3 Steps to Racing Success

I'm gearing up for my biggest race of the season, at one of the biggest meets in the nation - the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invite at Stanford on Sunday, May 1. I'll be running the 10k and going after a USA Outdoor Nationals qualifying standard. Many athletes at this meet have even greater aspirations; runners will be chasing Olympic qualifying standards - May 1 marks the opening qualifying window for the 2012 Olympics.

Year in and year out, American records are set at Payton Jordan. Last year, Chris Solinsky broke the American record in the 10k (check out the finish - you'll get chills: http://www.flotrack.org/article/6039-Stanford-Rewind-Solinsky-2010). In 2008, as I warmed up for Heat 2 of the Women's 10K, I watched Shalane Flanagan set an American record in Heat 1 (http://www.flotrack.org/article/6049-Stanford-Rewind-Shalane-2008). This year, she and current 5K American record-holder Molly Huddle will battle it out in the first heat. Meanwhile, I'll be in Heat 2 hoping to break 34:00 minutes and punch my ticket to Eugene, Oregon for USA's in June.

How do you prepare for a big race like this? With the pressure of running a qualifying time, I've spent this week focusing on calming my nerves and getting excited about the opportunity before me.
Here's my 3-step preparation process. If you have a big race coming up, try these tips!

3 Steps to Racing Success
1) Relax
Take some time to relax and rest - you've got a monster effort ahead of you! Do some yoga, take a nap... or my personal favorite: read a magazine while sipping Chai tea. It'll take your mind off any pre-race anxiety.
Also, find some downtime; if possible, take a day off work. I spent last weekend and part of this week in Ohio, relaxing with my boyfriend. Nothing like a weekend getaway to leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated before the big race.

2) Review your training
I take confidence in looking back at my training logs and seeing what I've accomplished over the past few weeks. Reviewing successful workouts and re-reading training log entries reminds me that I've put in all the work and am fully prepared for a successful race. You've practiced race pace and gone through "dress rehearsal" workouts -- remember how you felt during those hard efforts and know that you're ready to replicate them in a race setting.

3) Play your own personal sports highlight reel
From my personal sports highlight reel
My high school swim coach, Pete Motekaitis, introduced me to this mental preparation technique. Before the end-of-season championships, Pete would have each swimmer compile a list of our top 10 athletic moments. They didn't all have to be swimming-related - they could include the first goal you ever scored while playing youth soccer, or the pride you felt when the audience applauded at the conclusion of your big ballet recital. Pete instructed me and my fellow Davis High swimmers to close our eyes, turn on our favorite pre-race playlist, and in our minds relive our 10 greatest athletic moments.
Similar to reviewing your training log, playing your sports highlight reel reminds you of your ability to succeed and achieve your goals. These images of success not only build your confidence but can get you pretty pumped up as well! 

With just about 24 hours until my big race (the gun goes off at 11:05 pm Sunday), I've been reliving my athletic highlights. They include:
--Playing goalie in youth soccer and blocking a penalty kick
--Winning the 13-14 age group High Point Award at the Quincy Swim Meet
--Winning the high school XC team Section Championship title 3 years in a row
--Qualifying for NCAA XC Nationals by placing 16th at the 2008 West Regional
--Winning the Brutus Hamilton 5K in 2009, winning by 30 seconds and running a big PR (16:25)
With my brother Brendan, as both DHS boys and girls XC teams won SJS Section Titles in 2004

When the going gets tough tomorrow night, as it inevitably will, I'll think back to some of my top athletic moments and remember what success feels like. Here's to hoping for an A standard tomorrow at Payton Jordan, and for some great races for my NBSV teammates, former Aggie teammates, and current USF track stars! :)