recently, where I sustained numbers that were higher than I thought I could do. I’m also running faster and stronger, too. And though my open water swims don’t seem to be as fast as the numbers I posted in the pool this winter, I actually feel pretty confident that I’m ready for the race, training-wise.
Which is good.
So, really, then, it’s just the Race Nerves.
The way I experience it feels exactly like anxiety; a buzzing in my stomach and chest, a burst of nervous energy, making my breath more shallow and my speech faster. My way of coping with that feeling is to plan, plan, and plan. And ruminate. And I stay in that faster space, my mind racing, planning more and more and putting pressure on myself to perform to some PLAN I’ve come up with in my head.
And then I get to the race and something doesn’t go according to that plan, and I panic and give up, and I’m disappointed in my performance.
It’s totally a mental thing. And I’m not going to let my mind play that game with me this time.
So this week, though I AM planning ahead a bit, practicing transitions, getting my new race kit and riding in it, thinking about my race day nutrition and reading through the race plan my coach is doing for me, and visualizing on every run what it’s going to feel like running those last 5 or so miles of the race…
… It’s also clear I need to do more. Meditation, maybe. I think I’m going to start adding 15 minutes of breathing meditation each day, where I breathe out my worries and nerves and visualize feeling strong. With each workout, I’m going to keep asking myself, Where can I soften here?
(Which, as an aside: letting go and relaxing into whatever is happening in this moment – not fighting it – might be the single most meaningful lesson I have ever experienced in to date. It works in all situations and on every level.)
And finally, I’m trying to re-frame the Race Nerves as a mixture of nervousness AND excitement. There really is nothing like the buzz of a race, surrounded by people who do the same thing you do as a hobby. We do this because we love it. That is pretty damn awesome.
Do you get “performance nerves?” How do you handle it?