Race Day Tips (or, advice you don’t need?)

Fall is here. It means Octoberfest beer, pumpkin lattes, pies, hearty soups and chillies. Unless you’re a Triathlete and then it means denying yourself all of that in favor of pre dawn workouts, early bedtimes and quinoa, quinoa, quinoa. The bonus is, post race, that Octoberfest beer is deeeee-licous. True story.

I’ve done quite a few Triathlons at this point. Though some people have I haven’t yet done one because I have to walk some of the run part. We call those people “dbags”. Anywho, I’ve had lots of newbies ask me for advice so with a couple of races coming up down here, I thought I’d pass along my sage wisdom. This information is to be taken lightly as I am nowhere near an expert. I’m sure most of this stuff was passed onto me by other racers or I read it somewhere. Let me just say that I have no idea where I heard or read it. We’ll just cite Key West Tri Club members and Triathlete.com.

I love prepping for race day. It just sings to the OCD part of me. I get to make a list and check things off. Pure bliss.

First thing I recommend is make your list and get things ready to go 2 or 3 days in advance. You don’t want to wait until the day or night before because you’ll likely be too nervous and you may miss something important. If heading out of town for a race, do it a couple of days before you leave. When I make my list, I make it according to the day’s events:
Pre race
Swim
Bike
Run
Post race
I’ll talk more about the specifics in a bit. I bet you can’t wait! I’ll break it down, it’ll be so fun.

Ok, so race week. Follow your coach’s taper plans to a T. That’s what I do. Except I add an extra brick. And an extra swim. And maybe just one more bike ride. But other than that, I do whatever Coach Liz says. The workouts this week are about tweaking technique and keeping those muscles firing. You can’t really cram for a race. If you’ve done the work, you’re ready. If you haven’t, well, you’ll have to adjust your race expectations accordingly. It took me awhile to get into race training. and to see the race for what it is: the reward for all of your hard work. And then some beer as more reward. And possibly a cheeseburger. With bacon. and french fries. Nice, salty, hot french fries……

I’ve been asked what to eat before a race. Everyone is different. It’s all what works for you. I know super fast racers that eat pizza and drink a beer the night before! That would so not work for me, but it may for you. Just don’t be all braggy about it. Day before a race I usually have a bagel for breakfast, pasta and protein for lunch and then grilled chicken and potato for dinner. I like to keep it basic so that for out of town races, it’ll be easier to replicate at a restaurant. I also make sure I hydrate all day long. I usually drink some Gatorade or sports drink during the day alternating with water. I stop the gatorade before dinner and ease up on the water after dinner so that I’m not up all night peeing like an 80 year old man.

Day before the race. I’m checking over my list (again) making sure I’ve packed everything in my race bag. I try on my tri kit (despite having worn it in several workouts) just to make sure there isn’t some random seam or something that will poke or chafe me. I take a mini spin on my bike to make sure everything is good (even if I’ve just gone for a long ride a couple of days ago. I charge up my bike computer and my GPS watch even if all bars are there. Just in case! If a non USAT race (wink, wink) I also make sure my iPod is full o jams and charged up. I also throw a couple of comedy sketches on there to make me laugh along the run. Dane Cook got me through the 10k in June. Fo Sho. I know my sleep is probably not going to go super well the night before the race so TWO nights before, I make sure to go to bed early and I usually take some Advil PM just to ensure some solid sleep. That way, the night before the race, if I’m anxious and excited, I know I have some good sleep under my belt. Probably no medical fact behind that but mentally, it helps. Other sort of bizarre things I do the day or night before? I usually paint my toes. weird. But it’s super calming. I also wish others would do it. It’d be nice to see some pretty toes while when people are kicking me or swimming right over me (yeah, both have happened and will again). I usually take a hot shower before bed time to relax. I take Claritin 24 hour. Clears out my sinuses which will help me breathe in the water. (I think). I had a coach recommend sleeping with one of those nose strips on. I can’t do it. I sleep in compression sleeves though (not over my nose). I make sure that ahole cat of mine has plenty of food so he won’t wake me up an hour before my alarm. What is it with cats? no matter what time my alarm is the little jerk ALWAYS wakes me up an hour before.
Basically, do whatever you can to relax and mentally prepare for race day.

