Butterflies having a party in your stomach, feeling nauseous, an inability to eat or even sit still. Frustratingly can’t sleep, can’t think straight and that ever present frown on your face. Doesn’t sound like fun does it? Yet racing is meant to be fun, that’s the whole point isn’t it? That’s the focal point of your hobby!
Nerves can put a real dampener on race day. I know this from my own struggle with them, one I am still battling now. Whilst some people seem to be immune from this issue, most of us will at least feel a little nervous, especially as we come to line up at the start line. This is an inevitable result of all the hard work and preparation that’s gone into being ready for that moment, it’s also a sign of a desire to do well. It is only when these nerves get to such a level that they detract from your performance and enjoyment of the day that they become a problem.
Now, I do not pretend to have any incredible cure that will make that nervous feeling disappear, much to my own disappointment but I do have a rather amusing little list of, basically reasons why it is stupid and illogical to feel nervous at all. I compiled this before my last race as a way to dispel my negative thoughts and found reading it over whenever I started to stress helpful. I then kept my favourite reasons at the front of my mind during race morning and it seemed to have a calming effect. Here they are –
1 – There is NO danger to life and negligible chance of serious life altering injury. Contrary to what some people think there does not need to be a lion chasing a person in order for there to be reason for them to run!
2 – Nerves are a total waste of valuable energy better put to use helping you run faster during the race. Don’t let the nerve demons steal your fuel!
3 – Who do you think you are Mo Farah? No one is watching you. No one cares what you like when you run (or ride). People are concerned for you if you fall there not going to laugh at you. It is one of the things I love about the outdoor sports community how many people will stop to help a fallen comrade. People aren’t judging you on what place you finish, those worth caring about just admire that you did it at all.
4 – You cannot let yourself down as long as you are trying your hardest. You can only do your best and that should always be good enough.
5 – How can you be nervous when your mind is occupied by enjoying the incredible views trail running and mountain biking always bring. Focus instead on enjoying the wilderness of open moors, the grandeur of a coastal view and the tranquility of a sun dappled forest.
6 – How can you be nervous when you’re busy meeting new like minded people. Enjoying the comradery that comes with being part of this exclusive club of people who like to push themselves.
7 – How can you be nervous of having fun?! The childlike thrill of running or riding fast down a tricky descent and conquering hills. Enjoying the sense of freedom the thrill of pushing your limits and making it on your own strength and ability.
8 – How can you be nervous when your focus is on that exquisite rush of pride and adrenaline you will feel upon crossing the finish line.
9 – Tracey Moseley arguably the most successful female mountain biker of all time is quoted often giving this piece of wise advice.
“Piss Poor Preparation leads to Piss Poor Performance”
Provided you have trained correctly, eaten well before hand and have all your kit organised for the event you can take comfort from knowing you are ready for the challenge ahead.
10 – There are no such thing as nerves, only excitement. Convince your mind by telling yourself and others out loud if it helps, that your feelings can all be put down to adrenaline and excitement because you are looking forward to the event.
So much of being successful at any sport comes down to mental strength, though it is particularly true for endurance events. I had always thought this only applies to throughout the race but infact the mental training begins during our training. Having the ability to direct our thoughts towards positive and helpful things during times of physical and mental strain is half the battle. Conquer this and overactive pre race nerves will be a thing of the past (or so I like to hope!)
I’d be interested to hear how fellow competitors, in any sport, cope with their pre race nerves? Advice is always very welcome.