Nicola Gildersleeve: The Pressure Cooker

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Pressure Cooker

By Nicola Gildersleeve

Recently a friend of mine, who had an upcoming 100km race, and is a newly sponsored athlete, was fretting aboutthe pressure she was feeling about placing in the event. Never before had she ever felt intimidated by the competition and was worried about letting her sponsors down if she performed poorly. 

I have been a sponsored athlete for over 5 years and have raced in dozens of races. I completely understand what she’s feeling and the nervousness and anxiety that surrounds performance. In fact, it’s the one aspect about racing that I enjoy the least. However, I love to run and I enjoy doing races, and so I have worked hard over the years to ensure that these experiences stay fun and not become a source of stress. Luckily, I have never felt any pressure from my sponsors to perform well.

Below are a few tips to help ease some of that pre-race pressure:

  • Remind yourself why you run. I think a small population truly run to win and if you do great, you probably don’t suffer from racing anxiety as others do. For me, I run because I love it and it makes me feel confident, healthy, and powerful. No matter what, I know I am always going to get out there and put my best foot forward. If that means I win, then awesome, but if I don’t, I know I will be happy as long as I ran my best on the day  2.
  • Try not to stress about who you are competing against. I’ll admit it, before any race, important or not, I always look at who is racing. Sometimes this fires me up and sometimes it flat out just makes me nervous and adds to the pressure I feel before an event. Imagine that you are going out to run with friends and how they will push you to run better instead of worrying that they are better or faster than you.
  • The fear of not wanting disappoint your sponsors is all in your head. Most often than not it’s you putting pressureon yourself to perform, notyour sponsors. They sponsor you because they believe in you as an athlete and the positive way you represent the brand, not just what podium spot you come in. This point can also apply to anyone who races, not just sponsored athletes. Perhaps you don’t want to let down but a loved one, family member, training partner or yourself. Remember that all these people will be proud of you no matter what your result.
  • I often feel the most stressed a few weeks out from a big race when I am tired from a peak week of training. Iforget how fresh I am going to feel on race day and wonder how I am ever going to run hard when my body is so tired. Remind yourself how good it feels to race on fresh/tapered legs.

I hope this helps you relieve some of that pre-race pressure/anxiety. See you in the trails!

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