How can you truly explain racing nerves.... if you are reading this and have NO IDEA what I'm talking about - then you are a newbie. If you read the title and you are an athlete, you just received a jolt of electricity, a flash-back sensation that includes a flutter in your lower belly, a slight chill over your skin, or possibly your heart just accelerated mock speed to about 170 BPM.
Yes. That is just a few of the sensations experienced the morning of (to days leading into) the "event." Other familiar sensations which consume the mind and body can wreak havoc taking grown, well trained athletes to the brink of being so fragile, that tempers flair with a small bump or leave an athlete in tears.
In many cases the racing distance does make the difference on the sensations one feels. Did you wake up a month ago and decide to train for a 5k? Well, this has a totally different response than what an ultra-endurance athlete may experience. They woke up a year ago and decided to do an event a year away. A year. Think about all the things you can accomplish in a year; some masters degree programs are a year long. But rather than earn that advanced degree - you've chosen to train for hours on end, spend more money on clothes, gear, food, massages (and no - these are not the 'feel good kind"), coaching, race fees, and possibly marital counseling (JK on that last one).
But really, race nerves are a thing that everyone experiences - and they are very different for each person. It seems so odd; doing an event is something we have volunteered to do - so why do they happen?
30 years of doing this type of sport and there are many reasons for it. I think the top ones for me were always anticipation, expectation, but then there are the doubts. Even after COUNTLESS miles of training, my husband said this just before doing his 8th Ironman, “I get to this point, today… and shit, did I forget something? Why does my back hurt? Why does my shoulder bug me? Am I really ready for this?” Why would we do this to ourselves? I ask him that question, and what he said should ring home to all of us. He said, “What I have to REMEMBER is what I enjoy about this most is the journey getting here.”
So, if you are wondering - wonder no more. Will you be anxious, nervous, forgetful… probably. But just know that you will not be alone. You and others will all look and feel the same on the “morning of”; staring off in space… looking either like they are about to implode or scream. Events are about the journey… every sweaty, stressful, anxious, happy, joyous moment. Everyone has their own story to write, everyone's race is unique. Enjoy the whole thing, race nerves and all.