by Coach Alison Freeman
You’ve been training for weeks and weeks, and the big day is finally just around the corner! Here are some tips to help with race day … starting a few days ahead of time.
One Week Before the Race
– Stay on top of your hydration levels from now all the way until race day.
– Trust your training! You’ve worked hard to prepare for the race, and at this point you’re not going to add any fitness that will benefit you on race day. Resist the urge to squeeze in an extra / long workout and just rest up for race day.
– Check your bike over to ensure that key components – tires, brakes, and shifters in particular – are functioning properly. If you come upon some items in need of repair, or don’t feel comfortable doing the assessment yourself, your local bike shop is typically happy to help! They may need to keep your bike for a day or two, so make sure to head there earlier in the week rather than later.
– Review the USAT Race Day Checklist – download here – and confirm that you have everything you need for race day. If not, now’s the time to go get it!
Two Days Before the Race
– Don’t do anything too strenuous – no big hikes, re-landscaping your yard, cleaning out the basement, etc. Just rest!
– Get a good night’s sleep! This night is actually more important than the night before the race.
The Day Before the Race
– Stay off your feet and out of the sun as much as possible. Rest, rest, rest!
– If available, pick up your race packet today rather than waiting for race morning. Review everything in the packet and make sure you know what it’s all used for.
– Referencing the USAT Race Day Checklist, pack all your gear for race day – a duffel bag or milk crate works well for packing. If you have them, put your race numbers on your bike, helmet, and t-shirt / race belt. Lay out your clothing for race morning.
– Review the race course and other provided race information, particularly the race start time, swim waves, and when transition will close pre-race.
– Create a schedule for race morning (see below). Prep your breakfast ahead of time.
– Eat some good carbs throughout the day, but eat a moderate sized dinner.
– Pump up your tires.
– Go to sleep early, but don’t panic if you don’t sleep well. That’s normal! And why you got a good night’s sleep two nights before the race.
– Eat a nice breakfast, ideally 3 hours before race start: carbs and a little protein is perfect.
– Leave for the race in time to arrive at the race site approximately 90 minutes before race start. Even earlier if you need to search for parking and/or pick up your race packet.
– Park, grab all your gear and your bike, and head to transition. Get body marked – typically: race numbers sharpied on your arms and your USAT age (age as of 12/31) on your calf – as you enter transition (so cool!).
– Find your transition spot based on your race number, and set up transition – all the info on transition can be found here.
– Scope out the transition layout – find swim in, bike out, bike in, and run out (exactly what they sound like!), and locate your transition spot relative to these entry and exit points. For many races, you can mark your bike rack and/or transition spot with a helium balloon or sidewalk chalk.
– Visit the port o’ potty! For real, include this in your race morning timeline – you’ll need to hit the potty, and there’s usually a 10 minute line for them!
– Put on your wetsuit AFTER you’ve hit the port o’ potty. Allow about 15 minutes to get this done, it’s a workout in and of itself.
– If you’re able to get in the water, warm up for 5-15 minutes.
– Plan to be finished with your “race morning routine” 15 minutes before the race start. There is often a pre-race briefing that you’ll want to listen to.
– Place yourself appropriately at the swim start based on your swim ability and comfort in open water. If you’re a strong swimmer, place yourself up front so you have a clear line to the first swim buoy. If you’re more moderately paced or uncomfortable in open water, I recommend an outside corner start location.
– The beginning of the swim usually involves a little contact! Try not to panic – tread water if you’re flustered, and look around for some open water where you can swim cleanly.
– You may start really fast due to excitement and quickly get out of breath. Again, don’t panic! Switch strokes for a bit if that’s helpful, focus on getting your breathing under control, and “just keep swimming.”
– The fastest way to finish the swim is to swim straight! Sight the next swim buoy every 8-10 strokes, and make sure you find the next buoy after completing each turn.
– Stay focused and methodical: wetsuit, cap, and goggles off; helmet, sunglasses, shoes, and socks on. Grab your bike and go!
– Remember to place your discarded gear in your transition area. It’s a shared spaced, and fellow participants need room for their stuff too.
– Woohoo! You finished the swim. Be proud!
– Remember to take in plenty of water, and potentially some fueling, on the bike. A reminder of hydration and fueling can be found here.
– Stay safe! Cars are present on many bike courses, and fellow participants appreciate a nice “on your left” when being passed.
– Aid stations can get a little congested – signal to your fellow participants if you’re slowing or stopping, and be mindful of others doing the same.
– Thank the volunteers! The race can’t happen without them.
– Save some energy for the run!
– Once again, stay focused and methodical: rack your bike; helmet and bike shoes off; run shoes on. Grab your hat (and race belt if you’re using one) and go!
– Don’t start out too fast! This is one of the most common errors in race execution. Be very mindful of your pace for the first mile.
– Be sure to get some water or sports drink at each aid station.
– Don’t be shy about taking walk breaks if you need them. Aid stations are a great place for that.
– Thank some more volunteers!
– Encourage your fellow participants! You’ll get back twice the positive energy that you put out on the race course.
– And most of all, ENJOY THE FINISHER’S CHUTE! Smile, and celebrate what you’ve accomplished. You earned it!