Preparing for your first (or even your 2nd or 3rd) Sprint or Olympic distance triathlon can be a daunting prospect. Once you have the training stuff well underway, it is amazing how quickly race week sneaks up on you!! Even the most experienced triathletes can be caught out and then there is a mad panic to get yourself organised in time. Don’t let this be you! Be smart, be organised, know what to expect and plan out your race week.
Week of Race…
This is the time to be smart and organised. One of the more critical things to get done on race week is a bike service (more critical if your bike hasn’t had one in a while!) – so make sure you book this in with your preferred bike store ahead of time. This way you can go into the race with piece of mind that your bike is in great working order. The other thing to do is make sure you have all of the equipment that you will need on race day. Do you have enough spare tubes, gas cannisters, tyre levers…. It always pays to have one or two more spares than you think you will need (if you got a flat on your ride the day before race, you don’t want to panic about not having enough spares for race day!).
Check your tyres
Although we never really want a flat, we especially want to do everything we can to avoid getting one on race day. Check for glass etc thoroughly and if your tyres are looking particularly cut up – get new ones!! A great idea is to have race specific tyres that you pop on a couple of days prior to race day and then remove again post-race – this way your “race” tyres stay in tip top condition as they are not the ones you train on day in and day out.
Race Day Checklist
If you haven’t already done so, create a race day checklist - listing out everything you will need/need to pack for race day. Create the list and check in twice, ensuring nothing has been missed. This is a great way to take the stress out of packing closer to race day. The beauty with a race day checklist is that you can save it and re-use it for each race you do down the track, amending as necessary.
During race week, make sleep a priority. If you are about to toe the start line at your first ever triathlon you may be worried about how you will sleep the night before. Making sure you get enough sleep during the week is a great way to top up your sleep bank, regardless of what happens on race eve. You will be on taper with reduced session volume, so no excuse not to get to bed early!
Rather than leaving race hydration to the last minute (& feeling water-logged at the start line), make sure you keep hydrated throughout the week – it can be easy to forget to drink while you are running around trying to get things organised. This is particularly important if you are travelling for your race or if it is in warmer conditions than you are used to.
Most importantly during the week of your race – RELAX!! Don’t overthink things, don’t question if you have done enough training or not and definitely don’t do anything new that you haven’t done before (i.e. not a good time to try out your first ever Yoga or Pilates class or go for your first mountain bike ride!). Stick to your normal routine, trust that the work has been done and enjoy taper (use the extra time to paint your nails pink for race day or catch up with a friend for coffee).
24 Hours Before Race…
This is the time to be organised! Don’t leave your race day packing to the last minute. Allow yourself plenty of time and have your pre-prepared race day checklist on hand. Create piles of everything you will need – think about everything from race morning through until post-race. Work through everything mentally and list things out loud to yourself (I’ll put on my tri suit, put on my sunscreen, put my cap and goggles in this bag… and so on). A handy tip is to put everything you will need to take into transition into one bag, everything you will need at the start of the swim in another etc. This way you know exactly what is where and what bag is for what – keeping things clear and simple in your mind.
There is usually a designated day and time before any race that you are allowed to pick up your race pack. Make sure you know when this is and get there in plenty of time. More often than not your race pack will include your race day transponder (or sometimes given to you on the day of race) and your coloured swim cap (which in most cases is specific to your age-group &/or wave start time). Before you leave the race pack pick up location, make sure you check that everything that should be in your pack is in fact in it.
While you are on site at race pack pick-up, make sure you check out (if you haven’t done so already – often you can find these on the event website), the course maps! You will often find these pinned up close by. As an athlete it is your responsibility to know the course, don’t just think “I won’t be leading, so I can just follow the person in front of me” as this is a sure-fire way to plan to fail. You don’t want to be that person that rides an extra 5km more than everyone else!
It is usually in the race pack pick up location that the race briefing will be held as well. Make sure you know when this is and make sure you attend! You don’t want to miss any important information and it is a great opportunity to clear up any questions you may have.
My key most important piece of advice for race morning – allow plenty of TIME. Get up early enough to have your race morning breakfast, allowing enough time for it to settle and enough time for the toilet stops that will no doubt be required afterwards! (remember that it is not uncommon to be nervous on race morning and we all know what nerves can do to our bowels!).
Don’t forget to apply your race numbers (often these come in the form of temporary tattoos included in your race pack but sometimes you will be numbered manually at transition on race morning – so make sure you know which it is).
Even in warmer conditions, it is not unusual for nerves to affect your body temperature. So, make sure you rug up if you are feeling cold as there is nothing worse than getting to transition cold – stay warm until the last possible moment.
Remember that there is a whole lot of other people towing the start line with you and that means that there will be plenty of fellow athletes at the race location – so plan where you intend to park (with some back-up options) and allow plenty of time in case finding a park takes longer than expected.
When you arrive at transition – remember to remain calm. There will be a lot of people around you and it is important to just focus on what you need to do. Set up your bike (in the correct spot – more often than not pre-allocated), pop your water bottles on, get your bright coloured towel, shoes, socks, helmet etc set up and ready to go. By now you should have practiced your transition set up in training – so just execute what you have practiced. Remember to do one final check of your tyres (enough air?) and brakes and then remove yourself from transition.
Note that it is not uncommon in transition to find it hard to hear the man over the loud speaker! Often he/she is just reminding athletes what time they need to be out of transition and down to the water by. But if there is something important you think you have missed, just ask someone.
At this point you may want one last toilet stop (there are usually plenty of porta loo’s around), then take yourself off to a quiet spot or to join your fellow Tri Club members and sit tight until it is time to suit up (if it is a wetsuit race) and ship off!!
Time now to enjoy your race and reap the benefits of being an organised and well-prepared triathlete!
Vanessa Murray - Triathlon Coach at TriChicks
I love to help people achieve their goals and realise that everyone’s goals and needs are different. I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing what the triathlon journey can do for someone in the sense of self-improvement, self-confidence and just generally growing as a person and doing things that you never once thought you could or would do.