Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Race Day Anticipation

source
I used to get really nervous before races. I couldn't sleep the night before, even for a 5k. Before I ran a race, there were multiple trips to the portapotty, because my nerves got my tummy all in a jangle.

When I signed up for my first Chicago marathon, I was nervous from the moment I signed up in February until the day of the race in October. That was awful, and as most of you know, I had a terrible race experience. I couldn't get my nerves under control. I learned that day that I never want to feel like that again. Clearly, I've done a lot of work, and am in such a better place now. Yes, I still get nervous before races, but instead of being terrified, I am excited. And that nervous excitement gets me to the start line and gets a little adrenaline flowing in my veins. I get excited to put all the training to the test. And I get excited thinking about crossing the finish line and going home with another medal. I actually like this feeling, and I think it's one of the reasons I like to race!

We have to expect to feel nervous before we race. It's normal. For me, the hardest part about running races is waiting at the starting line.

source
What's helped me curb my nervousness is having race day rituals. The saying for runners is "nothing new on race day", and there's a few reasons for that. It makes sense that trying something new, like new shoes or new fuel, can lead to a bad outcome. But there's also comfort in the familiar. Here you are, going to put it all out there on the road, and there's nothing better to calm the nerves than eating the same pre-race meal you've eaten every single time. Packing the same fuel to take with you on the race. Hitting the portapotties before you line up to run. Giving yourself plenty of time to get in your corral and/or line up at the start line.

It's really helpful though, if you have thought ahead and taken care of the little details for your race. That way, while you're waiting for the race to start, you can observe the crowd around you, soak up the energy, and mentally prepare yourself to run.

Even the night before a race, I lay out my race day outfit and pin my bib to my shirt. Of course, I have been stalking the weather for about a week, and have already planned multiple outfits, depending on the conditions. I set my alarm and check it compulsively. My gear is laid out on the kitchen counter, ready for me to grab it and go in the morning. My coffee is in the pot, ready to brew. I review the race course and the location of the aid stations one last time, even though I have looked at this multiple times now and could probably run it in my sleep.

By controlling what I can control, I change my nervous anticipation into excited anticipation. I can focus my energies on the event at hand instead of worrying about all the little details that go into running a race.


Of course, there are always things you have no control over, things that happen that you can't plan for. For example, at a recent half marathon, even though I thought I put enough cream in my chafeable areas, one thing I didn't anticipate was the warm temperatures and amount of sweating I would do. While I didn't really feel the pain while I was running, on the drive home, I started to get uncomfortable, and knew that taking a shower would be painful. And it was. Live and learn, right?

Another time, I was out on a long run up in rural Wisconsin. My handheld bottle sprung a leak, and all my fuel leaked out at mile 5 on a 12 miler. It was hot, and I was really nervous about being without water. I ran by a few homes where the garage doors were open and there were cases of water inside. I just couldn't bring myself to run in and take one though. Finally, I ran by a house where a bunch of hungover people were sitting in the yard. They gladly gave me a bottle of water, and saved me. After that experience, I changed the way I carry my fuel.

One thing you really can't control is the weather. All the best planning, and it could still pour on you. Or the temperature could rise much faster than you expect, and you end up being overdressed. I've had both things happen to me. Now I check a bag with extra clothes to change into in case of the unexpected.

The final preparation that you have to do is to think positive thoughts. None of that "I can't do this" or "what if I don't finish?' Remember that mental exercise Becky had me do last summer? Actually, it wasn't an exercise as much as it was a threat.

"For every negative word or "I can't" that comes out of your mouth, you have to do 10 burpees. No matter where you are or what you are doing. " -Becky
After she said this to me (multiple times, I might add), I'd get the giggles every time I have some moments of self doubt. At work, doing burpees in the hallway? Yikes! And during the Chicago marathon, at mile 23? On Michigan Avenue? I started laughing, and I think all the runners around me thought I was delirious. That is, the ones that weren't laying on the ground, writhing in pain or vomiting! While I felt badly for them, I drew strength from that fact that I was still going. And that I felt pretty good. Clearly, Becky's method worked for me.

Trust your training. You did all the work to prepare for this moment, and now is the time to put it on the road. Remind yourself of how hard you trained. Focus on those workouts that went really well. Think about the miles where you told yourself, "I think I can do this!" And if you don't do this during your training runs, you need to! This mental prep starts with your training.

The most important thing to remind yourself is why you do this. Running is fun! Even though it's hard, and maybe it doesn't always feel fun in the moment. But remember how good you feel when you cross that finish line. Draw on that experience to take you to your next race. And get excited all over again.


 What do you do to prepare yourself for a race? Or any big event? Do you get nervous just thinking about it?

I'm linking up with Deb Runs for Wednesday Word! See what everyone else has to say about anticipation.








And Diatta and Sheila for Workout Wednesday! Another great link up with a variety of awesome posts!












And Annemarie, The FitFoodieMama at Wild Workout Wednesday!

