By Matt Eagan
ISSUE #23, Summer 2004 – Race day has arrived. You have trained religiously, your body is ready to go, but have you prepared for what will happen on race day? Without proper preparation you may not perform at your best. The following guidelines will help you in your preparation. Race day preparation begins a week or so before the race with an inspection of all of your equipment, a couple of days (or at the latest one day) before the race you pack your race bag; on race morning you go through your “pre-race ritual”, and finally on race day you get to show off!
Let’s start with your equipment! You must check ALL aspects of your equipment. For the swim, make sure your goggles fit properly and the elastic is strong. Bringing a back-up pair of goggles is always a good idea. If you plan to wear a wetsuit for the swim, thoroughly inspect the suit for any tears or scratches–more importantly, be sure to practice swimming in your wetsuit and transitioning out of it prior to the race!
The most complicated thing to check will be your bicycle. AT LEAST three days before the race thoroughly clean and inspect your bike. Make sure the drive train (chain, front chain ring, rear cogs) are cleaned and lubed, the brakes work properly, the bike shifts without problems, the frame has no cracks in it, and the tires are free of debris and are not worn thin. If you feel unsure about what to do, take your bike into your local shop for a tune up. (Sometimes you may need to schedule an appointment 10-14 days in advance.) Also check that your cleats are not worn down or chipped.
By now, it’s really too late to do anything about your running shoes. If you find that the soles of your running shoes are starting to wear out, slowly start breaking in a new set of shoes–this is usually best done gradually, at least several weeks prior to your race. (Expect to change your shoes every 3-6 months!)
After checking your equipment, it is now time to put together your race bag. Use a bag that is easy to carry (backpack, shoulder pack) and that won’t take a lot of room in the transition zone. Refer to the checklist provided below to make sure you have everything. Go over the checklist at least two days before the event to ensure that you have it all–you don’t want to find out the evening before the race that you have no gels. Also, if you want to use something on race day, make sure that you have used it in your training at some point in time. For example, make sure that the energy drink will not cause stomach irritation. Race day is not the day to test out new things!
On race day morning, plan to be at the race site at least one and a half hours prior to the start of the race (and that’s cutting it close!) You will need lots of time to get a good position on the transition rack, set up your transition area, get “body marked” with your race number, go through a warm up, go to the bathroom, go to the bathroom, and go to the bathroom. The bathroom lines itself will often eat up 15minutes of your time! A good warm-up could include a short 10 minute jog with a few accelerations, maybe a brief bike if you have time (or bike the day before the day of the race and make sure everything works well), and then at least a 10 minute swim before the start of your race.
For the start of the swim, position yourself in your wave by your swimming ability. If you are confident in your swimming ability, you should find a spot towards the front; the more doubtful you are about the race (maybe even making it through the entire swim), the further back you may want to start. There is no shame in letting everyone take off and then start 10 seconds later to make you feel more at ease in the water! Now the gun goes off, it’s time to reap the benefits of all your training!
During the swim, you may at times make body contact with another competitor, but don’t worry, that’s normal. Stay relaxed and continue to swim. If you need to gather your composure, swim off to the side, and take a few deep breaths. (You can even hold on to a kayak as long as you don’t move forward while you are holding on. Just raise one arm and someone will be right there.) To swim faster and more energy-efficient, you may try drafting off another racer. Near the end of the swim begin kicking slightly more to give your legs more blood–it will help you for the transition to your bike.
Try to be efficient in the transition zone–you can already take off your swim cap and goggles (and unzip your wetsuit if you are using one) as you are running to your bike. Change into your cycling shoes, put on your helmet and start running with your bike to the bike exit–once you hit the mount line, you can get on your bike and off you go.
While on the bike and on the run, make sure to maintain a steady pace. It is particularly important, though, that you do not go out too hard at the beginning of each leg. Race your race, and do not worry about what other racers are doing. And no matter what, stay relaxed during the race. Also, keep your head up–there will be a lot of racers and you want to be safe and courteous! When you come back from the ride (hopefully you have been drinking and have eaten a gel), get off your bike at the dismount line, run it over to your rack spot and take off your helmet. Quickly change your shoes and you are ready to tackle the last leg of the triathlon. Most likely, it’ll be hot, so keep drinking on the run! The best thing about the triathlon is being amongst all your fellow competitors–everyone has worked hard to make it to the event, no matter what speed you are running, jogging or walking. Enjoy every minute of it! Good luck!
Race Day Checklist
Paper work and basics
-Race Confirmation (If applicable)
-USAT License (if you have one)
-Race Uniform – this could be your swim suit only; maybe cycling shorts and/or running shorts
-Goggles (With a spare pair)
-Wetsuit (if you have one)
-Body Glide (helps if your wetsuit chafes)
-Transition Towel (for the ground)
-Bike fitted with two water bottle cages (and aerobars) optional)
-Water bottles filled with an energy drink
-Energy gels or energy bars
-Pump or CO2 Cartridges
-Race belt with number attached or safety pins (they’ll have those there, too)
-Running Hat (optional)