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Angela Naeth’s tips for minimizing stress on race day


If you’re anything like me, sometimes race day arrives before you know it. Even when you think you have everything organized, you’ve got a plan set in place and you’re mentally ready, the stress you experience can lead you to forget something.

This happened to me once at Ironman 70.3 Hawaii a couple years ago. I woke up, ready to have a great race. My husband and I drove to race start from our hotel. I headed toward my bike to get setup when I realized I had forgotten my cycling shoes.

I had prepared for the race and come all that way. I had a rush of anxiety, but decided that no matter what I was going to race, it was just a matter of if I’d have cycling shoes or would be wearing my run shoes on my bike!

When the body is under stress, our cortisol levels increase which leads to increased heart rate and our thinking becomes clouded as adrenaline rises. This happens naturally before races (pre-race jitters) but adding extra stress on top of this, is definitely not ideal for a great performance. After my lesson of forgetting my shoes (in the end, my husband had managed to leave a nice pair of white Shimano cycling shoes sitting for me at transition), I decided that I needed to have a better system for preventing this from happening again.

No matter how solid your pre-race plan is, forgetfulness happens when anxiety is high. To help you minimize it so you can perform your best, here are some tips.

Plan your morning. Write an itinerary beginning from race start time and work you way backward. It’s much easier to designate specific time frames for the morning when you base it around your race start and time you have to be at transition.

  • Make a designated spot for all race gear. Keep all gear in one area of the room and lay out swim/bike/run prior to race day and check-in. Keeping things together will make it easier to gather everything race morning!
  • Set two alarm clocks and give yourself an extra 20 minutes. Not only will this help you stay calm, but it’s a good idea in case of unforeseen traffic getting to the race.
  • Pack your race bag (tip: make it one big bag instead of several small bags) with everything you need — fuel, race gear, extra clothes, etc.  If everything is in one bag there’s less chance of missing anything when heading out the door race morning.
  • Make a list and check it twice before you leave. It should include everything you need for race day and traveling. It helps for the little things needed like an extra gel or chafe cream.
  • Know the course. Take a day or two to familiarize yourself with the course. It will make race day feel like your old stomping grounds.