Pre-Race Rituals and the Athletes Who Love Them

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Just like criminals, athletes and triathletes are a superstitious and cowardly lot. OK, maybe not cowardly, but certainly superstitious. Macca eats lasagna before every race. Some runners use the same pair of “lucky” socks for every race. Lebron James rides his bike to every home game. What reasons could they have to repeat the same behavior and think it has some possible outcome in their race/game?

Well, some studies actually show that the sense of routine and familiarity can affect an athlete’s state of mind and thus, their performance when game time or race time comes around. And of course, there is the Golden Rule of Triathlon: NEVER TRY NEW EQUIPMENT OR DO ANYTHING DIFFERENT ON RACE DAY. I remember when I first got into endurance sports, that was one of the first pieces of advice I was given. “Nothing new on race day.” The rule makes sense, too. You don’t want to try an untested pair of goggles for an ocean swim. You don’t want to try an untested pair of running or cycling shoes before a run/ride/tri. You certainly don’t want to try a new food/drink for fear of gut rot and GI issues. There is a great deal of common sense behind the golden rule.

I, on the other hand, have very little common sense.

I’m always willing to try new foods the weekend before a race. I used to eat 2 Clif Bars before every race. For the Redondo Beach Triathlon, I had a Honey Stinger Waffle when I woke up and a homemade chocolate-peanut-coconut rice cake from the Feed Zone Cookbook half an hour before start time. One pre-race ritual I used to subscribe to had me getting a haircut the week before a race. But alas, there I was, toeing the line at the Redondo Beach Triathlon with a full head of hair. I also used brand new cleats. And a pair of shoes I had never run barefoot in. And a new Triathlon LAB kit I hadn’t worn before. Certainly, this sounds like a recipe for disaster.

It wasn’t though. I beat my previous Redondo Beach Triathlon PR by 12 minutes. And I did it injury-free. And pain-free (Always a plus!) Needless to say, I was very pleased with my results. I guess sometimes it’s ok to ignore common sense.

What kind of pre-race rituals do you follow? If you’ve broken them, what was the result?


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