With all the hard work in the books, what can you do in the final days leading up to the race to ensure optimal performance? Sitting around worrying what pace you should race, what you should eat, what the weather is going to be like, and what you should wear will only exhaust you and negatively impact your day. Pre-race jitters are normal to some extent, but excessive worrying can be extremely draining and can lead to negative thinking and, consequently, interfere with your performance on race day. Below are some tips to help you keep your pre-race jitters at bay and reap the rewards of all your hard work.
Visualization: Each day spend 15 minutes visualizing your race. Close your eyes before you get out of bed in the morning and play out the race in your mind. See yourself on race morning. You are calm and organized; your emotions are controlled. See yourself on race day, from the moment you wake up to the moment you cross the finish line. Visualize your success. See the clock. See your goal time. If you visualize success over and over again, chances are you can will it to happen on race day!
Organization: Make sure you are organized the day before the race. Race morning is not the time to decide what to eat or wear. Have everything set out the night before and perform your morning automatically like you do every day in training. Nothing new!
Focus: Focus internally on performance rather than outcome. All energy and focus should be on yourself, taking care of your body, so it can perform the way you want it to. Focus on what you are doing at that very moment. Live in the here and now. Don’t think too much, just simply do what you have trained your body to do day in and day out.
Mental Cues: Have some emotional and bio-mechanical cues or mantras that you will say to yourself throughout the race to help you remain focused. Mental cues include: I feel strong, I am confident, I will succeed. Anything that keeps your emotions in check and triggers internal confidence and a positive attitude. Bio-mechanical cues are also very important throughout the second half of the race. Many runners look at the elites and wonder how they make it look so easy. It is not easy for them. They have just practiced running efficiently when they are exhausted. This makes them more efficient and eliminates wasted energy and pace declines. Some bio-mechanical cues include: high cadence, run from hips, efficient stride, no wasted energy, smooth and light, relax the face. Never ever say to yourself, "I am so tired, my knees hurt, I have to slow down.” Instead say, “Stay strong, I have worked so hard, I will be done soon, keep pushing, I will take it one mile at a time, etc.”
Remember the goal of the taper is to reach a state of physical and mental preparation that leads to optimal performance. Now go have the race of your life!