Signing up for a race can be a lot of things: exciting, motivating, expensive, overwhelming, terrifying, etc. But just like having a training plan to follow each day, having a race plan is key to executing your best race and in many cases this means a plan A and B or even C, and the plan starts with knowing what you need to get the job done. At Evolve, one of our core values is to differentiate between factors you can’t control and those you can and then, intelligently plan to control the controllables, such as what you need for the race from your gear to your attitude. Doing so will alleviate a lot of the mental stress that comes along with a first race.
Make a Checklist
Trust me on this one. Mentally go through the day of your race, starting with waking up. This is especially important if you’re traveling, because there are lots of little things you won’t want to forget (like your extra pair of goggles.) On the checklist, include your pre-race foods like your breakfast, gear needed pre-race (like a jacket and hat if it’s cool), swim gear, transition items, bike gear, run gear, and fuel. A strategy that helps me a ton is to draw an aerial view of my transition area and how I want to set it up.
Plan your fuel
Plan what you’ll eat for breakfast on race day and have it ready the night before. If you’ve been training with a certain product and it won’t be available on the course plan to carry it with you. For a sprint distance triathlon, you only need a couple of gels and maybe 1 to 2 bottles of your sports drink (think one bottle per hour on the bike). Do NOT try anything new on race day. It’s worth the tiny bit of extra bulk and planning to have your familiar products on hand. Many people will go carb overload crazy. You will not need to do this for a sprint. You should taper off any foods that can cause GI distress in the day prior, but we would not recommend you stuffing your face with oodles of pasta the night before a sprint race.
Prepare for the swim
- Lube up. Underarms, thighs, neck, any point on your body where friction may occur. More is more with lube. If you’re wearing a wetsuit, don’t forget wrists and ankles.
You will need:
- Your swimwear of choice - make sure that you practice swimming in it prior to race day.
- Swim cap - most races will provide you one.
- Goggles. Tinted or clear depending on the sun and conditions.
- Ear/nose plugs if you wear these.
- Timing chip - provided by the race.
Set up for T1, the swim-to-bike transition area
- Towel to quickly dry yourself off after the swim if you want, or to wipe your feet off on.
- Sunscreen to avoid horrific tan lines and UV damage (for a sprint you should be able to do this prior to the swim)
- Your bike. Make sure tires are aired up how you like them, it’s in an easy gear so you don’t get stuck grinding out of transition, and it’s been recently tuned up and safety checked.
- Helmet because you won’t be allowed to leave T1 without it. Hang the helmet on your handlebars for quick access. Or place it ready with the strap unbuckled if it cannot go on bars due to aero bottle.
- Sunglasses open and inside helmet so you can quickly put them on. These provide protection from the sun and road grit, so don’t leave home without them.
- Cycling shoes loosened and ready to be put on. Talc powder or similar sprinkled inside shoes if you’re going sans socks.
- Socks unrolled and ready to be put on if you’re wearing them.
- Fuel. A bottle should be on your bike already. Stash a gel or two in a pocket or if your bike has a bento box, put it in there on race morning.
- Bike gloves if you wear them, but these are far from necessary on a shorter race.
- Spare tube, CO2, tire tools (in case of a flat). Oh, and know how to change a flat.
Set up for T2, the bike-to-run transition area
- Hat or visor.
- Keep your sunglasses on.
- Socks if you’re wearing them.
- Running shoes loosened and ready to be put on. I HIGHLY recommend you have elastic laces on your running shoes so that you don’t have to fumble with the laces. Make sure you have run in the them prior to get the correct tension. Again, if going sockless, some powder sprinkled inside makes this a better experience.
- Race number on race belt.
- Fuel if you’re carrying. A bottle and a gel should be plenty.
Adopt a TAKE NO PRISONERS attitude
You’ve trained hard, visualized your race, and actually made it to the start line. You have nothing to lose by embracing the day ahead! Even if you have to fake it ‘til you make it, be CONFIDENT. This is YOUR DAY. You’re out here to get sh!t done. You don’t have time for second-guessing, self-pity, doubt, or fear. Because of the distance of a sprint triathlon, you are free to fire on all cylinders from the second the gun goes off until you collapse after the finish line. Pay no attention to anyone else’s performance – this is about you and the course. LEAVE NOTHING BEHIND. If you feel like your muscles are screaming, lungs are burning, heart is jackhammering, mind is protesting – great job, you’re almost working hard enough. Now do it for real.
Remember that there will always be some things you can’t control - the weather, course profile, technical issues, other people - but that’s part of the fun of racing! The only thing that you can do is control yourself! A race is nothing more than a chance to test our limits and learn a ton on a supported course. Go out there, have fun, test yourself, learn a ton, and smile for the camera when you cross that finish line.