How to prepare for your first National Representation
Representing your country at an age group or elite level in an international event is a real honour and achievement in it’s own right. It helps us race for something bigger than ourselves and the levels of camaraderie are second to none. However, with a representation, comes significantly higher pressure, expectation and harder racing. There are a few good rules to follow to help you get the most out of your exciting race without being overwhelmed by the experience and as a result, you will get so much more out your event than those who don’t follow these rules.
1) Focus on your own race.
People will qualify at different levels and at different events. Worrying about anyone else other than yourself and your own goals in s a waste of energy. Focus on what is coming ahead of you and not on what others may or may not have done.
2) Check out but don’t be intimidated by others’ legs and chiselled bodies.
No matter how impressive people look before the race: in various stages of undress/Lycra/or poses, you qualified and earned your place there. In our experience, the way someone looks (as perceived by you) is no indication of how they will perform and certainly an indicator that they will certainly out perform you. In all honesty they are probably thinking the same about you!!!
3) This race is faster than other races you have done
To qualify for this event you have probably been on the podium of your age group, are used to being within the top 10-15% of your age group and, due to the numbers, traditionally been near the front of every race you do. No matter what you did to get to the start line, recognise that you are no longer unique or special or that much faster. You are now average. The sooner you realise this, the better and easier it is to come to terms with the fact that, by the nature of the event, you have just become a mid-pack athlete at this race. Why is this useful. Well the minute you understand this, then you have every opportunity to not let the spectacle phase you and you can race with your brain rather than emotionally or be frustrated by the fact you are no longer near the front of the race!
4) Racing in a big championship event is stressful.
There is an additional buzz in the atmosphere. Think back to how you felt at your first race...that is how you will feel again when you get to the race venue. Allow for this extra stress and give yourself more time and be kinder on yourself in the lead up to the event. Even the very fact you can see a race welcome sign may be enough to raise your heart rate. Therefore, you may need to do a little less training and relax a little more than you may have thought.
5) Find where you will eat before you go.
It is critical that you stay on top of your nutrition when you are travelling. Planning ahead and recognising that potentially the whole world or continent will be joining you means that you really should try and get yourself booked into your first choice restaurant in advance.
6) Make sure you are confident travelling with your bike.
For some of you, this may be the first time you have travelled with your bike. Make sure you are comfortable with it and you can put it together. Make sure you have some basic spares (e.g. outer tubes and inner tubes) as well as the right lubricants for the conditions in your luggage and know where the nearest bike shop is should things not quite go to plan.
7) don’t worry about your friends and family.
This is one time you really need to be selfish: by all means have a support team. However, don’t let them distract or hinder you. Leave them to sort themselves out and then you can focus on your own needs. Be very clear when you specifically need them in key places and the leave them to it! You can’t and shouldn’t babysit them too. You have a championship race to prepare for!
8) Manage your expectations.
If you are doing your first race and you have lofty ambitions then it may be time to manage the expectations. Few athletes compete really well in their first big race. Most learn so much that it is their second or third race which they can put their learning points into practice. By removing that pressure you immediately get a load of your shoulders and you can enjoy the experience – trust us you will learn so much more that way round!
Finally, enjoy the experience. Put your national kit on for the first time if it is national kit; or relish the experience if it is a branded Championship. Somewhere there is someone like you who will be inspired to try and do the same and you are their inspiration.
Remember you earned your place and however you perform, enjoy it!!