When Pre-race Neurosis Takes Hold

Meltdowns over small issues:

  • Any glitch in the perfectly laid out schedule of said racer can cause a meltdown. This symptom can be seen in family, work or training situations. Something as small as spilled sports drink when tending to pre-race bottles can send the racer into a panicked frenzy.

Counter-measure: Recognize that problems can present themselves from the time you wake up to right through the entire race. See these problems as small puzzles to solve. Successful problem solving is a part of successful training and racing. Repeat this mantra over and over again until you really believe it.

Another idea is to imagine a camera is video taping your behavior. Would you be proud to have your meltdowns viewed by family, friends and coworkers? Count to 10 and think about that tantrum a second time.

More: Mastering the Mental Game


  • The athlete finds each situation requiring a decision to be made as an impossible puzzle. Trying to decide which restaurant to dine at requires a minimum of four hours of contemplation.
  • Swim suit? Tri suit? Swim suit? Tri suit?

Counter-measure: Delegate non-critical decisions to someone you can trust who knows you. Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you are having trouble deciding on something you deem critical for your performance, there must not be a clear No. 1 choice. Pick one and go with it. Once you've made the decision, make changes--or not--at the next race.

Obsessive list making:

  • Dozens of "to do" lists are found everywhere the athlete has been. In some cases the lists are made, but never referred to again.

Counter-measure: Keep one list for your race packing. After the race you can make notes or changes to improve it. For items not related to the actual race, keep a single list in one location. As it piles up with items, ask yourself what would happen if this or that item did not get completed until after your race. If the consequences are minimal, that to-do list will still be there when you get home.

More: Dave Scott's Mental Tips for Triathletes

Everything but the kitchen sink:

  • The athlete takes every item possibly needed for the event, including back-ups for each item. He or she includes items that couldn't possibly be needed for the event--plus back-ups for those as well. All weather possibilities are included. The athlete packs his or her own food and water, not trusting any outside sources. Travel to the race venue includes renting an extra trailer to transport all of the equipment and supplies.

Counter-measure: Look at the weather and minimize your packing list for clothing. If it hasn't rained in a week and the forecast calls for sunny skies, you probably won't need a waterproof jacket. If you just can't part with anything, and you have room for it--take it. Everyone needs a small (or large) security blanket now and then.

Do you have pre-race neurosis? I'd love to read your comments in the section at the end of the column. There is some comfort in knowing that other racers feel the same way you do, so by sharing your "issues" perhaps others will feel comforted.

More: 10 Tricks to Ease Race-Day Stress

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