When race week finally arrives, it’s impossible to avoid the jolt of excitement and anticipation as I make my final preparations to achieve the goals that have kept me moving through weeks on top of months of long, hard training days. It is possible, however, to prevent these race week sensations from overtaking my emotions in a way that hurts the execution of my race plan.
As athletes, we should expect and welcome some emotional arousal. But, we need to be on guard against feelings of emotional overload, in the form of anxiety, over-stimulation, panic, or fear.
Trust me – I’ve tried it both ways. The latter approach sucks donkey butts.
I prefer to work on a Zen state of mindfulness during race week, which includes an eagerness to experience new adventures, a sense of the present moment with a focus on the task at hand, a control over thoughts and movement to ensure efficiency, and a calm awareness that permits execution of the race plan.
It has taken quite a few years to learn how to cultivate a sense of effective mindfulness in training and racing. And, I am still a work in progress! Focusing and calming the mind in our ever-more-hectic lifestyles is a process – not an endpoint.
When I first started racing, the week or two leading into race day was a psychotic mix of emotions and actions, vacillating between a chicken with it’s head cut off, a zombie on the attack, or a fearful turtle climbing inside its shell to avoid danger. I remember almost paralyzing anxiety at times, brought on by questioning and re-questioning all of the moments that lead up to race day.
In short, I was NOT the kind of person you wanted to be around before the start of a race.
In 2012, I hit a transition point, when I had worked myself into such a frenzy that I literally made myself sick throughout the duration of Ironman Mont Tremblant. I was in such a non-Zenlike state, that John, my husband, walked away from me before the start of the swim because he didn’t want my anxiety. He left me crying on the shores of the lake – all because I was so anxious about where I should start the swim.
Really. That bad.
When I reflected on that race in the days following, I KNEW I had to get my pre-race responses under control, or I would sabotage my long-term goals.
Since that time, I have been as aggressive in my mental fitness training as I’ve been with my physical training. Part of this training process is my race week routine that helps me to nuture a Zen-like mindfulness that is crucial to achieving my race day goals.
As I am about a day out from racing the 2016 Vermont 100, I am deep in to the race week process. I figured I would share some of my tips with the hope that I might help you achieve your race week Zen.