Caz Kay competes all over Europe for Great Britain in triathlon and duathlon events. Here she shares her tips for feeling mentally ready for race day.
‘I’ve found that if you go into a race with excuses under your belt, you won’t always perform at your best. Excuses can lead to staying in your running comfort zone and not being as mentally strong during the race when things get tough. It’s very easy to take your foot off the gas during a race when it becomes hard work and fill yourself with excuses. One I’ve used before is ‘I’ve not rested/tapered before this race so I can’t possibly run any faster’.
Mental strength during a race and self-belief definitely can improve your performance and push you harder to the finish line. For me, this is where all the physical prep and pre-race rituals come in beforehand to make sure I’m at the start line full of confidence in my own ability, minimising the excuses setting in.
Top tips for race day prep:
It’s really important to know that you’ve done the training. This will lead to more confidence and self-belief during the race, especially when things get tough.
Good sleep the night before the race and two nights before are really important. If you wake up washed out and low in energy this is not a good start. Any parent will know that a decent nights sleep isn’t always possible. With two children, I’ve done many races feeling low at the start line due to lack of sleep!
Depending on the race distance, a bit of a taper in the few days leading up to the race is important to make sure your legs are feeling fresh at the start line. If you start the race tired, you will mentally give up a lot earlier and will struggle physically. Everyone tapers differently before a race. In October, I did 7 races in 8 weeks. Including a marathon, half-iron man, duathlon, and three tough fell races. So by the 7th race, I had no mental strength as I believed I was too tired to be racing so I stayed within my comfort zone. Before the marathon, I had raced the 4 weekends previously. It was pure torture from 18 miles on because I had not rested beforehand.
Getting my pre-race nutrition right does help me to feel more energised and fresh on race day, and mentally more up for the race. I always make sure that I have a carbohydrate energy drink the day before. This can be consumed as part of your carbohydrate loading strategy in the days and hours prior to your training or race. I don’t really carb load as such but I do make an effort, the day before, to take carbs on board little and often. I’ll normally have a risotto for tea. The idea is to try and get your glycogen stores to the max, especially for long distance events.
- Sports Massage / foam roller / hot bath / skins
I have a monthly sports massage at Katie Bell Physiotherapy and Wellness and tend to book these in before and after a race. These are great for my mental preparation as I then believe that my body is ready and any muscle tension has been taken care of. They are great for relaxation and well-being, stretching the muscles out, getting rid of lactic acid, increasing blood flow, and helping with recovery. In addition, I use my foam roller at home a few times a week, with specific exercises given by my practitioner. I also like to have a hot bath with magnesium salts to relax my muscles and prevent cramp. I do this weekly but always the night before a race. I follow this routine by wearing my Skins Compression tights which can help to reduce any swelling and discomfort in your legs by increasing muscle oxygenation. In fact, I wear my Skins quite a lot after exercise.
- Minimise on the day stress to reduce anxiety
Arrive at the venue early to reduce stress of traffic/lack of parking / having to walk to event HQ etc. If you get to the start line flustered with no time to warm-up or go to the toilet, then this is not great mentally.
I often start a race with nerves and anxiety, even with the best preparation but once I start, I’m fine. So when you’re off, and all your rituals have been followed, and excuses minimised then it’s time to get tough mentally. I do a lot of self-talk. ‘Pain is temporary’ is a favourite and also ‘shut up legs’, and ‘no regrets’. I also imagine what it feels like at the finish line and what I am going to eat and drink afterwards. I think of certain role models and think how they would be coping right now. I also look at the mileage left and try to break it down, so I’ll tell myself ‘it’s just a parkrun now to the finish’, or ‘1 mile to go, less than 7 mins come on!’.
So there you go, some pre-race rituals that I follow to help with my mental preparation and help me get to the finish line.’
Caz is sponsored by Katie Bell Physiotherapy and Wellness. She’s a regular in clinic. If you’d like more information about nutrition, setting goals with a Pilate’s instructor or physiotherapist contact the Client Care team on 0114 327 2080. And don’t forget our Charity run on the 7th May – perfect for practicing some of these techniques!