First baby, first new house, first job in a new state, first international travel, first time driving.
Think about all the firsts that we encounter in life and how "so not ready" we feel with every new opportunity.
But somehow...we survive. It may not be flawless and we are bound to make mistakes but somehow we make it happen.
With every first comes an opportunity to learn, to experience, to grow and to develop. You gain new skills, new tools and new knowledge for the next time. Sometimes, we don't have a next time and it's a one-and-done opportunity. But I think in most cases, life presents multiple opportunities for repeat experiences and that is true in the case of sporting events, like triathlons and running.
This is the time of the year when athletes from all over are experiencing a lot of mindful dialogue about feeling or not feeling "race ready."
I think it's great when an athlete is scared, nervous or anxious for a race because it's a time to be brave. How often in life can you do something amazing with your body and feel scared when you start but totally awesome when you finish?
What an incredible experience!
If you have recently found yourself asking yourself if you are "race ready", here are a few of my thoughts to help you believe in yourself, that you are race ready.
FIRST TIME EXPERIENCE
Your worries are understandable. Doing something for the very first time is scary. If you have never completed the distance(s) of your upcoming race or you've been removed from your sport for more than a year, you may be feeling unready as it relates to the physical component of training. Or if this is a new course for you, it can be worrisome to test your skills on race day.
What will your body feel like after mile 20 in a marathon or how will you feel on mile 4 of the run after you swam 1.2 miles and biked 56 miles for the very first time or how will you feel at in the last mile of a 10K when your longest run was 4 miles?
All of these questions that you are asking yourself are normal but the beautiful thing is that you don't have to have all the answers. That's what race day is all about - showing yourself that anything is possible and you are ready for the challenge.
Your entire training journey has been built-on firsts. Your first long ride, your first long brick, your first long run and your first long swim. Then came the next longest workout and the next.
What you do not have is experience so accept that some things may not go as planned. But just like in training, you will push through and learn for the next time.
What you can think about is everything that you can control. That includes how to change a flat tire to your nutrition as well as how you will pace your race and what mantra you will use when you have a low moment and everything in between.
Enjoy this first opportunity because it will never happen again. Don't forget to thank your body because your upcoming adventure is something that no one else can do for you and it only happens once.
FEELING THE PRESSURE
Watts, paces, places.
You feel an enormous amount of pressure to perform and this is causing you to question your readiness. You ask yourself "should I have done more or could I have done more." And when you are really stressed out, you get mad and say "I should have done more!"
You may even find yourself doing fear-based workouts to prove to yourself that you can do the distance or pace....I strongly don't advise this method.
Save your best performance for race day.
It's perfectly fine to feel emotionally dedicated to your upcoming race but if you are unable to change the past, why stress over it? You did what you could with the time you had and now you must believe in yourself. Believe that you are ready.
Athletes who place an incredible amount of pressure on themselves can be so obsessed with the end result that they do not race smart. Racing smart means adjusting your plan to staying strong, being flexible and keeping an open mind. You can certainly go into your race with a goal but if your only way to feel success at the finish line is to reach that goal, it's best to take a moment and remember that readiness is not simply determined by a personal best time or overall placing.
Find a way to reduce the pressure that you put on yourself so that you discover a greater meaning to racing than by being so overly focused on the end result. You can still dream big and have lofty goals but the only way you will reach them is by trust your plan and racing your own race.
FEELING SOOOOOO READY!!!
Don't you love this athlete? You can't help but smile and feel envious because either you've been that athlete or know this athlete.
Excitement is sky-high for this athlete and you just want to bottle that positive energy. It's almost hard to be around this person because you just don't understand how this athlete can carry around so much confidence!?!
But in all honesty, it's simply wonderful to see athletes who believe, trust and feel ready. Regardless of what happened in the past, they accept that they can only race with their current level of fitness. They are simply grateful for the opportunity to race.
This athlete may have executed extremely well in all workouts for a few months, probably without even a setback, so we can understand why this athlete feels so ready to race.
Although this may seem like the ideal scenario to be in, the only downfall of feeling so ready is not considering that things may not go as planned and that you should never count yourself out during the race. For some athletes, it's very easy to adjust. But I've seen it many times before that if the weather isn't perfect, the course is changed or something unknown happens on race day, it is very easy for this athlete to quickly check-out of the race on all levels (emotionally and physically) and feel as if they wasted so much time, energy and money. In a hot second, feeling so ready can turn into frustration. I hope this doesn't happen to you but I've been in this situation before where I felt so ready for a personal best race at Kona in 2011. I spent all my energy feeling positive and confident for the race but I didn't consider what I would do if my tummy was upset (because it never happened before). I swallowed too much salt water and on the run I was in the potty at mile 2 and I told Karel on the sidelines I was unable to finish. He told me to keep going but I was just so frustrated that I couldn't execute my "perfect" race. I managed to keep myself going and now I consider it one of my best performances because of what I was able to accomplish.
My suggestion for the athlete who is feeling super duper ready, try to put yourself into different "oh no" scenarios so that you can use that awesome fitness, skills and past experiences to be prepared for anything that comes your way. No need to waste all that awesomeness because you ARE ready!