Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Controlling Pre-Race Anxiety

by Marilyn Chychota McDonald

I’ve found that many of the mistakes athletes make during race week are driven by anxiety -- that’s not surprising, the last few days before a race can be nerve wracking.

To prevent pre-race nerves from getting the better of you, here are some of my top tips.

  • Write it out. I always recommend planning out and writing a schedule for the last two days before your A event and sharing it with your family. Include timelines, sessions, lists and food you plan to eat. Knowing what and when you are going to do things can help relieve some of the anxiety. Making lists can help prevent you from forgetting the key things.

  • Factor in travel. Planning logistics becomes especially important if you are traveling for a race. Take into consideration time changes and the impact of the travel itself. If you are racing in a different country, consider food options and water quality.

  • Know what’s available. Different cultures may also do things slightly different than your original plan so while it’s good to be adaptable, plan to bring your most important needs with you. For example, Ironman Brazil does not supply gels on course, so you’ll need to bring your own. Also, knowing if the place you are racing at has mechanical needs such as tubes can be critical. The more research you can do on the culture of the place you are racing can make or break your day.

Too often athletes get caught up in the anxiety of the race week and end up overdoing the training, intensity, socializing, carbo loading and hydration. The best thing you can do is be organized, informed and stick close to your normal routine with as much rest as possible. If you write out a schedule prior and share it that helps keep you from getting sidetracked.

You've done the work to be at your best on race day. Don’t let all that go by being careless in the those last few days before your big event.


Marilyn Chychota McDonald has been in elite sport since the age of 9, from show jumping to cycling and triathlon. Competing on an international stage in all three sports with an Ironman title, several podiums and state championships in cycling, Marilyn works with all distance and level of triathletes and cyclists. From beginners to elites; short course, bike racing, stage racing and long course triathlon, she has guided several athletes to the podium and to Hawaii qualifications.
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