Race Day Tips
Plan ahead! Awake early enough to eat and
get yourself to the transition area at least 60 minutes before your wave
start. Bring a backpack large enough to hold your towel, wetsuit and
everything you’ll need. Plan to ride from the campsite 1-2 miles down to
the race site. If possible, unload your gear and ride back up the hill
in an easy effort. Check your bike one last time as you shift through
your gears. BYOTP (Bring Your Own Tire Pump - just in case). Dress very
warmly; bring gloves, as it can be quite cold early race morning. Arrive
to the swim start with enough time for a 5-minute warm-up swim. Plan
strategically to avoid getting cold before the start. A pre-race stretch
is suggested. Practice relaxation drills…visualize!
This is not a time to experiment
with new types of foods. Plan well for your pre-race meals, beginning 2
days prior. Absolutely avoid overeating! Stay away from spicy or
high-fiber meals. Your race day nutrition is critical and will vary
depending on whether you are racing long course or Olympic distance, as
well as how long it will take you to complete the course. Use only soft
foods, such as gels during the bike ride. If you prefer bars or fruit,
consume these early in the ride between 30 minutes and the midway point
for long course, or half ironman races. Sport drinks will also contain
calories. Your calories during the run should come from gels, sport
drinks and squeezed juice from fruit.
Avoid going over yours! This is
especially important for the long course, or half ironman athletes. Some
short course, or Olympic athletes will actually be racing at or
slightly above LT. By definition, LT is the intensity that can be
maintained for about one hour. Crossing the LT and becoming anaerobic
will require a period of metabolic recovery, which reduces efficiency
and quickly depletes glycogen stores. Proper pacing is the key. Ideally,
start the ride at a moderate pace as you climb from the lake and
gradually build your intensity throughout the course. The majority of
long course, or half ironman athletes will go out too fast only to fade
during the final 10-12 miles of the bike course.
This is often easier said than done.
There are two types of drafting: deliberate and unintentional. Be
familiar with the USA Tri rules. It’s not uncommon to be literally
consumed by large packs along the flat portion of the bike course. If
this happens to you, you have two options: 1) speed up your pace and
stay ahead of the pack, or 2) gradually and carefully slow down and let
the pack pass. The course is well marshaled and penalties will be
issued. Avoid falling into a competitive bike race as this will surely
zap your energy stores and leave you empty for the run.
Drink them! Most endurance athletes fail to
drink enough fluids during training and competition. Even the slightest
state of dehydration can result in a noticeable decrease in
performance. There’s no way to predict what the weather will be come
race day so you’ll want to prepare for the heat. The race organizers do
an excellent job in providing adequate aid so take advantage of the
stations along the bike and run courses. Take note of the conditions
early on the bike. If it feels warm at the onset, you can guarantee
things will certainly heat up later in the day. Begin drinking early and
continue hydrating throughout the race. There are different opinions on
whether we should consume water and sports drink, or sport drink only.
If you have experienced heat-related problems in the past, you must take
special precaution to prevent it from happening again. Long course, or
half ironman athletes will benefit from drinking more sports drink as it
contains important electrolytes as well as carbohydrate calories. Each
year, medical tents are full of athletes who simply don’t drink enough.
A little dab goes a long way… Remember
to use a non-petroleum base lubricant to prevent wetsuit chaffing, and
to make it easier to strip it off after the swim. Products that come in
“rub on” dispensers are clean and convenient. Other options include
spray cooking oils and tubes. Swipe a liberal glob of lubricant (this
can be petroleum-based) under the nose of your saddle before the race.
You will really appreciate this hidden treasure when your tri-suit
starts to dry a few hours into the bike ride. A quick finger wipe under
the saddle, followed by the appropriate distribution of the lubricant
can literally save your butt.
Make it a habit to periodically do a
quick inventory of your entire body. Begin with the head and continue to
scan down through every section of your finely tuned anatomical
machine. Pay special attention to areas that feel tight or constricted.
Those are the places that will likely become more problematic later in
the race. Learn how to relax while performing at race intensity. Shake
it off, stay loose and stay focused!
Watch…where you are going
Especially on the bike.
Most cycling mishaps are due to carelessness. Race courses are the
places to easily “cruise along.” They usually contains numerous
challenging hills with some dangerous descents. Add a few thousand other
competitors on the road and you have a recipe for disaster for those
who don’t pay attention. Communicate with other riders by warning them
when you are about to pass by yelling “on your right, or on your left!”
Avoid riding two or more abreast. Also watch where you are gong while
swimming. Although less dangerous than cycling, swimmers who practice
poor navigation skills will add yards and time to their swim.
Expect the “unexpected”
Even the most well
prepared tri-veterans can always discover new Gremlins once the gun goes
off. The key to overcoming these seemingly impossible barriers is to be
mentally prepared to accept anything. The truth is, the longer the
race, the more you’ll learn about yourself and how you deal with
unexpected circumstances. Visualize a “perfect” race, but leave a few
holes for surprises. Ironman legend, Dave Scott gives the best advice
when he tells us to “do the best you can in the present time.”
After the race. You’ve worked very hard
and laid it all out on the course. You cross the finish line and now
what? Too many triathletes will grab a cup of water and collapse on the
grass immediately after crossing the line. This is counter-productive to
the healing process. The body needs to be refueled and attended to
following any race effort. Keep drinking water and sport drink and keep
walking. Take a few minutes to stretch and if possible, seek a gentle
post race massage. I suggest a relaxing dip back where it all began. Eat
a small meal within 30-60 minutes (Include protein) after finishing and
continue to refuel throughout the afternoon. Avoid the temptation for a
victory beer until you are well hydrated.
Good luck and train smart!