General Triathlon Advice for Race Day
Our triathlon training plans have been designed to get you physically prepared, but you may find some of this advice useful to help you prepare practically. You’ve put in some really good training and now we’re here to help with a few useful tips for race day, to help ease those race day woes!
Here’s a suggested race kit list:
Swimming costume or tri suit (Ladies- sports bra underneath if desired, no undies)
Wetsuit that fits properly if swimming open water (a swimming specific one such as the Zone 3 wetsuit range.)
Goggles that fit properly, either swimming or open water specific, whichever you find comfortable
A latex swim hat to go under your race hat for cold water conditions (tip- put goggles in between hats so they don’t get knocked off during the start)
A lubricant (e.g. Bodyglide), to put on your neck to prevent chafing from the wetsuit (you may wish to lubricate other areas if you get sore ;-)
Research the swim in the race pack and read the rules. Are tumble turns allowed if it’s a pool swim? How big is your start wave? Is there a cut off time? What is the course like? Is it a running beach start or an in the water/push off the wall start? These are all things that will really help you when you know what you’re doing and keep you from getting flustered on the day.
If you feel a little bit anxious about the open water, never fear- everyone does! Try out some of these simple tips for open water swimming. You may wish to join your local tri/open water swimming club and attend their sessions, or get in touch with one of our Certified Coaches who may be leading group/private sessions in your area. If you’re a little more confident (where safe to do so) give wild swimming a go!
Carbo(hydrate)-loading isn’t of great importance for sprint triathlons since your body has enough energy stored naturally for about 2 hours of exercise. Just eat a normal meal the night before and try and stay off the wine so you’ve got a clear head in the morning! Getting it right is quite a complicated process, so we recommend just eating a carbohydrate rich meal the night before to ensure your glycogen stores are complete.
So you’ve got the kit, done the training, now it’s time to do the race!
Have a normal breakfast at least 2 hours before such as porridge, muesli or toast. If you wish, sip an energy drink/water in the hour before the race and eat a banana 20 minutes before. This will easily give you plenty of available energy and make you adequately hydrated to race at your best. Having a weak coffee will stimulate you and aid your performance (rather than dehydrate as used to be the thinking).
Arrive in plenty of time, get your kit into transition, know your swim/bike/run/transition entry and exit points, it goes without saying get to the start on time! Listen carefully to the race briefing as conditions may have affected the race in some way. Start visualizing your race. Warm up properly- a light jog for at least 5 minutes and some dynamic arm and leg movements are good. In most races you can’t get into the water to warm up properly, but definitely do so if you can as this really prepares your mind and body for the race.
If you start getting anxious once in the water just remember to keep breathing out. Holding your breath will only cause the stored CO2 to make you feel more panicked. Think about your estimated swim time and the competitors around you and select a reasonable start position. If you plan on leading the race- take the front line, if you’re going to take it steady choose a more appropriate place, which may be off to one side if you don’t fancy getting elbows and feet in your direction when the race starts.
During the Swim
One the start has happened its time to put all that training into practice. Try not to start too hard as you don’t want to blow up after the first 100m! Start steady and increase to a pace you can maintain for the distance. Do try and draft a slightly faster swimmer if you can, as this will save up to 38% of your energy expenditure for the bike and run. Also make sure you stay internally focused and sight the buoys regularly in the open water so you swim straight- you don’t want to swim further than you have to by zig zagging! Once the end of the swim approaches start visualizing your transition routine.
Transition 1 (T1)
As soon as you exit the water undo the zip on your wetsuit and peel your arms out so the wetsuit body and arms hang at your waist. (Practice, practice, practice before race day!) Keep your goggles and hat on while you jog to the transition area. Once you’ve found your bike you may wish to use what I call the head to toe technique:
Head: Hat and goggles off, hat and sunnies on
Body: Wetsuit off, race belt on with number at back, T-shirt/vest/shorts on if not in tri-suit underneath
Toes: Socks and bike shoes on (or trainers if not clipped in)
Take your bike from the rack and jog out of the transition. Cross over the mount line and you’re away!
As with the swim, take it easy at the start and pace yourself. You’ll know from your training the speed which feels comfortable to maintain. Remember to save some energy in your legs for the run! It goes without saying to have studied the route map and know where you’re going. You may wish to create a lap counting system- coloured sticky tape on your handlebars which you can rip off each lap works well. Drink with thirst as desired, no more than 1 bottle will be necessary for super/sprint- you don’t want too much undigested liquid sloshing round in your belly when you run causing discomfort.
Transition 2 (T2)
As you come into transition take your time and dismount the bike before the line. Jog to your space on the rack, place your bike first and THEN follow the same head to toe mantra:
Head: Helmet off / sunnies off if desired
Body: Switch number display from back to front
Toes: Cycling shoes off and trainers on
Run out of the transition and onto the course, taking care of other competitors racking their bikes. Again, pacing is key- especially at the start of the run when your body is adapting from a cycling to running posture. This is where most people start to flag as they go out too fast to try and over come their jelly legs, then get a really bad stitch and end up having to walk. Keep engaged with your posture, run tall, keep your head up and eyes looking forward. Make use of your arms, you get 50% off your forward propulsion from driving the arms - Stride with pride! Practice this transition (cycling then running) in your training- called brick sessions so you know what to expect. Take your time and you’ll be fine!
Finish in sight
As you approach the finish- about 500m to go I’d start giving it everything you’ve got. You know you’re going to get a rest in a couple of minutes time, so spot people to overtake and do it! No-one wants to end a race feeling they could have given more!
I hope this blog will help you in your preparation for your first triathlon race, or second if you were unprepared the first time! Do let me know how you get on and share your own hints and tips with fellow triathletes on our facebook page.
The best advice is always to go out there, have fun and enjoy yourself! : )