Race day is your chance to prove yourself, and take advantage of the hard work you’ve put into your training. Both physical and mental preparation is essential to perform at your best.
Training Taper Depending the race distance, your training volume should ease off during the week/s leading up to your race to ensure you’re feeling fresh and not fatigued. During this training taper, the intensity of your sessions should be maintained, but total volume (time and distance) should be reduced. Longer events require a longer taper – ie. marathon and ironman athletes will typically do their biggest weekend of training 3-4 weeks prior to their event, and then reduce volume progressively as the race looms closer. High intensity activities require a longer taper – ie. running requires a more significant taper than cycling or swimming.
In the few days prior to your race, you should not over-train, or over-excerpt yourself. You should do some exercise, but nothing stressful, just something light to maintain your regular routine and help you relax. If you’ve travelled to your race location, it’s also a great way to familiarize yourself with the conditions and the course, and to freshen your legs.
Nutrition You need to be well hydrated and well fueled in order to race well. You should approach race week with the goal of maximizing your intake of important nutrients, but also keep your current intake and any dietary restrictions in mind. There are many recommendations out there, but everyone will respond differently and will develop their own preferences over time. Again, race distance will significantly affect your pre-race intake and the relevance of ‘loading’ to increase stores of electrolytes and glycogen. Athletes racing longer events are typically recommended to carbohydrate load 2-3 days prior to their race, and also increase their intake of electrolytes. Shorter events should follow a similar approach, with less significant loading generally required. These strategies are designed to fuel you for race day, and ideally mean that any nutrition taken on board during the race will be to supplement rather than to rescue you from excessive fatigue. Race location and weather (particularly heat and humidity) can significantly influence your nutrition strategy both before and during the race.
Being Organised There are many things you need to organise and prepare to be race-ready, particularly for a triathlon event. The list is almost endless – bike, helmet, running and cycling shoes, socks, hat, race belt, nutrition, anti-chafe… etc. Most importantly, you mustn’t forget anything when packing your race bag. Your organisation timeline will be totally dependent on the location of the race and how much travel is required. Write your own checklist, and follow it. Regardless of how many times you have raced, it can be easy to forget the simple essentials. You should go through your checklist at least one week prior to your event (or week prior to when you need to leave), and ensure there is nothing missing. Then check again as you pack. Leaving an essential item behind can significantly increase your stress levels pre-race. Last minute shopping is not always possible, and you also may not be comfortable wearing or using the products that are available at the race venue.
You should have your bike serviced, or at least checked prior to race day, particularly if you’ve been alternating between training and racing wheels or haven’t raced your bike for some time. Ideally you should do this at least two weeks prior to your race, just incase there is anything more complicated that needs addressing. If you’ve traveled to your race venue, it’s a really good idea to give your bike another once over, and you should definitely ride it prior to your race. It’s essential to check gears, brakes and your tyres, amongst other things.
Have Fun Most importantly, relax and have fun on race day. Being comfortable and confident in the preparation and organisation you’ve done pre-race, will assist you to relax and focus on your race and your performance. The more racing you do, the more familiar you will be with your pre-race routine and what you personally need to do to race well.
– By Emily Donker – Pushys sponsored athlete