Next, at least several days in advance of your event, reflect on your goals for the event, and return briefly to those goals each day. And if you don't have any, use your goal-setting skills to get some—fast. Wondering why that's such a high priority? Having goals, and keeping them in mind in the run-up to an event, can be a great countermeasure against our old nemesis, anxiety. Without goals, you may feel less anchored, less solid, less focused than is best for you. Just the kind of mental state that anxiety loves to rush into! And the last thing you need on the start line, not to mention in the days leading up to the event, is too much anxiety.
Speaking of which, staying relaxed during the week leading up to your event is often a key part of reaching the start line ready for peak performance. Here are some steps that might help you do so:
Have a Plan for the Event
Once you have goals, it will add to your confidence to have a plan to achieve them. It might be a race plan, a nutrition/hydration strategy for a double century, or a plan for how you're going to win the town-limit sprint for the first time on that group ride.
Make a Point of Taking Care of Yourself
Pay attention to what you're eating and drinking; stick to what you know is best for you. Get the best sleep possible, and don't worry if it's less than great. Besides any necessary assessment of your competitors for your race plan, don't unduly compare yourself with others in the event; it can be toxic. Make sure the way you're talking to yourself about the event is positive. If you have a spiritual or religious practice, stick to it—as you know, it can make a big difference in how you feel. And think about whether there's any other way you need to support yourself.
Organize any Support You Need
If you have a coach, talk about the event with him/her well in advance. Make sure you're getting what you need from that relationship. Think about whether you need to reach out to teammates, other friends, or family.
Consider Visualizing All or Parts of the Event
Many amateur and professional athletes use visualization to reduce anxiety, sharpen focus, and increase confidence.
Riding at an appropriate level of volume and intensity the week before an event can have all sorts of benefits. It can maintain or even improve your mood, sustain your confidence, keep you from being too much "in your head," and reduce stress. And, as my colleague Bruce Hendler points out, pre-riding the course itself, if possible, can do wonders for your mental state.