eRACING Fear –
We are a bunch of runners and walkers, and almost by default, we are a bunch of people who do races as well. Coupled with our habit and inability to refuse anything that gives us bling when we’re done, is quite often, pre-race jitters or fear. This fear didn’t exist when we had the bright idea to sign up for the race, or we wouldn’t have signed up, right?. Our friends, family and training partners assured us that we would be ready and that it would be “fun”. Fast forward to a month or so before the race – all of a sudden, you have some regrets about your decision and a slow boiling panic sets in. Should I still do the race? Am I really ready to take on this distance? Add to it that no race starts at your front door. How will I get there? Where will I park? Should I fly, drive, train, stay at a hotel in a single room or with roommates? Should I go to the pasta dinner? Do I have my confirmation number and the big one for Galloway runners, how will I do my intervals with all of those non-interval running people around me?
Now, step back, take a breath and know that this fear is not unique to you. It hits many of us at some point. The fear hits first-time racers as well as if you’re racing a new distance, or if this is the first time you’re travelling to a race. It happened when I travelled alone to my first race out of state. I was panicked that my flight would be delayed and I’d miss packet pick up and wouldn’t be able to run the race. It hit me again last week while packing for my first Ragnar 200 mile Road Relay on September 12 and 13. For me, Ragnar was a huge unknown – how does this whole 12 people, two vans, two days, really work. I was sure that I’d be the lone runner who would get lost in the woods during my leg in the middle of the night (12:30 – 1:30AM). Mind you, I signed up for the race almost 6 months ago, and I didn’t have a bit of nerves until September 11 when I started packing. The nerves actually prevented me from packing – I couldn’t think my way through it. Then I remembered the emails I’d received with packing lists and suggested items. I started packing, then I looked to see if I’d over packed, or left out something I’d need. With packing finally done, I left the rest up to fate and my van-mates to help me with anything I’d overlooked. From there, it was time to go meet the team, load our van and head out. I knew 2 other people in the van, the other four were Facebook running friends – huge unknown! I calmed a bit for the ride to our starting point but the nerves set in again as I watched how the handoff between runners worked. I was sure I’d mess that up, and one time I actually did. I was in the port-o-john when my runner came in to handoff to me. I hear everyone calling for team 76 and I had to holler “I’m Coming!” from behind the closed door. At least I wasn’t the first person on our team or any other, to be in dispose, when it was time for a handoff. Lesson learned – don’t eat ANY strange food when you’re racing – no strange food at all. Stick to what you’ve tested on training runs. Use those foods on the course and for in van snacking. Eat regular foods after the race.
While a relay has unique logistics, it’s still a race that you have to get ready for, and races are no different than our training runs and walks. Almost every one of us has overslept for a training run and had to figure out how to catch up with the group, or make up the miles. Having to open the store at 4:30 AM means I sleep with one eye open every third Friday. This fear is a normal response, and there are things we can do to minimize the stress. First, have a routine. Start on Thursday with food, fuel, hydration, and washing all of your running gear so that it’s dry by Friday. Friday – check the weather and if you think of something you need, chuck it into your bag so that it makes it out the door with you on Saturday. Friday morning, if not Thursday – set your alarm for Saturday (or race) morning so it’s done. Friday night – right after work, before dinner, lay out your gear and pack your fluids, fuel etc. and get it as close to the door as possible. If your fluids are in the fridge, leave yourself a big note at the door – WATER BOTTLE.
Once you know you’ve done all you can to make things go your way, throw caution to the wind and hit the road. From there, treat the training workout or race like a book you’re reading and you can’t wait to find out how it ends. You’re not nervous when you’re reading the book, you’re riveted. Be riveted by the challenge you’ve signed up for and just keep turning the pages (miles) and find out how it ends.