76 comments :

  1. I am always nervous the night before a race. Doesn't matter if it's a tri, half marathon or a silly neighborhood 5k. I have no idea why!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think being a little nervous is a good thing. That nervous energy gives you a little push at the start of the race.

      Delete
  2. I find it helps to visualize my race. Mile by mile if necessary, sometime in the last couple days leading up to it. Then I can plan for what I'm going to do on that big hill or long flat stretch. Just thinks nag it through is calming.

    So funny that the hungover people gave you water, though I have found drunks to be very supportive. Certain races that start so early that you have to head for the start line not long after the bars close, well, I'll just say the drunks are usually full of good cheer for the crazy runners.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The drunks/hungover people I encountered on that run looked so out of it that I don't think they were thinking clearly. There was a woman there, who didn't appear hung over, who gave me the water. There were about 7 cases of beer on the porch. It was pretty entertaining, really!

      Delete
  3. I actually love those pre-race jitters :) I like to channel them into running fast!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like the excitement jitters--but not the nervous ones!

      Delete
  4. I'm an anxious person to start. Add in race day preparation and in a ball of nerves! The 10 day weather forecast is one of the worst things for me because I get obsessed! The best thing is knowing that you aren't the only one feeling this way. And you're right - remember running is supposed to be fun!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh me, too! I am anxiety girl. So the more planning I can do, the better!

      Delete
  5. I kind of like those nerves.. :) yes they are annoying with the tummy stuff that comes with...but it fuels me to run faster and that adrenaline is awesome!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's nice to get the tummy stuff out of the way before the starting line, anyways...

      Delete
  6. I calm down once I arrive. It's the logistics of getting there that cause the most nerves. Flying to Chicago, getting to the hotel and locating the expo will do the most damage. (So I hope to arrive a 1-2 days early.) I'll be fine with the race, as long as I am within walking distance or have easy transportation. I'm going to remember the evil burpee toddler above. ;) He looks like Danny DeVito. HA.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Traveling to a race is really stressful! I agree, getting there a day or 2 early will be helpful! I'm taking the day off work the Friday before the marathon to head down to the expo. Hopefully we can meet up!

      Delete
  7. Other than making sure I can pee about 28 times before the race starts (which sort of determines how early I'll get there), I don't do too much differently on a race day than I do on any other running day; I think that sticking with what I'm used to doing (that routine!) helps to keep me calm. Hope you have a great day, Wendy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You seem so calm anyways Tara! I need to channel some of your calm!

      Delete
  8. I don't race much, only a handful of charity 5K events.
    Would you believe I get nervous every time I go out for a run? Still? My fourth year as a runner?
    Lucky for me it dissipates after a few yards on the road.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sometimes I get nervous on an everyday run, especially if I have a goal for the run. Too much pressure!

      Delete
  9. I don't race very often, so I always battle a lot nervousness. My last half it was very humid in the morning, I could hardly talk to my hubby on the way...I ended talking myself through the last few miles that day. I wasn't fast, but I hung in there.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I love this post. You described me perfectly. I do all the things you do in to prepare for a big race. I still get some pre-race anxiety but you're right -- having things prepared is a big help!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think trying to control what you can really helps alleviate pre race anxiety!

      Delete
  11. I start getting the nervous stomach about 30 minutes for race time. Normally I can shake it off by mile 2, thank goodness.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm ok once I get moving. That I know I can do!

      Delete
  12. I am a huge wreck before races usually but like you, try to control what I can and just trust my training. Easier said that done for sure! Thanks so much for linking up :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's always something you didn't prepare for...so if everything else is covered, you can take the glitches in stride.

      Delete
  13. Oh yeah, I get all nervous and excited before race time! I agree no new changes, if it ain't broke don't fix it! Changes make me nervous and when I am nervous then I must PEE and that makes me more nervous! LOL!

    ReplyDelete
  14. i always get some level of nerves before a race - sometimes even nerves before a particularly long run :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I get a little nervous before a long run or a goal run, sometimes speedwork...

      Delete
  15. I love your trainer - she makes me happy!! I'm so glad this works for you and it makes you giggle! These are fantastic tips - I'm usually super disorganized but the chaos keeps me from focusing on my nerves!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She's pretty funny but oh man, she means business!

      Delete
  16. I don't really get nervous anymore before a race. I do experience a certain level of excitement, but I wouldn't say that I get nervous.

    I loved your take on the word anticipation. Thanks for linking up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Experience does help with those nerves, doesn't it?

      Delete
  17. I have a rule of no negative self talk the week leading up to the race. I've done all that I can do and I need to just relax and not fuss about things. I tend to be pretty chill, aside from the standard race-day nerves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a great idea! I'm not a chill person--it's something I'm working on--and I may have to do that.

