Six years into racing triathlons and pre race nerves are definitely still a thing. As I previously mentioned these nerves usually manifest themselves in my stomach. Although I have not been able to eliminate the feelings of anxiety I have certainly been able to accept the nerves as part of what makes a race special as well as finding ways to limit the impact on my racing. One of the biggest challenges during my first few years of racing was eating pre race. I was so nervous that even trying to consume some of my favorite foods was a task. Most of the time this lead to even more stress because I wasn’t eating properly and then a stomach ache to rub it in since I had forced myself to eat on an upset stomach. One of the most eye opening moments for me was my second 70.3 ever called the Quassy Challenge Half. Long story short, pre race I was very nervous and while driving up to the race with my parents, I got sick to my stomach. Having been convinced that I had to have the ideal pre race meal to perform I started a race on essentially an empty stomach, fueled properly during the race and had by far my best half ever to date. This caused a shift in my thinking regarding pre race nutrition. I realized that the fueling with real food during the days leading up to my races was of the utmost importance while on race day I began experimenting with essentially fueling with only things I would eat during the race before the start. This slight change in how I approach my morning nutrition has not only lead to better races but I believe has lowered pre race stress since I am no longer worried about struggling to eat a proper meal in the mornings. Pre race nerves will always be a factor, nerves are a good thing, they mean the event is important and they mean you care, managing and channeling those nerves is the real goal. In my six years of racing triathlons nothing calms me down more than proper preparation. Knowing I have done everything in my power to train and recover for a race is ultimately what should give one confidence.
Despite my best efforts race weeks always tend to feel like selfish weeks. My mood is often on edge even as family and friends around me make plans and sacrifices to not only watch but also help me race. In my first few years of racing it was often my Mom, Donna, who got the brunt of my pre and post race antics. She bravely drove down the east coast with me to my first half in Florida, only to watch me walk most of the run and struggle big time in the heat. Needless to say, I did not handle these early disappointments well. Despite my moodiness surrounding racing my Mom stayed positive and supportive throughout. Over the previous three years I have come to appreciate how much the support of others not only makes my racing possible but also more enjoyable. Having spent most of the past three years racing with my training buddy and business partner Jim Anderson I learned an entirely different approach pre and post race logistics. When traveling together to races we did our best to keep things light but at the same time knew what we were there to do and had common ideas of what the 24 hours before a race should look like. Conversations to and from races often strayed far from triathlon and not only helped keep things loose pre race but often helped put an event in perspective on the way home from a tough event. I learned a lot from racing with Jim and I can safely say a lot of my pre race routine and mentally comes right from his playbook. Stay calm, talk to some randos in transition, race hard and make sure we have a lot of good snacks for post race. Most recently my girlfriend Nyssa has been my most frequent companion. As far as I can tell she really enjoys watching and supporting at the races. When I am at a race with Nyssa I am calm, I know what to expect from her emotions wise, I know she will be thanklessly helpful and perhaps most importantly she is quick to remind me of a positive mindset and all of the hard work I have done.
The plan was for last weeks Ventura Breath of Life Olympic Triathlon to be one of my solo adventures. Just to make sure I did not have things too easy during race week I ruined my phone two days before race day by leaving it on my side view mirror and driving away. Always something. Every time I am without phone I realize just how attached and addicted we all are. As my Dad said the day before the race, people got places without phones for a long time I am sure you will be fine. Obvious and in the end true but still an added stressor I could have done without. Having finally arrived at the hotel in Ventura and beginning to relax I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Nyssa was actually able to make the race and ended up arriving shortly after I did. There is a certain sense of calm that comes from knowing you will have company on race morning, knowing your bags will be safe or even just seeing a familiar face flash by on the bike or run. I think I have learned a lot from the races I have done solo over the past two years but given the choice I certainly enjoy having a supportive crew of friends and family at my races. Support keeps me calm, keeps it all in perspective when I am having a poor day at a race and also makes winning and being successful even more enjoyable. This race in Ventura was no different. Nyssa and I planned our pre race plans to perfection, I had just enough time to prep, get warmed up and then settled down for a few minutes before the race began. Out on the course Nyssa was not only a welcomed friendly face on the side of the road but also helped run the social media for my coaching business, The Endurance Drive. Ultimately, it was a successful day and with the help of Nyssa I was able to control my effort effectively and take the overall win. Back to work.