Race Tips from Olympian Sarah Haskins

By Makenna Seghers | Aug. 02, 2017, 3:11 p.m. (ET)

usa triathlon youth & junior national championships

USA Triathlon Youth & Juniors Nationals are quickly approaching. With less than a week out, and knowing that nerves will be nagging on most all of us at some point over the racing weekend, I got to talking to Olympian Sarah Haskins to see if she has any tips for settling the nerves and competing at your best. Here is what she had to say.

Sarah says there are many different factors that lead up to a racer becoming nervous, but that “being nervous is not a bad thing.” She says that a lot of being nervous comes from “adrenaline on race day that you don't have in practice. … [Though nerves are good] sometimes you can fall into a zone of being overly nervous, and to be overly nervous can actually be a detriment to your performance.”

She recommends following a set routine the day and morning before the race to help you feel more prepared and calmer. Examples of this of this can be the same dinner you've had for previous races, as well as breakfast that you’ve eaten before another race. You can also try to keep your warm-up for race day the same but remember to adapt if you can’t because all race sites are different from one another. I find by keeping to a similar routine for every race takes off a lot of stress because you know what you need to be doing without worrying or thinking too much about what you will be doing next.

sarah haskins at pan american games

Haskins also brings up how envisioning the race or parts of the race can also help you compete better. This is by helping focus in on specific aspects of the race and how you will approach them. Sarah brought up that she likes to envision her transitions the day of race morning because not all race sites have transition set up the day before. The more technical parts of her race she prefers visualizing the week leading up. Visualization is a great way to calm your pre-race jitters the night before a race. Focus on deep breathing and relaxing as you think through the race and how you plan it to go. Another thing to go even deeper into visualizing your race is to write down how you want your race to go, and if there are any technical parts, how you will approach them and what strategies you have. This is a great way to help think through all the small details of the race, as well as it can help you feel more prepared and ready to race.

As race morning comes, Sarah says to keep moving and having positive thoughts and mantras. I as well find it very helpful to keep positive quotes and mantras as part of your race morning thoughts as it lets you relax and have a positive mindset going into the race. Sarah says that her mantra before the race is “breathe, calm and strong.” One of the mantras I learned for transitions from Sarah’s husband Nate is that “slow can be faster.” This means don't start panicking if your helmet strap doesn't buckle the first time, slow yourself down because it can become faster to get it on on the next try then to keep missing because you have started to become jittery or tense.

I’ve known Sarah for several years and have gotten many good lessons from her, but in my opinion, one of the most impactful ones was that if a part of the race doesn't go how you planned, just keep going and giving 100 percent. Triathlon is a sport where you must be able to adapt to any given situation and keep going strong because it is always changing throughout the race. Every race is different, no matter how many times you have raced it. Keep an open mind, take a deep breath and just give it your all. Nervousness can be a good thing so remember to embrace it.

Want to learn more about the 2017 USA Triathlon Youth & Junior National Championships in West Chester, Ohio? Find event coverage at usatriathlon.org/usatjr17coverage.