Successful triathletes race smart with these tips

Over the past few weeks we have had the opportunity to watch a few of our local Trimarni athletes race in Florida at the Clermont Olympic Distance Triathlon and the Haines City 70.3

This is, by far, my absolute FAVORITE thing about being a coach. It's so motivating and inspiring to see our athletes use their bodies on race day and to put weeks/months of training to the ultimate test. 

(Thanks Taylor B for the pic!)

(Thanks Taylor B for the pic!)

Because there are many ways to define a successful race day performance, it's important that athletes always consider having a race day plan and thinking about anything and everything within their control before and during a race. Because it feels great to finish a race knowing that you gave your best effort possible, it's very important that you consider a few very important tips to ensure that you set yourself up for success at every race you participate in on your schedule. 

-Be sure to test your race day gear prior to race day. Wear your helmet, race clothes and gadgets as well as any other equipment/gear like race wheels, new bottle cages (especially on a bumpy road to test how they hold a bottle), bike cassette, wetsuit/speedsuit, sunglasses, shoes, etc. 

-Get a bike-tune up at least 10 days out from your race day and be sure to keep your bike in top condition within the 10 days before the race. Karel can easily spend over 2 hours tuning-up a bike as he removes almost every part and bolt to ensure every moving part will work smoothly (just like brand new). 

-Be sure to do a few "race pace" sessions in the last 4 weeks before your race day to master your race day fueling plan. Don't underestimate the importance of liquid calories on your bike. Be sure to finish 1 bottle PER HOUR (20-28 ounces) of your electrolyte-rich, carbohydrate beverage. To make this easier - be sure to take 3-4 gulps EACH time you grab your bottle (every 12-18 min or so). 

-Be sure to eat similar foods on the night before and morning of race day, in training in the 8-10 weeks leading up to your race. Consider your logistics of traveling when planning your "perfect" pre race meals. Make it simple to find, easy to prepare and easy to digest. 

-Review ALL course maps, athlete guide and attend the athlete briefing. 

-Be prepared for the course that you are training for, specifically any terrain/elevation changes and weather. Review weather the days before and night before the race as weather may not be within your control but how you dress and how you pace yourself (ex. effort on the bike) is within your control. Be sure to get the appropriate cassette for your bike on a hilly course vs a flat course. 

-Do not waste your energy on what other athletes are doing, complaining about or stressing about. Focus only on yourself and everything that is within your control. Stick to your own schedule and surround yourself with people who give you energy and don't steal it away from you. 

-Review athlete guide and plan extra time on race day morning so you are not rushed. Allow time transition set-up, body marking, getting your chip, warming up and endless potty stops (and long lines). Be aware of when transition closes and your wave start. 

-Be prepared for wetsuit legal OR not legal by having the appropriate swim attire. 

-Bring two pairs of goggles and depending on your preference, you may want one with darker lens and one with a clear lens. 

-Do not start out to fast. Consider that your perceived effort will be much lower in the start of the race when you are fresh and it's a lot easier to swim "fast" but it will feel easy. To reduce any anxiety in the swim, it's recommended to warm-up in the water if allowed OR do a short jog (with another good pair of shoes) for 10-15 minutes around 20-30 min before the race start. 

-Focus on a smooth but quick transition. This is time that you can deduct from your race time without having to train harder - just practice!

Respect your bike distance and the entire distance of your race. 

-Be sure you have your bike set-up for easy fueling (can you reach your bottles, are you comfortable with your hydration system) so that you do not have to rely on the aid stations. However, USE the aid stations if you have to fuel and can tolerate on-the-course nutrition. 

-Be sure you can change a flat tire and you have tested out your  race wheels (if using them) a few rides before race day. 

-Use your gears, pace your own race and do not start out too fast. Remember that your race is all about how you pace yourself. Reduce risk for fatigue, cramping and dehydration by holding back on the bike in order to set yourself up for a stronger run. This doesn't mean you have to go slow but a triathlon is not about having the most epic bike possible if you can't run strong off the bike. 

