I just got back from working with one of my clients that has a race next week. This was her last hard workout before the race: hills! My favorite!
This client and I have been working together since December, so I've gotten to know her quite well. She has come so far since then, it's been really awesome to watch. Not only just the progress she's made in her running, but in her confidence. It's been great.
Even with all her confidence, though, she still has some serious anxiety about things. She gets quite nervous before our hard workouts, and even more so before her races. I know this is pretty common among all athletes, but some people have more trouble than others.
I think one of the best ways to deal with nerves is to visualize your steps before race day. Mentally going through the motions of getting up, getting dressed, eating, getting to the race, warming up, etc., can really set your nerves to rest. Because when you actually get to race day and the start line, it's almost like you've already done it. It doesn't feel foreign.
I also recommend checking out the race site and route before the actual race. I know this isn't always possible to do physically in person. But if you can check out a race route, either in person or online, before the actual race, you have a better idea of what to expect come race day. Here's a training tip: do this in the beginning of your training, if possible. That way you can develop your training plan around your route. Have a hilly route? Do some hill training. No tree cover on the route? Be sure you train out in the open of the sun so you can get used to it. You get the idea.
I think that, ultimately, you have to tell yourself that you're ready. You've done the training and put in the work. You have to be confident in that. Tell yourself over and over that you've done the work, you're ready, and this is the prize. Getting through the training, waking up early, eating well, etc., that's the hard part. The race is easy.
How do you deal with nerves before a race? Feel free to comment or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll share your thoughts.