Cure Triathlon First Race Nerves

Take the pressure off your shoulders by setting realistic expectations…

At this time of year I notice a strange behavioural quirk in triathletes, even the experienced ones. They start to get really nervous before their first race of the season.

It starts with the best of intentions. A low key early-season race to get into the swing of things with no pressure. But then something weird happens to our brains and we secretly pin all our self-worth and dreams on that one event. The local sprint-duathlon suddenly takes on the importance of the Olympics. Why? Because it’s the first time we’ve raced for ages (or ever) and we feel our performance on that day will a) define our ability and b) define the entire season

It’s not true of course. Early season races are not usually a good time to peak – rather they are part of the process. It takes several races or race simulations before you start getting the hang of things. Your aim each season is not to peak at your first race but to reach a higher peak than the previous season’s peak. Besides, the weather in late winter/early spring is usually crap for racing.

How To Ease The Pressure

1. Set realistic race goals based on actual data. Review that data afterwards.
  • Look at race data rather than just race-times or race-placings to define your post-race happiness. Review your pace, power and heart rate in order to see the full truth.
  • Compare your race data to other early-season races from previous years or training efforts. Do not base your view on race-times or race-placings alone. There are far too many variables for that.
  • Go into each race with realistic expectations, based on field tests or recent race results. For example, I set my triathlon training plan athletes a regular CP20 bike-power test, which helps estimate race-day cycle power output. We also do a 5km running race every 4-8 weeks to get an idea of run pace and heart rate. This helps us set realistic expectations, rather than hopes based on thin air.
2. Prioritise your races as either A, B or C depending on their importance.
  • ‘A’ races are the events that you’re most highly motivated for – the ones you really want to succeed at. These are the focus of all your training and preparation. Before these races you should do a few race-simulations and practice events. You should aim to peak for these.
  • ‘B’ races are events you’ve entered that want to do well in, but they are not the focus of your entire season. It helps if you’ve done some race-simulations before these. You would not always expect to peak for these.
  • ‘C’ races are low-key events that you do for fun or simply as training for your A and B races. You would not focus your training on these races. They provide a great opportunity to gain confidence and practice race skills. Do not waste too much mental energy critiquing your performance after these events. Use them sparingly so that you still have enough energy to train throughout the week.

Hopefully you’re cured after all that. Please share or retweet this blog if you liked it. More next week.

By Phil Mosley. Triathlon Plus Coaching Editor, Ironman Certified Coach
Founder, My Pro Coach

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Phil Mosley (Coach & Founder)
Phil Mosley (Coach & Founder)

Phil is a recognised expert in the field, having featured on many endurance sports publications. He founded MyProCoach in 2010 to sell premium training plans complete with email coach support for triathlons, duathlons, running & cycling.

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About Phil Mosley

About Phil Mosley

Phil is a successful coach & athlete, having sold over 20,000 training plans on TrainingPeaks and been featured on countless publications. His focus is on smart training that still leaves quality time for your family, friends & career. You can learn more about MyProCoach™ here or preview your training plan now.

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