Now about those lists. Here’s mine.
Pre Race
Red Bull and Cocaine.
Oops! that’s from my Rave blog.

Pre Race
-Coke (a cola). Yup! I don’t drink caffeine. But want some on race day. Most of the Gu’s and Gels make want to vom. And, on one occasion, actually vom. I sip coke at breakfast. It seems to settle my stomach and give me a little boost. I have some when I get to the race and I’ve been known to take a pull in transition during the race.
-1/2 wheat bagel and peanut butter
-banana (I HATE BANANAS. but they’re good for me so I choke one down. ew.)
-I also pack a granola bar, bottle of water and GU if my wave starts long after transition closes. Which it always does. They put the old fatty’s at the back of the pack. sweet.
-Tri kit, jog bra, hair elastics (I opt for a low braided pony tail).
-body glide. I use it before I get dressed (don’t forget the feet!) and then put it right in my Tri bag. Why don’t I just have 2 sticks? no earthly idea. That just now occurred to me.
-I put on my watch and Road ID band, race wristband (if given) before I leave the house or hotel.
-sharpie. I have one in my bag to write something inspirational and/or funny on my arm to use as motivation when I’m wanting to drop out of the race. or kill someone. or kill myself.
-bike pump. I usually pump my tires the morning of. some people do it the night before. Some do it in transition. I don’t like to do it there because a)it’s usually dark and b) I have enough going on.
–BABY WIPES!!! for sure there will be no toilet paper in the porta potty. guaranteed.
-also in my bag is antacid, advil, tampons, tissues.

SWIM
-race issued swim cap. there’s always one and are required.
-goggles. Some bring an extra pair just in case. I put my goggles under my race cap so when I get kicked, I don’t lose them.
-ear plugs. life saver. My swim style isn’t exactly pro worthy. I seem to get an exceptional amount of water in my ears and can never get it out. Which makes me super woozy running (stumbling) to T1 and on the bike.
When walking around transition before the race, stick your goggles and swim cap in your shirt or waistband of your shorts. all the cool kids do it.
-I’ll bring disposable bottle of water, my coke and snack to swim start if my wave is super late. Again, ALWAYS is.

BIKE
-helmet (with race sticker)
-bike shoes (I don’t wear socks with them. I real timesaver. Not really)
-sunglasses
-water bottle with electrolytes (I use Skratch)
-Shot blocks or Gu (whatever you’ve trained with) I use Cliff shot blocks.
-if it’s a longer race, I also have a second bottle with plain water.
-I may have a bottle of water (one that I was drinking pre race usually) on my transition mat to quickly rinse off my feet before putting bike shoes on.
-spray sunscreen (so you can get back of your neck, arms, easier). Just watch where you are spraying. Another advantage to racing slow? nobody around when I come out of the water.

RUN
-visor
-socks
-sneakers
-race belt for your number (a MUST. You don’t want to deal with safety pins)
-I bring a water bottle that has a little pouch. I know. Most of my friends make fun of me. But I am out on that course for a long, long time. I run slow. really, really slow. I have Skratch in my water bottle (I’ll get water from the water stations) and I stick some of my shot block in there too. And, not gonna lie. some antacids. Did I mention my weak stomach? Also, I tend to be an angry runner. I really clench my left fist. If I’m holding the bottle, I’m not clenching my fist.
-if you have a mini disposable bottle of water in transition, you can chug it down as you’re exiting and throw it away. This one came from Shannon Grady. Love it! Use it.
-more sunscreen helps too. Especially if you started in that last freakin’ wave. You’ll be out there when the sun is strong.

So that is pretty much it. Not very scientific. It’s just what works for me.

Oh, what do I write on my arm? “this is FUN!!”. It’s a good reminder when you’re asking yourself “why in the hell am I doing this?”. Nobody is holding a gun to your head! you want to do this. you PAID to do this. Enjoy the race!

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