Whether you're superstitious or not, we all have our race day rituals. From wearing our lucky socks to rocking out to pump up jams to eating the right breakfast, these routines help us feel ready for anything as we toe the start line. But have you ever wondered how professional athletes prepare for competition? We did, so we asked a few of our elite athletes to share their rituals with us. We were happy to hear they still get nervous before a race, too!
In the days leading up to a big race I do 3 things: I paint my toenails, because it's likely the best they'll look for potentially a long time if it's a long race like a 100 miles, I eat gnocchi (doesn't have to be the night before, but in the few days leading up to the race), and I make sure I wear my lucky undies the day before. I don't really have a set routine, but in general I try to make sure I'm eating healthy the day or two prior trying to get in a healthy mix of carbs/proteins/fats often with something light the night prior like fish and rice, and carrying a water bottle around the couple of days prior filled with water and nuun to make sure I'm adequately hydrated. The day of I typically eat oatmeal or a bagel for breakfast and coffee. I try to stay off my feet, and visualize what could go right, rather than what could go wrong.
I guess the only ritual I have now for racing is sitting down the night before the race to write a letter to my future self about the race I want to have. It is usually a thought I want to be guided by or an approach I want to take. Other than that, I generally eat the same thing a night before the race: steak, salad and sweet potato!
amy and devon after western states 100
I always wake up 3 hours pre-race for key events. Get dressed. Make coffee; make oatmeal with honey and water and walnuts or almond milk if able and 1/2 banana. I drink 16 oz. of nuun active, ideally 2 hours prior to race so can "eliminate" prior to race. Then warm up one hour prior to race start (about 2 miles) adding strides, drills, continue to use bathroom and sip nuun active, start removing layers. Change into race flats and change my Feetures! socks for fresh pair. Drop bag, final layer, more strides, bathroom, sip nuun. Head to start.
1. The day before usually involves watermelon nuuns to stay hydrated; I've been carefully rationing my Kona Kola supply as well. I always have a Kona Kola with dinner (in lieu of a glass of wine) on special occasions -- pre race is always a special occasion!
2. I also race in a fresh pair of socks. I even keep the packaging on them until I put them in my transition bag. Fresh -- it feels good!
3. I bring a sharpie to write a note to only myself on the back of my race number. It has often been a Michael Franti song lyric or a simple reminder of those I love -- they tend to be who I think about when the going gets tough.
4. Race Day Morning Meditation. At least 10min. My favorite game changer. It's worth waking up (even earlier!) for.
5. 20min before the gun goes off on race morning, I always have an Espresso Love Gu gel. It makes me feel like I'm drinking my morning cup of coffee before a training day, yet provides a special caffeinated hit that reminds me: it's race day!
The night before my race, I like to drink a full water bottle with a nuun active to make sure that my body is as hydrated as possible overnight! Then the morning of the race, I have a big breakfast since we usually don’t race until 11:30 or noon. I’ll dissolve a nuun active and two nuun plus tablets in my drink belt, and sip on that all morning right up until I start. Before heading to the race venue, I always braid my hair to keep it up out of my face (and give my hands something to do when I’m nervous - the more nervous I am, the more complicated the braids get!). Then I put sparkles on my cheeks to remind myself that I race because I love it, and when I’m having fun is when I’m skiing the fastest.
Pentathlon (a sport that involves fencing, swimming, equestrian, running and shooting) requires a lot of different preparations when it comes to mental and physical aspects especially pre-race/ pre competition rituals and routines.
The night before, I always trying to make sure my bag is packed, organized, and ready for all of the events. I also make sure I have all of my snacks and of course my nuun tablets!! For each specific event, I have a warm up routine that I like to run through that helps activate my muscles through dynamic stretching as well as drills to get my brain and body firing together. I also try not to have a lucky pair of anything, in case it gets lost or broken, but I do have a pretty good nutrition routine that I try to stick to with snacks and supplements that I travel with to control one aspect of things.
I do get nervous, but I try to channel that nervous energy into my race and take it as excitement and adrenaline. I focus on what I can control and the job that I came out to do, and perform to my best ability. Keeping a positive mindset before each event helps me to stay excited and trust that all of my hard work and commitment will pay off when I come off the blocks, off the starting line, when I get on a horse, and for each fencing bout.
I can’t say I am a superstitious person when it comes to my pre-race rituals, but I do have a few key routines I do before most races. One of the most important routines I do is eat about 3-3.5 hours before a triathlon. My go to meal is oatmeal with peanut butter, berries and greek yogurt. When I travel to some foreign countries, this isn’t always possible. So I usually travel with oatmeal packets and peanut butter to ensure I have some control over what I eat. A unique ritual I do have is that I will always wear my Georgetown socks to warm up in. I completed my undergrad and master’s degree at Georgetown University and was a member of the track and field program. I am proud to be a Hoya and like to wear the “G” for good luck!
As an athlete living with type 1 diabetes, my first ritual is to check my blood glucose. I do this every single morning without fail, but I place an even greater importance on having my glucose levels in an optimum range when it’s race day. Next up, I take my insulin and consume breakfast (typically oatmeal, yogurt, a banana and Nuun ENERGY) preferably two hours before race start.
Next, I throw on my race kit so I can get out the door. This may sound carefree, but there is actually a whole process behind it including anti-chaffing lotion being a key component. You don't want busted feet or possibly getting cheered on by the crowd due to bloody nipples. How embarrassing! My most personal item is my blue bracelet. To me, it represents the blue circle of World Diabetes Day and therefore everyone living and affected by diabetes. It constantly reminds me to run for something bigger than myself and be grateful for my health and opportunities in life. Rituals done. Time to do work!
Two nights before bigger, goal races, I try to sleep as much as possible. Often the night before bigger races, I don't sleep great, so I find it important to try to get good sleep two nights before (and generally, the whole week before the race, too).
I try to keep my diet pretty clean, eating mostly whole foods, although an occasional cookie has been known to appear for dessert the night before my race. I know that some endurance athletes stay away from veggies the day or two before big races, as they say the potential for GI distress increases, but I typically eat a lot of veggies in my normal diet, so I do the same in the days leading up to the race, too. Since eating lots of veggies is what I'm used to, they don't do weird things to my stomach on race day; it's when I try to "carb-up" on processed carbs that my stomach gets wonky. Carbing-up on veggies and quinoa, and maybe adding a bit of meat, the night before a race works great for me.
On race morning, I usually eat a simple breakfast about 2-3 hours before the race starts. Something like a banana with nut butter and a bottle of Nuun works well for me, trying to get 200-300 calories, depending on race distance. I'll keep hydrating with water and Nuun until race time, and then about 5-10 minutes before the start, I'll eat a gel to help give me a boost in the opening miles (and depending on race distance, it might last me the entire race).
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