Every triathlete I’ve ever talked to experiences triathlon race day jitters. Some athletes are lucky enough to be able to channel those nervous thoughts into their race preparations and excel in spite of those feelings.
Others aren’t so lucky.
They’re the ones usually standing in line at the port-o-johns five minutes before the race, wondering how they’ll ever be able to finish in one piece.
With a little pre-race preparation, though, it doesn’t have to be that bad. Here are four ways to calm the nerves before the gun goes off:
1. Pack Your Gear the Night Before
Nothing will relieve stress like making sure everything is set to go the night before your race. I usually like to start in the early afternoon so that I have time to check everything over. Use a triathlon checklist to ensure that all your stuff makes it into your triathlon backpack. Check the tires on your bike to make sure the pressure it where it’s supposed to be. Once you’ve checked over everything at least twice, set your triathlon bag next to your bike, lay out your clothes you’ll wear in the morning, and get to sleep.
2. Go to Bed Early
This isn’t always possible, especially if you’re dealing with work or family issues the night before a race, but to the extent possible, you should go to bed as early as possible. Most triathlon races start early in the morning and without enough sleep, you’ll be a mess before (and during) the race.
3. Get to Transition Early
Transition areas usually open up a couple of hours before the race starts, and in order to minimize your stress, you should arrive at least 45 minutes to an hour before the start of the race. Too many times I’ve seen triathletes arrive 5 minutes before transition closes and they are running around like a chicken with its head cut off. By arriving early, you can find your spot, set up your space, and even take some time to do some calming stretches or warm-ups before you toe the line.
4. Establish a Routine
For most people, their first triathlon is usually the most nerve-racking. This means that it tends to get easier to deal with the more races you do. As you find yourself entering more triathlons, a great way to minimize the stress that will always be there bubbling on the surface is to establish a routine. Eat the same breakfast before every race. Listen to the same type of music while you’re waiting for the race to start. These simple tips will help your body and mind recognize that they’ve been in this situation before and will help calm the nerves.