Night Before and Morning of the Race
Kent - Tri-Newbies Online
It’s 4:30 a.m.
Time to get up.
It’s RACE DAY!
You are excited. Your sleep was restless. The butterflies
are swirling about your stomach.
You think to yourself,
should I eat?
Don’t forget to go to the bathroom, and stretch and make
sure everything is packed - Bike, transition items, energy
bars, energy drink already mixed - Check!
and tigers and bears, oh my!
And you haven’t even begun to deal with the long lines once at the
Well, for one, you will have to wait in line to be numbered
(the act of someone scribing a number on your arm, thigh
and calf with a fat permanent marker). And at bigger races
you have to wait in line to be checked into the transition
inevitably you will have to go to the bathroom again, and
there will be a line for that as well!
Then the crowd starts to grow like a fog rolling in off the
ocean. Everywhere you turn, there is a tri-head going
through his or her morning ritual. You glance around like
a scared puppy observing others as they set up their
transition area. You think to yourself,
“Am I doing the right thing? Wow, look at that person, why does she have
that particular item. Boy, he sure is organized. I hope I
And as you approach the swim start, it gets worse. Masses
of people are standing around, striking up nervous and
meaningless conversations, guys hyperventilating as if
standing on the swim blocks before the 100 meter freestyle
at the Olympics. The testosterone among the guys is so
thick you can cut it with a knife as most try to
overcompensate for the fact that they are scared to death!
Nervous, frantic energy is being verbally thrown about that
does nothing more than distort one’s whole pre-race
If you are seriously looking into the possibilities of
experiencing a mild anxiety attack, then go get in the
thick of it. You’ll do it once and that will be the last
I am often reminded of final exams during high school or
college and the ten minutes prior to the doors opening.
People are frantically trying to absorb a semester’s
worth of information in ten minutes.
Folks, I am no psychologist, psychiatrist, visionary expert
or self-hypnosis guru but it doesn’t take a rocket
to understand that peace of mind and relaxation prior to
…getting the hell away from the crowd!
Now, there are some individuals who feed on the crowds or
think they do, but in all honesty, even the most socially
oriented individual who thrives on being one with the
crowd, could not repeat what he or she discussed during
the pre-race experience and the closer you get to the race
start, the more generic and cliché your words and phrases become…
“Boy, you said it…”
“Whew, isn’t that the truth...”
“Hey, me too…”
“Yea, I know what you mean…”
“Boy, I’ll say…”
And in all honesty, the pre-race situation can really be
detrimental to your entire race performance.
The best example I can give was my wife’s first 5K road
race. Like any athlete (runner, triathlete, swimmer, etc)
standing at the starting line, nervousness is all
consuming and there is nothing that anyone can say at that
point that will ease the stress. As my wife stood on the
starting line of the 5K, I walked up to her to give her
one last “Good Luck” and show of confidence that she
was going to great! As I took her hand, I glanced down at
her heart rate monitor, locked in on the reading and
thought to myself. “Oh God, she is in trouble.”
Her heart rate was 175 beats per minute - higher than it
had ever been on a training run - and she hadn’t even
begun the race! The
race wasn’t pretty, but she quickly learned the
importance of relaxation and later went on to finish two
15K’s and a half marathon over the next year or so.
Now, there is no magic formula, blink of the eyes or
twinkle of the nose that will help one get over the
nervousness that usually accompanies a
“first time” experience. The outcome is in the
hands of the individual racer. And learning to relax is
something that only comes with experience.
But there are some basic steps one can take as well as some
ways I have found that have helped me relax and take the
Let’s begin with the night before the race, where
mentally, the preparation begins and certainly, the
butterflies in your stomach start flying about!
1. I like to go through a basic run through of everything I
will need at the race. This includes those items that will
be attached to the bike in transition such as waterbottles
and spare parts as well as the necessary clothing, hats,
sunglasses, energy bars, energy fuel, dry towels, goggles,
etc. I also take the time to make a written list of these
items. That way I have something on paper in the event I
become hurried and forget something( not at all uncommon).
And you might want to make this list well in advance, say
a day or two prior to the race when you are not panicked
about the next day’s events. Also, if you plan on
shaving your legs, do it the night before, not the morning
of the race..
2. Dinner Time! Use
this time to relax. If there is a pre-race meal hosted by
the race director, than go and enjoy.
This is a good time to meet other triathletes and
enjoy in the camaraderie this sport yields. If you do not
want to fool with the crowds, than go out and eat a meal
with your buddies, your family, your wife, etc. And
don’t overdo it. Nervous
energy tends to make some folks hungrier than normal. Just
eat a nice balanced meal. And try not to eat to late.
Inevitably, I always seem to eat late the night before the
race for one reason or another. So plan on dining about
5:30 –6:00 that evening. You are already nervous and it
is no secret that stress can affect the digestive process.
So give yourself a little buffer and eat a little earlier
3. You may want to consider going to a movie after dinner
if there is a theatre in the area. It will be cool and
relaxing. And check out a light hearted movie, nothing
deep, dark or emotional.
4. Once back at the hotel, go sit by the pool with some
friends and have a chat. Again, this will be a good time
to talk and release some nervous energy.
