When Pre-race Neurosis Takes Hold

The pre-race neurosis ailment is common among endurance athletes. It typically manifests itself in the days prior to a race, beginning about a week out and building up to the millisecond before the starting gun is sounded.

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The first time I wrote about this ailment was in my blog, preceding a mountain bike race. For you triathletes, here is a special customized column.

As defined in Freudian psychology, pre-race neurosis is a psychological disorder or dysfunction resulting from an imbalance of the forces of the id, ego and superego relating to a race situation.

It is one of the major categories of emotional maladjustments, classified according to the predominant symptom of a defense mechanism. Anxiety is the chief indicator, although it is worth exploring other telltale signs.

What follows is a list of those telltale signs, examples of each and suggested counter-measures to eliminate or fight off each problem:

Displacement of anxiety to fellow racers:

  • "Oh, you're using that for your race nutrition? Hmm...certainly not my choice. Let me know how that works out for you."
  • "Your training plan leading up to this event was what? No kidding? If you manage to finish this event, you can tell me how it went."

Counter-measure: If you find the chatter from other racers to be annoying or nerve-wracking, consider minimizing contact with others before the event. If you think someone is having a negative affect on you, replace their disturbing words with positive self-talk.

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The imaginary research crutch combined with displacement to others:

  • "Research has shown that it is best to ride 50 miles on the race course the day before the race. Certainly you know that, right? You have to check out the course and keep your legs loose, everybody knows that."
  • "I read a study that said doing 500 sit-ups every day for six months before a triathlon completely eliminates lower back pain. What? No sit ups for you? Oooh, too bad."

Counter-measure: Surround yourself with people that are calming and have a positive influence. Ignore any research about training directly before the event. There is nothing you can do about pre-race training now. Reassure yourself that your training plan was solid. You can investigate new research after your race.

Retail therapy:

  • Racer can be seen making multiple purchases online or at local stores intended for use on race day. In the worst cases, racers ordering online will pay exorbitant amounts for next-day delivery.
  • Anxiety acquired from seeing equipment owned and displayed by perceived fast racers will drive purchases by anxious racers at the pre-race expo or at local stores.

Counter-measure: Set a limit on pre-race spending. Unless your new purchase is absolutely necessary for race day, make an agreement with yourself to use new purchases in training before using them in a race.

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