Since February 1996, The Oldest Triathlon Training Site on the Web, and Still Free!
Triathlon -Race Day
Pick the right race,stick to some achievable goals and I guarantee you'll be happy with your performance and be back for more. Woody Allen says 90% of life is just showing up. Most people I know use a common strategy; they swim as fast as they can without getting too winded, try to hold their place in the bike and then give it hell on the run, (especially the last half).
If you want to hear from someone who's been there, done that, use your favorite search engine to find the race you are interested in. Simply type in *race report* and the *name of the race* without the asterisks, and that might find you a description of the race or race distance you're interested in. I have a few race reports on this site including my Hawaii Ironman race report.
Some things to make the day go easy
Pre-Race Don't Fear
You've done all you can do, now is the time to relax. Faith and fear can't occupy the same space at the same time (at least that's what Einstein said. Well, kind of;-). Just remember that it's hard to sleep the night before a big race so try and get a real good night sleep two nights before. Many people have literally spent a sleepless evening the night before without any effect of race day performance, so don't worry. I make sure I lay everything out the night before. I pin my numbers on the proper clothing and put the numbers on my bike and helmet. There's nothing worse than realizing you don't have pins or tape to attach your numbers 30 minutes before the start. Which brings me to the next tip; get to the race at least one hour before the check-in time. Most triathlons have waves and you might not start until 2 hours after the first wave, but all the good bike locations will be taken if you wait. And you'll get in the way of those competing.
Quite often there will be a briefing the day or evening before the race. This gives both the race director and participants an opportunity to clear up any last minute issues. Most races also require a bike and helmet check. The helmet usually needs to have plastic shell over the ANSI approved core. As for the bike, they will usually spin your wheels, check the brakes, and give your handlebars and or aero bars a real good tug. They basically are checking safety items, not how much you spent;-)
Preparation on the morning of the race
This includes everything from visualization, prayers, inflating tires, laying out your gear, to sun block and final pit stops. I put my bike stuff in one group and run stuff in another. I go over the course maps, re-check my gear and crack dumb jokes just to break the tension. Some people are friendly and some are concentrating. I go with the flow and remember the race is the icing on the triathlon lifestyle. Don't forget my race day check list.
In the early stages I like to dis-associate by enjoying the scenery or daydreaming, middle stages, concentrate on the here and now; and in the ending stages chant, "it's too late to quit" over and over. Just remember to stay in the here and now, and to enjoy the moment.
Seat yourself in the crowd accordingly or you'll get swum over by faster swimmers and that can be very intimidating. Find your pace and swim long strokes and stay relaxed, making sure not to spend too much energy. I like to head to the outside edge away from the crowd and swim alone, more experienced swimmers like to catch a draft off other swimmers. Drafting in the water seems to be acceptable and is commonplace.
The transition starts the minute you stand up from the swim or pass by the timer. I suggest taking your wetsuit down to your waist while still in the water. Some take it all off and sometimes there are people there to help you. You can wear your singlet with number attached under your wetsuit and that saves putting it on later.
The run from the beach to your bike can be downright painful on the bottoms of your feet so grin and bear it. Having some water and a towel ready at your bike to wash grit off your feet can make a big difference. I like to lay out my towel on the ground and then arrange everything out on top of that leaving enough space to use the towel as a mat.
Having everything laid out in bike/run groups makes both transitions easier. I put all the run stuff out of the way of my bike stuff. I keep my helmet, gloves and sunglasses together resting on my aero bars. I wear a tri-suit which has a chamois crotch on shorter triathlons. I put some Vaseline under my bike seat and rub some on when I start chaffing my legs too much. Some people like to have the shoes already clipped into the pedals. I half unwrap a bunch of Powerbars and have one ready to eat right away. I also have some fluid ready and leave the container but make sure I've got some more on the bike. Depending on the distance, I do or don't wear a Jersey but make sure it's got what I need in the pockets. And I make sure my bike is in the right gear so I don't have to strain or break the chain trying to get away fast. Remember, you have to have your helmet fastened at all times in the transition area and on the course.
If you look at the transition time for the winners in all distances including the Ironman, you'll see that they are less than 2 minutes. In order to have a short transition you basically run from the swim to your bike and put on your glasses, helmet and go. The shoes are fastened to the pedals so you can slip into them later. The winners swim, bike and run in their swim or tri-suit.
The bike takes the longest amount of time; so good aerodynamics and form are essential. I always monitor my pedal stroke and cadence to keep effort and heart rate at optimum level. Nine out of ten pedal strokes go to overcome wind resistance so if you don't have aero bars, you might reconsider. My lower back won't take to many hours down in the areo position so I take a break here and there. I like get up and out of the saddle on hills just to work new muscles. The time out on the road gives you plenty of time to hydrate and feed your craving body.
I try to eat one Powerbar and two water bottles per hour. To save lots of time due to repairing flats, I finally learned my lesson and got Mr Tuffys. But I still watch out for glass. And believe it or not some even pee off the bike to save a minute.
Coming into the transition area remember to keep your helmet fastened but you can stretch your legs, get out of your shoes and remove your gloves. Go over the next moves in your mind, shoes, singlet, etc. I made the mistake of not wearing socks on the run once so beware of little short cuts you haven't tried in practice. Do not attempt anything new in a long distance race. You need to train and practice everything you will do on race day. I use lace locks so I don't have to tie my shoes. You can get them at a camping store. If it's real sunny I like a white
sun visor or hat and douse it with water at the aid stations. A spotless pair of sunglasses is good to have also.
I like a dab of Vaseline behind my armpits because I chaff there and put some down by my crotch where the running shorts chaff me. I take another big gulp of liquid I keep at the transition and off I go.
In order to have a fast transition, you need to practice getting out of your bike shoes and into your running shoes fast. If you want to be comfortable, take your time and change.
Starting the run is probably the weirdest feeling of the whole day for me.
I was a runner before a triathlete but getting those legs to turn over the first 1\2 mile can be tough so I take it easy and slowly build up speed. Concentration here is really important for me. Am I carrying my arms right? How's my form? Am I breathing too hard? If I'm lucky I cruise the first half of the run and then bare down and give the second half all I've got. I say lots of prayers and mantras and really concentrate on not pushing myself so hard I injure myself, but hard enough that I can catch the person in front of me.
Now is the time to eat lots of carbohydrate, protein and drink fluids. It's equally important to drink plenty of fluids during the remainder of the day. For me food never tastes so good.
You're bound to have some post race blues due to endorphin let down in a day or two so enjoy the glory now and don't worry about racing again for awhile. And how about a big fat cigar?
Put one of those rubber ends on it so you don't have to taste it also.
Be good to yourself for the next few days, you deserve it!
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. --Anais Nin