How to overcome your racing anxieties

By RV Merano | Photo by Artem Verbo

We all have fears when racing.

It’s normal to feel anxious during the swim, bike, run, and transition, and even about nutrition. But if we let these fears get the best of us, they can hinder us from performing well. We need to change our mindset and veer away from our fears by thinking of other thoughts that help us focus on our goals. What are these fears and how can we overcome them?

Fear of the Open Sea

A common issue among newbie swimmers, looking down and seeing nothing but pitch-black abyss is an understandable fear. It’s frightening to subject ourselves to more or less a kilometer-long journey of darkness. To make matters worse, there’s also the fear of a possible encounter with creatures that might harm us like jellyfish.

If you want to completely overcome your fear, there’s no other way to do it but to expose yourself to it. Keep swimming in the open sea. Do it gradually by swimming in different depths and increasing the distance gradually

Solution: Try to think happy thoughts or distract yourself by constantly checking your swim form. If you want to completely overcome your fear, there’s no other way to do it but to expose yourself to it. Keep swimming in the open sea. Do it gradually by swimming in different depths and increasing the distance gradually. If you have time to go to the beach, snorkel and swim in the open water. Calm your nerves by appreciating the magnificent flora and fauna.

Fear of Getting into Mechanical Trouble

There are a lot of things that can happen during the bike portion. A dropped chain, brake caliper issues, mis-shifting, just to name a few. But getting a flat tire is the most common and most dreaded dilemma that many of us encounter. This can make or break our performance because if this happens, we have to stop and fix our flat, losing precious time or worse, force to DNF.

Solution: Be a responsible athlete and check your tires before the race. However, circumstances like these are sometimes unavoidable so be proactive by bringing your own tools in case your equipment malfunctions. Of course, you must know how to change a flat yourself instead of just waiting for another athlete or marshal to come to your rescue. Being self-sufficient gives you the peace of mind that if all else fails, you know how to deal with it.

Control your breathing by finding a steady rhythm as you inhale deeply and exhale fully. Just like the swim, focus on proper form and have a mental checklist so you can break it down into smaller parts

Fear of Experiencing Pain During the Run

This includes the infamous side stitch, shin splints, and cramps. Suffering from any of these during the race results in not being able to perform at our best during the run.

Solution: During the transition from bike to run, make sure you don’t go out too fast. Ease into your pace and increase it gradually to avoid a side stitch. Control your breathing by finding a steady rhythm as you inhale deeply and exhale fully. Just like the swim, focus on proper form and have a mental checklist so you can break it down into smaller parts. Check each component or body part one at a time, especially where you usually experience pain. Another effective strategy is to sing your favorite tune or count one to 50 over and over again and the next thing you know, you’re running at your goal race pace and on your way to a personal record.

Make “mind over matter” your racing mantra for washing away your fears. Experiencing pre-race jitters just means you’ve done the work and you care about how well you perform. The important thing is to not let them get in the way of your success.  And it’s not just you. We’ve all encountered the same worries, some maybe even worse than yours.