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How To Prepare for a Triathlon

How To Prepare for a Triathlon

A long winded explanation of what to do the day before a race

Six Things To Help You Get Ready

There’s no way that reading this is going to completely settle your nerves or get you feeling perfectly ready, especially if this is your first race.    Even experienced triathletes do stupid things like:

  1. forget to bring their bike to the race.

  2. wear see-through tri shorts.

  3. lose their goggles.

  4. get lost on the bike course

  5.  …you get the idea!

There are so many things to talk about, like what NOT to eat the night before the race or how to taper.  This post will just focus on the little things that will help you get ready for the big day.

1. Packing List

Use a packing list, even if you’re not traveling out of town.  Here’s a standard  packing list that has saved my butt many times.  Here’s a link to that list (PDF).   Use it or make your own.  Review it a couple of days before the race in case you need to purchase items like tubes or CO2.

2. Your Kit

That’s athlete talk for what you’re going to wear.   Decide several weeks before the race on two alternatives: cold weather and hot weather (and wet weather if you want a third alternative).

  1. One piece tri suits are popular, but are uncomfortable for some people.

  2. Some tri tops have short sleeves, many don’t have sleeves at all.

  3. Running shorts?  It’ll slow you down in transition, but may make for a more comfortable run.

  4. How about socks?  Many athletes don’t wear them for the shorter races.

Make some purchases early on in the season so you can train with each alternative and get to know your kit.

3. Ziploc Bags

I know… Ziploc is a trademark, but you know what I’m talking about.  Use four of them.

  1. Bag 1.  Swim cap, goggles, plastic shopping bag for putting on the wetsuit (here’s a video of that), other swim specific items.

  2. Bag 2. Bike computer, gloves, glasses, dry bike nutrition (bars, powder, etc), electrician’s tape, DZNuts.

  3. Bag 3.  If you’re still with me here, you’re thinking run stuff: socks, visor/cap, number belt, run nutrition (gels, chews, etc).

  4. Bag 4. General purpose stuff: body glide, moleskin, ID, USAT card, chap stick, more gels.

4. Transition Bag

There are some big-ass transition bags out there.  You could fit my 4’10” coach into some of them!  Use the smallest bag that will hold all your equipment.  The night before the race, it should hold:

  1. The four Ziploc bags.

  2. Transition matt or towel.

  3. Bike shoes.

  4. Run shoes (if you’re not going to wear them on your way to the race).

  5. The helmet can be slung on the outside of the bag.

  6. Wetsuit (if using one) and plastic bag for bringing home the wet wetsuit.

Maybe I’ve left out something here, but you get the idea.  Don’t overload it.  There won’t be much space in transition for all the stuff you want to bring “just in case”.

5. Know the Course

Study the bike and run courses before the race: especially if it’s a long or ultra course race.  People do get off course and most of them are not too happy about it: especially when they are told that it’s their own fault because they didn’t know the course.   Believe me.  It happens more often than you think.

6. Visualize the Race

Once you know the course, you can visualize it.  I try to do this for every race from sprint to ultra.   Here’s how to visualize your race:

  1. Get comfortable, but not too comfortable. No sleeping.

  2. Close your eyes and imagine yourself standing at swim start so you can actually see everything around you in your mind.   The more detail, the better.  Feel the air on your skin.  Hear the announcer blathering on about the sponsors.

  3. Imagine the swim start with the same level of detail.  Are you bumping into others?  Are you breathing to the left or the right?  Are you breathing at all?

  4. Go through the whole race as you would want to race it. Imagine the bike. Imagine T1, T2, and the run.  Make it perfect.  In fact, you should take first place overall.  Imagine what it will feel like to cross the finish line.

  5. Now do it all over again from the beginning, but this time imagine everything that could go wrong and how you are going to overcome it.

  6. Panic in the swim -> count strokes, sing a song, yell into the water (that wastes energy but sometimes it helps me).

  7. Wetsuit won’t come off in transition -> backup and take it off in the water (you’re imagining this so anything is possible).

  8. Flat tire on the bike -> note to self: learn how to change flat before race day.

  9. Cramping on the run -> focus on relaxing, drink water, drink electrolytes, backup and drink a little more on the bike, ice your muscles.

Visualization is not easy because in the middle of imagining the swim your mind is likely to drift off somewhere far away from your race.  Just bring your thoughts back to where you left off and keep going.  Don’t give up until you finish the whole race.

Now Go to Bed and Rest

Don’t expect to get a good night of rest before a race if it’s your first. If it’s your 100th race, and you still get excited the night before, then you are a real triathlete and you probably love the sport as much as I do.

Just do your best to get some sleep. The more you prepare in the days leading up to the race, the earlier you will get to bed.  Disciplined preparation also sets the mind at ease knowing you’ve done everything ahead of time.

Good luck and see you at the race.

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