I am 6 weeks away from the CX season. Training has been great and feeling strong with improved skills. BUT I have always struggled with race jitters where my legs suddenly feel like lead in the race, no matter what warm up I’ve done, and underperform. I also get really nervous about the race beforehand. Any suggestions to help me through this?
FtFP so #1 you have the confidence when you toe the start line. Train your ass off, work really hard and get faster. When you bring that confidence to your race you will find it exhilarating.
#2 Getting the jitters means you care and are natural. I suggest developing a “race day routine” - literally script out the 4-6 hours before the race down to the minute: wake up > eat, drive to race, get number, warm up > goto staging area. Sounds corny but really helps with nervous energy.
#3 Once the race begins thee is no such thing as nervous energy causing your legs to feel like lead - that’s something different, but not nerves.
In this case you want to look at your warm up protocol and if if was good enough, when it ended, and if that’s good - maybe you are starting TOO hard and that lead feeling is just from ‘over-starting’ going out too hard and then you are ‘blowing up’
I think I could go on but I’ll let others share what they do to calm the nerves. One final suggestion is to do a training race or two whether it be mid-week or the weekend with little to no pressure to work thru your nerves. I’m always my most nervous for the first race of the season and then it gets better after that - a little less each week.
Hope that helps !!!
I can relate to what you’re saying 100%. The lead leg feeling is exactly the way I describe how I feel to people when a race starts. I even have the problem in other instances. Doing a group road ride if we’re approaching a hill or strava segment where I know it’ll be a mini race, as we’re approaching the segment my legs start to get heavy feeling even though I’m not tired at that point. It happens to me sometimes on the trainer too, before I do a race in zwift or even intervals I want to complete at 100% and I’m nervous I won’t.
I think this year I’ve had that feeling less at races and I do most of my rides 95% of the time solo. I’ve done less then 5 rides with anyone else and I’ve been the stronger rider when riding with others, so I didn’t feel a pressure to compete with stronger guys. So I just haven’t been in group situations this year to see if I’m just mentally getting better with the nervousness.
As Frank mentioned with the race day routine, I think I’ve gotten more of a routine down before the race I didn’t have before. I sometimes fell prey to not warming up barely because I wanted to save my energy. This year at all my races I’ve done at least a 20-30 mins warmup and tried to get it close to the race start. Maybe that has helped a lot more then I realized.
Overall, what you described sounded so much like what I experience though. I wish I had better answers but I wanted you to realize you’re not the only one training hard and then feeling the same way on race day.
I’ll counter with a question. Is it really the “lead leg” feeling or is it the feeling we all tend to feel at the start of a 'cross race. Cross starts are hard and most people are hurting for the first couple of laps. The mentally and physically fit riders get through the pain and then settle in for the remainder of the race. Everyone gets nervous…which is why there are so many port-o-potties at bike races! My suggestion is to get a solid race day schedule planned out, do your best to stick with it and be a bit nervous until the start whistle blows. Once the race starts, the jitters fade away because you are hyper-focused on the race and you know everyone is in the same amount of pain as you!