PRE-RACE JITTERS AND EXPOSURE
By Coach Steve Lehman
Here are a couple of thoughts and tips that may help you on race day. Some riders are plagued with pre-race jitters or nervousness upon arrival at the race site. This could be caused by something as simple as too much caffeine or as serious as cardiac dysrhythmia, but more often than not it is caused by what I refer to as "exposure". Exposure is allowing yourself to get caught up in those elements and people around you over which you have no control. Never worry about anyone else at a race. Everyone at the race is beatable, as well as being a possible threat, so just assume you have to be on you’re A-Game to do well. Therefore, you should be doing nothing but preparing to be the best you on the start line. Improper preparation also falls into the category of exposure. Often elements over which you have control but don’t control can cause nervousness.
To remain cool on race day you need to have a system in place to prevent nervousness. This should start the week before with pre-entry in the race. Don’t wait until race day and the long day of the race entry line and accompanying late entry fee. That $5 - $10 late entry charge is exposure. $5 X 25 races = $125 which is equivalent to 1st place prize money in many races. $125 out of your wallet due to poor planning is exposure and can result in pre-race jitters.
Get in the habit of developing a pre-race check list and pack your car the day before the race. Running around the house looking for your favorite gloves or gel packet when you should be on the road is exposure. If possible take another bike, or at least an extra wheel set in the event a problem arises with your race bike. Fixing a flat or adjusting a derailleur with only a few minutes until the start of the race is exposure. I often times will put my back-up bike in the wheel pit, so all I have to do is jump off one bike and onto the next. Don’t forget to pack an extra tee-shirt for the warm up. Warming up and then getting cold because you are wearing a wet tee-shirt is exposure.
Arrive at the race site early enough to learn as much as possible about the course and local conditions, execute a proper pre-race warm up, hydrate, have a bite of an energy bar, and start to visualize and focus. A hurried warm up or "catching up" with friends will prevent proper warm up and focus and that is exposure.
Do not watch and cheer your friends and teammates racing before your race. This may seem to be the decent and supportive thing to do, but it will only cause needless adrenaline spikes. You will need all the adrenaline you can muster during your race. Needless adrenaline spikes are, you guessed it, exposure.
Arrive at the line early enough to select your ideal spot. If it’s taken don’t obsess over it, that’s exposure. Select a new starting position in the group. Relax, take deep belly breaths and visualize yourself controlling the race. Exchanging pleasantries with the riders around you only causes loss of focus and that is exposure.
At the starting gun’s report quickly mount and click in your pedal, but do not rush. Riders behind you will wait. Any rushed effort will cause a needless waste of energy and the resulting adrenaline spike. You must continue to remain cool and focused throughout the race to achieve the desired result. Be in a position from which you have some control over the development of the race and above all be attentive and make no unsafe moves. The more control you have over yourself and the race the less energy you will waste. The less control you have the greater the exposure.
Upon completion of the race(and I hope you achieved the desired result)take a few minutes to "socialize" with your race mates. The race is over and you don’t want to appear aloof or elitist. After the period of socialization, make sure you are not chilled. If you are, change shirts and pull on your wind vest or whatever is appropriate for the conditions and do a proper warm down. Jumping off the bike without a proper warm down will only delay recovery. After the warm down you should try to eat something with protein or at least have a protein drink or bar within a half hour, or so. Failure to eat will delay your recovery. This delay could develop into a habit of improper recovery and could lead to illness, injury or burn-out.
In summary if you minimize exposure in your preparation and race you will be surprised how cool, calm and collected you will be. Proper preparation, focus and execution will make jitters and nervousness a thing of the past.
Steve Lehman Tours, Ltd.
648 West Spring Street
Fleetwood, PA 19522