I had a message from a client today, 1 week out from their A race of the year, and it was panic stations: A sudden niggle, feeling sluggish, worried about getting ill, panicking about the race…. it’s a situation that might feel familiar to many, and I’ve certainly been that person before.
So, if you’re starting to feel the pre race panic and think that new pain in your leg is a sudden stress fracture – don’t worry!!
Twinges and those little aches you are feeling are all part of the body's rejuvenation process during the reduced volume of the taper period. During a taper, tissue repair on the microscopic level causes muscle twitches and sometimes cramps as the body adapts. Also, as the training reduces and the race gets nearer everyday aches and pains that you would normally ignore become significant and you focus in on them. So try just thinking of each little pain as a sign that your body is healing itself from your training and preparing you for your race.
If you are feeling like you’ve got really heavy legs and sluggish in your sessions, again, don’t worry this is all part of taper! It's the tissues repairing coupled with doing less training so you'll be storing more carbohydrate and thus water, so you'll feel heavier and well, like a slug, but that's normal and come race day the extra carbohydrate stores and water weight will be beneficial and help you get through the race, and your legs will be fresh and fully regenerated.
Panicking about the race often stems from fear of the unknown if you’re a beginner or lack of confidence – so do what you can to mitigate this: read the race guide, recce the course (or learn the race map in your head), look at your training log to see all the training you’ve done and remind yourself you have done the hard work and are capable of doing the race. Also, accept that during the race there will be times when you feel really tired and might struggle, as long as you are prepared for this, when it comes you know that you were expecting it and can manage it better.
Finally, feeling nervous is no bad thing – as long as you control those nerves. After 20 years of racing I still get nervous, if I wasn’t nervous that would be weird, so now I embrace the nerves as they signal that I’m ready to race. So ifyou are feeling those butterflies in your stomach don’t get wound up about them, smile, and say to yourself ‘bring on race day, I’m ready’.
So to sum up, take a few deep breathes, everything you are feeling is perfectly natural - think of it as your body priming itself to race, go with it but don't let it get the better of you.
You are going to be fine!