Words by Leon Griffin – Team Brooks Athlete
Wow – where did the winter months go! If you’re anything like me, your last race of the previous summer feels like it was just yesterday, and a new season already dawns upon us.
Those feelings of pre-race anxiety are starting to creep in, and you start to wonder if that goal you set at the start of the offseason – to become a much more competent swimmer, to race some bike crits to improve your bike skills, or complete a few more brick sessions so you don’t run out of gas and walk the second half of those runs – was realistic.
OR you’re simply working up the courage to tackle your first triathlon. Whichever it is, don’t despair, you’re not alone. Those rollercoaster ridin’ butterflies in the pit of your stomach when your thoughts turn to the fast approaching season kickoff are about as common and guaranteed as a Bart Cummings appearance at the Spring Racing Carnival.
Hopefully I can give you a few pointers below to help you become the master of your own anxiety!
All about You
Make sure you’re taking on the challenge of racing your first tri, improving one of the three legs, improving on all legs, setting a PB or winning your age group or the whole kit and caboodle for yourself, no one else. That can be the easiest way to eliminate some of that external stress that’s waking you up at 2:30 in the morning…worried you’re not going to live up to the expectations of your partner, friends, competitors or even your cat. If you’re not in it for you and your own reasons, then get out of it before you even start!
Make a list
It sounds boring and you’ve probably heard it a million times before, but the easiest way to minimise pre-race anxiety is to make a list at least 1-2 weeks before the first race and split it into two parts; 1) things that need to be organised plenty of time before the race; and 2) things to sort the day or two leading in and night before.
Things to include on the first list include at least one brick session (bike ride with a run off) so to get the familiarity of the ‘jelly legs’ transition back, a test run in the wetsuit if you haven’t thrown it on since last summer or have a new one, or maybe never even used one, a bike service or some new tires, a gentle run in the race shoes, a massage, a new haircut, etc. Basically anything that you don’t want to be stressed about the day or so before the race.
The second list may just include everything you need to pack to take to the race to use like goggles, wetsuit, bike and helmet, shoes, plus other little bits and pieces like your pump, pair of thongs for your blistering feet (not needed if you wear Brooks!), a clean t-shirt so you don’t have bad B.O when you stop at the shop for a pie and coke on the way home, definitely some baggy shorts so you don’t go into that shop to get the pie and coke in your tight and smuggling race shorts, sunscreen lotion, etc.
Whatever you do, don’t think you can just wing-it! Think about each leg and how you’re going to approach it. By that I don’t mean being so specific that if it doesn’t happen then you need to throw in the towel, but think about where you’ll position yourself at the swim start (weaker or less confident swimmers start on the side or to the back of your wave), start pulling the wetsuit off running to your bike or wait till you get to your transition spot, bike shoes clipped into your pedals or put them on in transition and run out with them on, start fast or start slow, socks or not for the run, hat, sunglasses?…so many decisions!!!
Triathlons definitely have a lot more involved to think about than that 5k fun run, however don’t let it overwhelm you. Just break it down and visualise beforehand how you want to attack each of the 3 components that make up the triathlon. Stick to it as best as you can, but be flexible enough to allow for anything and everything to pop up during the course of the race because it something generally does. That way I guarantee you’ll reduce the anxiety within you and get your season off to a great start!
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Leon is a former World Duathlon Champion and currently focuses on non-drafting triathlon in particular at the 70.3 distance with the goal to ultimately stand on top of the podium in Hawaii!
Follow Leon Griffin on Twitter.