Weeks and Days Before
- Remember to taper before your race. This doesn't mean stop doing workouts, but start to reduce the intensity and duration of your workouts leading up to your race.
- Attend the pre-race clinics and seminars, bigger races such as Calgary 70.3 or the Chinook races will put on seminars for things like changing tires, or race day nutrition. These are a great source of information for any level of triathlete.
- Familiarize yourself with the race route, not just the map, but the elevation profile for the bike, you'll want to know how big the hills are if you're racing anywhere in Western Canada. Courses like Calgary 70.3 are fairly straight forward with only one major hill and some rollers. But other courses like Chinook or Banff have hill after hill and its important you're familiar with them so you may budget your energy accordingly.
- Avoid fiber for a couple of days before the race, this means things like whole bran muffins, whole wheat pasta, etc. Sport drinks such as Heed or Carbopro are a good source of carbs a couple days before the race that won't leave you running to the latrine during your race.
- Start adapting your sleep to get up a little earlier. For most triathletes and most races this isn't an issue, but with races like Calgary 70.3 where you have to take a bus out to the start, you may need to be up as early as 3:30am. So it pays off to be a little bit lame and be in bed, lights out by 9pm for a couple days before the race.
- Spend a bit of time with friends and family and thank them for all the support they've given you in the months of training before the race. Tomorrow is all about you, and they'll be there cheering you on so its good to let them know you appreciate their patience with your endurance based habits. Plus, taking your mind off the race for an hour or two is a good way to calm the nerves.
- Walk around with a water bottle all day and be sure to stay hydrated through the day.
- Set up everything for your transition at home the day before and visualize every step of the race to make sure you don't forget anything when you pack up.
- If you are racking your bike the day/morning before the race (a la Calgary 70.3), remember to deflate your tires 20 or 30psi. If you pump your tires up to 110 psi and rack your bike at 9am the day before the race when the temp is 10C out, and then by noon that day the temp rises to 30C, you'll show up at the race the next morning with two blown tires from the air expanding in the tire.
- Give yourself plenty of time to have a breakfast and then get to the race start. On a side note, for breakfast I generally have a bagel with Nutella, a banana, an Ensure (the one with extra calories), and some water. You don't need to go crazy, you just need enough calories to replenish what you've burned of your glycogen stores since dinner.
- Okay now you can fill your tires up to the specified pressure for your weight. But don't just pinch the tire and figure its good enough! 90psi feels about the same as 110psi and running too low a tire pressure is a sure fire way to getting a flat during the race.
- Have someone help you put on your wetsuit. There is a right way and a wrong way and usually race partners from the local Tri shop will be around to help you put it on the right way.
- Do a warm up swim. Lakes like Ghost Lake or Two Jack Lake can be very cold, so much so that when you put your face in the water, your body goes into a response mode that causes your heart rate to spike. Its important that you get that out of the way and get acclimatized to the cold water before you start your swim.
The Last Couple Moments Before the Horn Goes or the Cannon Blows
- Control your level of arousal. If you're a strong athlete racing a sprint, its okay to amp yourself up a little. Think confident thoughts and visualize moving smoothly and strongly through the water, and riding like a bat out of hell on the bike and run. On the other hand, if your goal is to finish today, or you're racing an Iron distance race, its important to calm your mind down. You should have a plan and that plan is not dictated by a goal position (Ie; top 10 AG) or even a goal time (sub-whatever). You can't control the wind, the rain, the heat, or your competitors. You can only control you, so your goal should be to stick to the plan you've worked out and stay in your zones. Today your goal is to race your own race.
- Wish your fellow racers luck, and smile to your family or friends seeing you off. Chances are you're loved ones may more more nervous than you are about your race because they have no control over the outcome, and they want you to rock it. A smile will go a long way towards telling them, "Don't worry, I've got this one".
This is it
My coach put it best when he said that your A race is your victory lap. You've already done all the work to get there, now its just a couple of hours and you'll have finished what you set out to do. You're already a triathlete, now you've just got to cross the line.
For me the last few moments before the race are like the end of a yoga class. I'm humbled by the number of people setting out to accomplish the same goal as I am, and I'm grateful to the powers that be that have allowed me to come this far.
In the timeless words of William Ernest Henley,
"I thank whatever gods may be, for my unconquerable soul..."