Yesterday I did my last race of the 2010 season. And just like everyone else I had a bit of a nervous stomach as I woke up. My races always remind me of the advice I give to those I coach. The following is an excerpt from my newest book, Your Best Triathlon, which will be out in November. It summarizes my race-morning advice regardless of your sport.
The morning of the race your anxiety will undoubtedly be at a peak. You may not have slept very well. That’s to be expected and isn’t a problem, since you’ve been resting up throughout the week (you have, haven't you?). Start your race morning with as normal a routine as you can given where you are staying. Anything you normally do when you are at home is perfect: having a cup of coffee, stretching, reading the paper, checking email, eating breakfast, and so on. If you have a common race-morning routine that has helped before, follow it. And in all the excitement, don’t forget the toilet break.
Thoughts about the race will continually creep into your head. Take this as a good thing; it means your mind is preparing for the race. All race thoughts this morning should be positive. Do not allow your mind to wander into the negatives. What I mean by “positive” is partly this: Always think about what you are going to do in the race, not what you are not going to do. If you focus on what you are not going to do, you may end up doing it.
This is a good time to review your goal and your race plan one last time. Both should be fully committed to memory by now, so this should go quickly. It may also be a good time to remind yourself why you race. I expect the answer is personal satisfaction. You’re not doing this for anyone but you. You’re accountable only to yourself. Reminding yourself of this may decrease the pressure you may be feeling.
The day before the race I like to remind the athletes I coach that they don’t have to do anything superhuman on race day. If you’ve trained well, you are ready to go. You’ve done all of this before. When the race starts, all you have to do is “flip the autopilot switch” and do exactly what you’ve rehearsed many times.