The nervousness before races or events

I just have to write this before I forget, having a morning fresh in memory with pre-race nerves.

These are my symptoms when I am nervous. I dont think they ever will go away but there are some migitgating things that can be done.

  • I always feel a little sick or unwell when I wake up. Either its a high HR or maybe feeling drained or dizzy. Always something, I sometimes my mind is playing tricks to lure me into a day on the sofa in stead “because I am sick” fight/flight-mode, but with the flight-part chosen as the best strategy :smiley:
    How to mitigate? Well its just experience, I know its not “real”. Listning to upbeat and positive music helps to get me into “fight” mode

  • I need to pee all the time. Added to the fact I need hydrate too, I also pee out of nervousness. I just need to make sure I have facilities to use so that doesnt become a stress factor too

  • Apetite loss. I can wake up hungry but as soon as i start stuffing my mouth I am just not hungry. The only answer here is to force feed myself. I eat stuff I like, like my favourite oatmeal combo. I need a lot of time to eat. I also supplement with carb loading drinks and protein shake to make sure I have enough of the good stuff

  • The before mentioned fight/flight-mode is a modus that makes the brain blurry and not very up for doing advanced thinking. My morning has to be very easy, so I pack and prepare all I can the day before. If I need to think and plan it totally throws me into that not-so-nice-to-people-around-me-mode so I am not doing that. Its also stress I dont want/need.

I also have a ritual before IRL outside races. I dont really use much make up but I always put on some eyeliner and eyebrow-make up to just mark my eyes a little bit. It doesnt sweat away and it makes me feel a little bit better. Its silly but rituals usually are silly :smiley: Yes there is some vanity in play here. LOL.

Please share symptoms and what you do! Both funny and serious things.

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I experience all of these symptoms, as well. I used to listen to my favorite “Race Day Mix” CD but have abandoned it in the last decade. I love your solution because I need to get back to it! The force feeding thing is super hard to do. Most times, I get by on a few bites of this and that and mostly rely on gels and liquid nutrition, because I can get that down. I don’t necessarily need to pee all the time but I would say in the last decade, I have to certainly use the bathroom multiple times and if I cannot find one easily or quick enough, there is serious trouble, So now I need to build an extra time onsite. Yesterday, I had an important ride for me, and I had to give up my starting point and go park in a nature park that had a porta potty, just because of it!

One symptom not mentioned here that I experience just before the swim start of a triathlon is hyperventilating. I try not to let my nerves get the best of me but since becoming competitive, almost every race is the pressure to do well and I have to do a lot of breathing exercises to abate it.
-Angie

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A funny aside is that when my husband and I race together, the timing to get out the door is down to the minute and he inevitably uses the bathroom for about 10 minutes just before walking out, no matter how much buffer we’ve built, and it drives my nerves out of this world! :grimacing:
-Angie

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Oh, I need to make a race day mix on spotify!! Thanks for that idea.

I also sometimes get very very sleepy. I think its a defence mechanism :smiley:

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Well if it is outdoors, my nervousness starts affecting me the day (sometimes days!) before a race. I get in a bad mood, feel irritated and anxious. Then on the day of the race, I have the same problem of having zero appetite, so I just force-feed myself. Oh, and I have to poop about 3 times (sorry, TMI). And I don’t want to talk to anyone.

Peeing is not an issue for me, and I know how to time my caffeine and hydration intake to be able to hold my bladder for about 3.5 hs during a race.

When I get to the race location, all the nervousness goes away! I am usually calm at the start line.

One thing that helped me a lot was to race every weekend during CX season. Because I raced every Sunday for 10 consecutive weeks, it ended up being part of my routine and I didn’t even get nervous before those races anymore.

A day or two before a race I do not want to go- at all! I think about cancelling it. I run every reason in my head as to why I should not do the race, how it’s not that big of a deal, how it’s not important… Then I secretly hope something out of my control will happen and I can’t race.

So the things I have been working on to mitigate the mental stress:

  • Joined a local team. I am hoping that being in the team tent with others before races will help with my anxiety.
  • I repeat my Coach’s mantra: “I am here to give, not to take.” I am not here to take results, I am here to give my best. So much is out of my control, I can only control me - my efforts, my reactions.
  • I rarely get nervous during the race, and I never give up or lose motivation once I’m in, no matter what happens (mechanicals, getting dropped, etc.) - because I always tell myself: “it’s not over until it’s over”
  • I am confident in my ability. I know where I stand in terms of performance, and what I can do… and for how long. This is HUGE!!! and it comes from training consistently, day in, day out, week in, week out.
  • I always remember that everyone around me is on the same boat, with some sort of pre-race anxiety. I also know that if it’s hard for me, it’s hard for everyone else around me.
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I have to pee a lot too before an event. One of the best things about Zwift racing is that I don’t have to wait in line for the bathroom and I can use it 10 minutes before the gate drops.

I also get really jittery, sometimes to the point that I am visibly shaking. I have to find a quiet place and do some mindful breathing. If it is an IRL event this usually ends up being the bathroom :grin:

For IRL events I always make a list about a week ahead of time of all the things I need to bring with me and then two days before I pack everything and the day before I lay out my kit and recheck what I already packed. I check things off my list as I go so the day of the event I review the list to make sure I haven’t forgotten something. Because I get so jittery I know I will forget something if I don’t do this.

