On the weekend I paddled in a very well run ocean ski race the Makai Cup. The only thing that was tough was the fact the wind was blowing so good everyone wanted to get amongst as quick as they could. Here's the problem for most of the paddlers paddling in these races that last over an hour or more, they put themselves in the wrong spot at the start.
I'm not saying in anyway that those paddlers who don't cross the line first can't be right at the front, what I'm saying is that over an hour or more you can place yourself in the right spot on the line to help you relax. Sometimes just being on the side or just a little back from those trying to push the start may in fact make you relax more, the more relaxed you are on the start line the better you will race. Remember when you race you need to be able to think the whole race and be able to make changes all the time to make you go faster. When do you make the most mistakes? When your tired.
So when you go out to start in a race that has more then 100 people you must know your ability, then put yourself on the line around your standard of paddler. By doing this you will be calm and relaxed and you will find that you will get a better start because if your next to people way above your ability they will blow you away, leaving you in their rubbish water.
My tips to help you race better.
First and foremost, race as you train. If in training you like to be strong the whole way, then race like that adding 5-10%.
Warm up as you do every training session, if you take 10-15 minutes to warm up each session then you train well, then that's your warm up.
Fluids, if you use a mix of sports drinks at training then use them in racing, if you don't use them or gels don't use them in racing.
Most importantly believe in yourself back yourself and if you make a mistake throughout the race don't worry about it, make it right.
What I do before a race is I make sure I know where I'm going, the course and the traps in the race. On the weekend I went to a point and looked out to sea before the race started to see what the swell was doing. I make sure I set up my boat, paddle and drink bottle so all is working fine. I never leave this to the last minute, that makes me get to nervous. I like to have a chat with my fellow competitors as they are feeling the same stress as me, so if I can have a laugh it helps me to relax.
Then when I get on the water I warm up as I train, get in position and then try my best the whole way, I set 2-3 goals throughout the race to help me stay focused and get the most out of myself. When it's done I think about how I can improve and think how lucky I am that I was able to race with a 100 like minded people.
Thats what brings me back, plus the challenge of bettering myself.
If you get the chance book in next year the Makai Cup it's a great race as I said run by good people.
Checkout these picks of the race.
If you need help just ask. firstname.lastname@example.org