Whether it’s your first race, your A race, or a big race, I’d like to share some reminders that will take you beyond the metrics and help keep you relaxed and confident going into your race.  The goal is to always perform at your best, and with these ideas in mind, you will have plenty of tools to utilize outside of the metrics that we tend to fall back on to determine how we are doing during a race.

1. I do not recommend looking at the athlete list. You might get deflated before you even toe the line. Seeing a competitor on the start list can trigger unnecessary thinking.  It’s mentally tough and a waste of energy to be concerned with who shows up. Just don’t look. You need to do your race with confidence.

2. Don’t over-analyze the race before you even start. Make time to go over your race plan, recon the course and prep your race day but after that, read a book or do a little Netflix binge. Take your mind off of the race.

3. Be flexible about your race plan.  Have a plan, and then a backup plan and another plan. I see a lot of anger and frustration at big races over the small stuff. If you forgot your nutrition, what’s Plan B? If you forgot to charge your Garmin, what’s Plan B? You forgot to calibrate your power meter and it’s way off, what’s Plan B? There’s typically a solution to every situation. Be confident that no matter the circumstances you can still race – even if it’s on Plan B or C.  No matter what, you still need to swim, pedal your bike and go for a run, and you can do it without the fancy tech. You can still execute an amazing day. 

4. The athletes I coach know that we have a metric plan and we have an overall plan. The metric plan can have a little variation and its not pinpointed to an exact wattage but a range. It’s also very important to know how your body is doing. RPE, the overall plan is your pilot and even the pilot needs to monitor fuel, ground speed, altimeter, etc. Regardless, no matter what happens the pilot has to instinctively know how to fly and land the plane. So don’t get stuck on one metric especially if you are feeling off. But be aware of all your systems. 

5. I know you didn’t look at the start list, but you learned that a rival will be there or you saw him/her warming up. Racing that athlete can keep you in the game. Racing will keep you sharp and focused. Sometimes it takes a friendly competition to pull yourself to another level. This excitement will keep you at the higher end of your capabilities. Know what you can do, don’t waste time in T1, don’t waste opportunities coasting down that hill. Racing makes the pain more of a friendly reminder that you are in the game!

6. Where does your confidence come from? Is it that special workout you did? Is it that you managed to beat a rival or improve your position in the last race? A personal best? Is it that you stuck to your training plan really well and you feel fitter and faster? When the pre-race doubts are rolling around your mind, think back to those efforts that drive your confidence. It won’t let you down. 

7. Lastly, we have no control over the outcome and the results of our races. We like to think we do, but the only thing we have control over is how well and how hard we are going to work that day and at that very moment. I know you know this, but believe it!

When undo pressure such as:

  • I have to qualify.
  • I have to get a personal best.
  • I have to beat these people.
  • My friends or my family flew all this way to see me.  

start to spin in your mind, shake them, they are unproductive.  If you break down your racing into simple parts:

  • I am going to execute “my plan”.  
  • I am going to compete to the best of my ability from the first buoy to the finish line.


That is all that matters.  Those are the thoughts that will lead to a lot less mental and emotional stress from having to perform before the gun even goes off. It is very freeing!

A good, practical example of how using some or all of these tips can help you actually played out with an athlete that I coach during a recent Ironman event. His bike was destroyed during his travels to the race. He had to borrow a bike to race. Using tips #3, 6 and #7, he was able to successfully start the race and guess what happened? He qualified for the Ironman World Championships race this October.

The take-away is you have to do your best with what you have on that day.
The more you can clear your mind and the less pressure you put on yourself, the better your race.

Coach Jim Hallberg is a USA Triathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Certified Coach and Training Peaks Level 2 Certified Coach. He believes that every one of us has the capacity to improve our efficiency, get stronger and run, bike or swim faster. Sure, it takes time, dedication and discipline but it’s possible. Working with an experienced coach can make sure that your efforts are targeted in the right areas to make sure you reach those goals!


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