Once I am on the line waiting to start, I calm down and I get super focused. I get so focused sometimes that I don’t remember most of what happened during the event. If it’s a zwift race I always have music playing but once the gate drops I cease to hear it any longer and will never be able to tell anyone a single song that came up while I was racing. Sometimes I even wonder why I bother to put on music. But I tried not having music once and was getting so tense while waiting in the pen that I had to quick put some on and felt much better. So even though I don’t consciously hear it, I must hear it on some level and it must help.

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I am the same way with the music, @Stefanie! I don’t hear any of it but can’t go without it!

I’m really envious of you planners that can set things up well in advance. I am notorious for gathering everything the night before and thinking I have loads of time and end up getting only a couple of hours of sleep because I’ve put everything off until the last minute. I’ve even tried prepping ahead for camping and traveling and I don’t know what is wrong with my procrastinating brain but I can’t seem to adopt the practice, no matter what. :grimacing:
-Angie

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@Coach_Theia - I love all of your bullet points! I also feel that impending dread leading up to the race but have zero problems once the race starts and feel very competitive. The one thing you mentioned is joining a team. I thought the one that I’ve been on for the last couple of years would provide that comforting aspect but turns out, none of them are interested in triathlon or CX! :disappointed_relieved:
-Angie
PS. I am loving this thread, @Silje! :purple_heart:

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I tell myself I will do the best I can given the day’s conditions - event start time, weather, how I am feeling. The first few minutes of a race are the worse for me. After that, I get into a zone and the anxiety goes away.

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As for teams I’m on a few IRL (TriMafia) and virtual (REVO). Each one for a specific reason. I also belong/associate the local clubs and a few national ones (KVTR, WVMTR, M2H3, TTC, AeroHills, MSW, Weeples, Yetis, etc). So when I show up to an event chances are someone knows me or I’m part of a group. It’s a mixed bag but they all let me be me.

For me I like to have a chill time before the event (this isn’t always possible, see above). If it’s running I’ll put my headphones in even if they aren’t turned on. Take that deep breathe then it’s go time.

And a bathroom break within half an hour of the start if possible.

For the event I try to set multiple goals. I set one easily within my reach, one just a bit farther and one of everything falls into place. And know the course and splits I need.

During the event I focus on the numbers. If no headphones I tend to hum to myself or mentally play a playlist of favorite songs from training. Mood booster and it helps with pacing.

I get nervous but I tend to react versus freezing. Playing team sports I was usually the one out there with the game on the line so I know to trust my training and know my abilities, both strengths and weaknesses. And try to block out the negative thoughts (hence the mental playlist). They are there I just need to fend them off.

Does it all always work? No. But I keep trying. I had a really bad run last year with burnout and dealing with my thyroid (which caused the frustration that lead to the burnout). Thankfully those seem to have been somewhat resolved (a mini break from racing and medication for my under active thyroid/ hashimotos and I’m now starting to see results)

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I just signed up for my first bike event so this is timely. I know my symptoms from other events (showing horses and running). I really struggle to sleep the night before, I keep waking up thinking I missed my alarm. I have a very specific menu and timing for food (and coffee) to avoid GI distress. I get irritable and snarky (like people have warned their friends to avoid me) just before warm up but settle once I’m moving. The worst part is the freaking fatigue that hits when the adrenaline from a mass start ends. All of a sudden my legs are rubber. I’m so used to it at this point that I push straight through but it sucks.

The plan is to give myself plenty of time so I don’t get anxious, remind myself that this is not a race pretty much once a minute, and stick to the plan from my distance running events so I’m properly fueled. 30 miles isn’t the same as a half marathon but I’d rather be over prepared than under.

Oh, music is essential. I own Aftershokz so I can hear everything around me. I have a playlist to help manage my nerves and get me the appropriate level of hyped.

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I have the exact same sleep thing happen to me, too. Always so worried about missing the alarm & can’t fall asleep. then when I do finally fall asleep, it’s definitely not long enough. I don’t know why I let myself get so wound up - probably half nerves half super excitement.

For those of you who lose sleep the night before… fortunately that’s not typically an issue for performance, assuming you have been sleeping well until then. As the saying goes, “it’s the night before the night before that counts”.

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My race today is in the afternoon and I am not allowed to go to the venue yet. They split the race into groups so riders and support team are no more than 200 people at a time. This is usually not good for me, but my coping mechanism today has been to stove away summer clothes and shoes and wash the bathroom. The race isnt long, so using energy on house work keeps nerves in check and and my body awake. Everything is prepared for the race so feels good doing other stuff.

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Good luck on your race today!!! Sounds like you have a good plan for the nerves!!! Can’t wait to hear how fantastic you are today!!

Can’t wait to hear how you do @Silje!!! Sounds like a productive way to bide your time! I need to do those tasks and I keep putting them off - its raining today so it might be a good day for it for me

Beats doing tax returns @PaleGail!

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Have to agree with you on that @Coach_Theia!! I do need to take the car out in the rain so it gets some of the crap washed off :joy:

How did your techniques pan out? Was your anxiety lessened?
-Angie

Hi

It worked out really well! I think there is also a strategy here to not overdo the preperations and stuff done before a race. Especially in XCO, the races are short, I dont need to pack a lot of food and drinks for during the race. I just have a bottle on my frame with water or sometimes sports drink. Other than that I usually drive in my kit, change shoes and put on the helmet. I have clothes to change into and food to consume after the race. The course is also inspected beforehand so I know what to do. Its just a ride, a fast one, but its something I do up to 7 times a week :slight_smile: By taking it down like this I also find confidence in the fact I have been doing this for years !

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