Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pre-Race Neurosis

A friend recently sent me an article from a triathlon website about pre-race neurosis. Here it is:

The only one that I have on that particular list is packing clothing for every possible weather contingency. But that's to be expected in Germany, where the weather changes every five minutes. If I lived in a place like San Diego, which has one type of weather, I wouldn't have to pack so much. My race bag is packed with: my wallet, my keys, a bottle of diluted Gatorade, a Power Bar or two for after the race, sandals (if the race is long), a spare pair of shoes and socks, a dry Jogbra for after the race, a long-sleeved shirt, a short-sleeved shirt/singlet or two, tights, and a pair of capris. I usually wear tights with shorts underneath to the race as well as the shirt that I plan to wear in the race with a long-sleeved shirt over it. If rain is in the forecast, I'll also pack my rain suit to wear after the race. It looks like I'm going away for a week instead of for just a few hours!

But I have other race-related rituals that border on obsessive compulsive behavior to a non-runner. Some of them include:

When I race I must wear something black, which is a color that's perceived (by me at least) as "tough." It started with my first half-marathon in 1991, where I wore a black t-shirt. It gave me the extra mental toughness that I needed for the race. Over the years I've worn black shirts, shorts, tights, Jogbras, and even hair scrunchies. I own several pairs of black shorts so that I'll always have a clean pair for race day. My capris (good for fall races when it's too warm for tights but too cold for shorts) are also black. All of my tights, except for one pair, are black.

I have certain music that I listen to on the way to a race when I drive. When I had a tape player in my car, I listened to an Antonello Venditti tape. He was a popular singer in Italy in the 1970s and 1980s. Continuing the Italian music theme, I listen to Eros Ramazotti's "9" CD in the car while driving to a race. I've been listening to that CD before races for the past five years or so. When a friend drives, I either don't listen to any music or listen to whatever my friend has on the radio, CD player, or iPod.

Before races I have a nervous bladder. When I use a Porta-Potty at the race site, I get back into the potty line right after "taking care of business." I'll do this until about 15-20 minutes before the race starts. That gives me enough time to do my pre-race stretches and get into a racing frame of mind. German races tend not to have Porta-Potties along the route. The only German race where I saw a couple of Porta-Potties on the course was the Munich Marathon.

Early arrival at the race site is very important to me. I need to ensure that I have plenty of time to get my number, use the toilet, warm up, and get mentally prepared. I tend to go into my own world at a race and use my pre-race rituals to get me in the right frame of mind. I usually don't like to talk to other people before the race because I want to get myself focused on the task at hand.

Like a lot of other runners, I have pre-race nightmares. The themes usually involve: getting lost on the race course, being dead last by a lot, not making it to the starting line on time, not knowing where the race is, or wearing inappropriate clothing. When I have those nightmares, I know that I'll do well.

I'll be running the Muenchener Stadtlauf (Munich City Run) half-marathon on 27 June and will do all of the above rituals. Hopefully they'll lead to a successful performance.

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