-Pay attention on the road especially if you are removing clothing or unwrapping food.   Liquid hydration is the most effective, easy to digest and safest way to consume nutrition on the bike. The more time you have your eyes off the road and hand off your bars, the easier it is to have an accident on your bike. Be safe!

-Ride (or drive) key parts of your bike course or at least, the first/last 5-10 miles so you know what to expect. Don't freak out, do this to be prepared. 

-Review weather the day before the race to help your mind accept the windy sections of the course and to help with pacing throughout the race. A power meter will ensure the most steady effort on the bike (reflective of key workouts in training) but RPE is also an effective tool on the bike. 

-You do not have to be in aero position during your entire bike ride in a race. Stand up, sit up or adjust your position as needed based on the terrain. Break down your course into sections for easier pacing. 

-If you experience  bloating, heart burn or burping on the bike, be sure you are sitting up (which I recommend for everyone) when you drink from your bottles. 

-Focus on a steady cadence throughout your race - you can't beat the wind or attack the climbs and run fresh off the bike so don't try. 

-Drink early and drink often. Use cold water at aid stations (be careful/slow down when grabbing a bottle) to cool your body to reduce core temperature.

If you are experiencing GI distress on the run and can not tolerate any more carbs or fluids, just slow down or stop. Give your body a moment when it happens to settle down before you try to push through and then experience the point of no return. Research shows that swishing (and spitting) a carb-rich drink in your mouth, without swallowing, an be a positive tactic to help maintain performance but be aware that this doesn't always relate to postponing fatigue at the end of the race. 

-Pace your run. Use walk breaks at aid stations as "intervals" for the body and mind. Keep your breaks short so that you do not increase GI distress as walking for too long in between running can return blood from the muscles to the intestines (along with water) which can contribute to the urgency to defectate (this is also important in the transition area of an IM if you find yourself taking a long time in transition area - more than 10 minutes and then experiencing GI distress in the first 1-2 miles of the run). Also, practice walk breaks in training (10-15 sec) and always hold back in the first few miles (depending on distance) of your race for the goal in racing is to postpone fatigue and to stay hydrated and to avoid glycogen depletion. 

-Use cold water and ice to cool the body. Hold ice in your hands in hot races and pour a few cubes down your shorts and on your neck. Just be careful to not drench your shoes while you are cooling your body (if possible). 

-It's recommended to practice with nutrition that boosts your performance and is easy to digest/be absorbed (after biking at "race pace") and to have a strategy with you on the run, especially in longer races, on how you will fuel on race day. Practice this in training!! Always be aware of where the aid stations are planned on your course and what is being served if you need additional fuel. Use aid stations for water stops to cool your body and rinse your mouth. Be sure you focus on electrolytes AND carbohydrates as primary fuel requirements. 

-Accept the race day conditions and terrain. Don't get into a hot and challenging race telling yourself that you suck in hot weather and on hilly courses. Although it is encouraged to register for races that are planned well in advance and that will help you meet your race day goals and execute on race day, don't be afraid to adjust your plan to ensure a steady and strong performance ON THAT DAY, ON THAT COURSE. 

-Always race with a plan - throughout the entire race. Consider your race day goals, your focus on chasing competition (if qualifying for a future race) or racing with your current level of fitness, your race schedule/upcoming races, the weather (which can affect your performance, regardless of your current level of fitness) and current life stressors. Always have a plan B...C, D and E and remember that YOUR race is not over until you cross that finish line. The only pressure you have on race day is the pressure you put on yourself so don't worry about things that you can not control and direct your positive energy to things within your control.

Training and racing for triathlons is not a requirement to "be healthy." 
Training for and participating in a race is a gift that your body has given you and arriving to a race, hungry and healthy to race, is one of the best presents you can give yourself by training smart.  

To ensure the best performance possible, be smart with your race day plan. 
Remember that even if things do not go as planned on race day, you did not fail. 
Every race has a learning lesson so be sure that you do not let one race keep you from reaching your fullest potential. Every expert was once an amateur....and one that made many, many mistakes in order to master his/her skills.