      Delete
  18. Yup I get the pre race jitters before every race, even if its a 5k I've ran over and over. I do hate waiting at the starting line, just let me go I keep saying!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Oh it's so true, the ritual is such a mind calmer. I love the burpees idea - but I also am somewhat guilty of trying to find ways to do more burpees. Lol! One thing I've learned after showing up to the start line incredibly unprepared many times is that...I can still run it anyway, but I have to accept it won't be my best run. And sometimes that's okay. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think she picked burpees because I loathe them...

      Delete
  20. I too have gone from getting nervous to getting excited! That last cartoon....exactly how I feel!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe it's familiarity with the whole routine? It's nice not to have that paralyzing anxiety anymore!

      Delete
  21. Rituals definitely help, but creating POSITIVES in the experience, and accepting where you are at the day of--rather than fretting and trying to pressure something that you aren't ready for--really helps. Basically, take the pressure off and surprise yourself!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I get super nervous before a race and for some reason always end up talking to myself - I suspect I look very odd indeed. But it works for me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No more odd than any of the other rituals we runners have on race day!

      Delete
  23. I ALWAYS get super nervous :) But I can easily get myself wound up .. I love the burbee idea.. cause I HATE burpees ha

    ReplyDelete
  24. I am ALWAYS nervous the night before a race. Honestly, one of the biggest issues I have with the races are the portapotties. I ALWAYS have to pee before I start- and portapotties totally give me anxiety. I know, weird, but it's a big deal to me lol!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not weird at all, portapotties are disgusting!

      Delete
  25. O man, I was feeling for you when you said you ran out of water. That would always happen to me last year during my 13 mile training runs. It never failed that I was out of water by mile 9!
    Thank goodness the hungover people helped you out!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Seriously! I was this close to stealing a bottle from one of those open garages!

      Delete
  26. Nerves always give me a little extra energy boost in these situations. So I think it's a good thing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to get too much of a good thing! Thankfully those days are behind me...I hope...

      Delete
  27. I love the idea of the burpees lol Before my last NYC Marathon I was so nervous it made me naseuous and I couldn't even eat my oatmeal. I almost started crying but held it together so people on the ferry weren't like, wtf is wrong with her lol. I get nervous before every race, even 5ks. I think my nervousness is just about not knowing how I'll do. I don't usually doubt if I can finish or not, but I put a lot of pressure on myself to have a good race every time, which obviously isn't realistic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That was me totally at my first marathon. And I'm like you, I always put too much pressure on myself. I know some people set an A goal and a B goal, but I"m not that person.

      Delete
  28. I have horrible race anxiety! When your post first loaded I laughed out loud at the portapotties. I don't know why they are so funny...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find them very reassuring... :P Esp. since I visit them more than once before a race!

      Delete
  29. Great post! I always have race day jitters no matter how big or small! I have tried everything but it just won't go away!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some of the jitters are a good thing--they give you a little boost of adrenaline!

      Delete
  30. I definitely have pre-race rituals. My anxiety on race day usually has to do with getting to the porta potty enough times before the start so that I don't have to stop during the race.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I usually don't get race day jitters until race day, but then seeing the enthusiasm of other runners usually helps.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I usually get a little nervous the day of the race--not like I used to for days before!

      Delete
  32. Yes. I do get nervous before ALL my races. I just remember that once I am running... everything falls into place. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is the truth! Once I get moving, I'm fine.

      Delete
  33. I just got nervous reading your post! Then I stopped. And wondered why. And then it hit me...
    I'm running a half marathon on Saturday.
    How the hell did I forget about it??! I blame it on the vacation brain. Once I start running? All the nerves disappear. So maybe there's hope for Saturday! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh no! I hope my post didn't provoke any extra anxiety.... :p

      Delete
  34. After over 30+ half marathons I still spend the entire morning of the race in the bathrooms! And even though I love running, I still can't "get in check" with my race until a mile or so in.... once I know I have a good pace going. Love me some finish line!! Great post, thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  35. Just the motivation I needed before my race on Saturday! Very good point about being comfortable with the familiar by having your pre-race rituals. It does add a peace of mind that can help when other conditions go awry!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Control what you can control--that's my motto! Good luck on Saturday, my friend!

      Delete
  36. I've only ever run one race, but I was definitely pretty nervous the night before it! I was running a half, and up until that point, had never run more than 11 miles (which only happened once), so I was a little concerned that I wouldn't make it through the whole thing alive! :P The waiting sucks, but getting to run with a friend was fun!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you had a good experience! Will you do more?

      Delete
  37. Great post! I don't usually get jitters anymore which is a good thing and a bad thing. I think I've gotten way to relaxed on race days!! Forgetting things I shouldn't be forgetting, not charging things, etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hear you on that! It helps for me to set goals for a race, for sure!

      Delete
  38. It doesn't matter the distance...I'm so crazy nervous before every race! (Like seriously I think I feel the same for a 5K as I do for a marathon haha!) I have tried to get more organized ahead of time because there have been quite a few occasions where I freak out and forget things.

    ReplyDelete