5. Try to get to bed at a reasonable hour. It might be hard
to fall asleep, but at least you are in bed and attempting
I hate being rushed and running late. Certainly not enough
to say it has never happened. But when it comes to a triathlon,
I am never late, never rushing around, and never unusually
uptight. And the earlier I get to the race the better. The crowds
aren’t there yet, you can get checked into the
transition area with ease and you if they haven’t begun
numbering racers at that time, you get everything
else done so as to be one of the first in line for the
numbering. I have never gotten to a race and said to myself,
"Geez I’m bored, I
wish I hadn’t gotten here so early." If you go early, you
will be one step ahead of the masses and avoid the being
stuck in any situation or line.
For a 7:30 race start:
1.) I like to get up at about 4:30 a.m. I like to stick to
my traditional morning rituals (as much as a hotel room
will lend) and spend about 30 minutes waking up.
If you’d like, make one cup of coffee (just make
sure to drink some water afterwards). Go ahead and eat
that energy bar or whatever you need to get you going.
Turn on the light, the morning news (if that’s your
thing) and relax and enjoy waking up. Don’t lay in bed
until the last minute, hop up, jump in the shower and rock
and roll. Set the tone for the morning by starting the day
on a relaxed note. There will be plenty of time for you to
be hyped up. Now being relaxed may be hard on this
particular morning, but treat it like an early morning
swim workout. You never seem to have a problem relaxing in
your chair with the coffee on those mornings before
driving to the pool. And don’t wait for the restaurant to open to eat breakfast.
Hopefully a 24 hour place will be close by and you get
have something light. Just leave enough time to do this
and get to the race. You have to figure you won’t be the
only triathlete there.
2.) Then about 5:15 a.m., get in the shower. Enjoy the
it refresh you. Do some light stretching in the shower.
The warm water may help loosen the muscles. But don’t
sit in a warm shower too long. Just enough to get you
out, dry off, and put on your swim attire, a t-shirt,
running shorts and your “extra” or old pair of running
shoes. You’ve got your stuff packed so go ahead and take
it to the car. And this may include your bicycle as well.
Now, bigger races will have you secure your bike in the
transition area the day before the race. But most do not,
so you will have to load your bike in or on your car the
morning of the race as well! Use this time as a means of
getting out in the morning air, walk around, get a feel
for the temperature. Then go back to the room, make sure
you have everything, close up shop and head for the race.
DON’T LEAVE YOUR BIKE ON THE CAR RACK OVER NIGHT. WHY
RISK EVERYTHING BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T WANT TO UNLOAD YOUR
BIKE THE NIGHT BEFORE. AND IF YOU LEAVE IT BROKEN DOWN IN
THE CAR, COVER IT. IF I WAS A BURGLER LOOKING TO STEAL A
BIKE, WHAT BETTER PLACE THAN A PARKING LOT OF A HOTEL FULL
3.) 6:00 – 6:15 . Head out for/arrive at the race. I will
assume you will be within about 15 minutes of the race,
and that includes the time it takes to park the car. The
earlier you get there, the better the parking spot. Keep
in mind, there are things to do and although you may think
you are early, the race will start in about an
hour…Amazingly, people won’t even start arriving until
about 30 minutes before, and still have all things to do
you are about to embark on. So, believe, you will not be
4.) 6:15 – Rack your bike and set up your transition.
Refer to the article on Transitions for more on this
pre-race ritual. Relax and don’t worry about anyone
else. Just stick to your game plan.
Find some music, a CD or Cassette tape of your favorite
tunes, purchase a Walkman or some type of system, strap it
to your waste, put on your earphones, and go into…
…”check out” mode.
I am serious here. Up to this point you have not had to
deal with anyone else’s stress. It has been quiet and
relaxed. And you have taken this time to avoid the masses.
Well, fear not. The masses are on their way. So why not
prepare yourself so as to keep you in your own little
Walkman’s serve two purposes here. One, you are able to
take your mind off of things while listening to your
favorite music. And two, and the most important, it
creates a zone or buffer from other people. No one will
approach you if they know you are listening to something
else. Now this may seem cold or anti social, but c’mon
folks, the social hour is over. Nothing anyone has to say
at this point (other than warm words of confidence from
your spouse, mate or children) is worth listening to, so
tune them out…Now, if the weather is foul, you will want
to listen out for instructions specific instructions. But
remember, its still early, and any important info will
reach you in plenty of time. If you have a mate with you,
let them trouble shoot and listen out for any important
5.) 6:30 – 6:45 a.m. Now that you are set up in the
transition area, take stroll and clear your head. Go to
the water to feel the temperature. Perhaps you may want to
go for a light jog. This will be the time to warm up or
loosen up. I usually do about a 6-8 minute jog. Once you
feel you are warmed up, go head back to the transition
area, grab your wetsuit and head for the water. You may
have to strip down to your swim suit at this point. If you
have a mate, you can do all this beachside. Just make sure
you towel dry before putting on the wetsuit. You will have
worked up a sweat and the wet suit will be difficult to
put on if you are sweaty.
6.) 7:00ish - Put
the wetsuit on and take a dip in the water. This may be
the first time some of you have worn your wetsuit, so get
in the water and do a light warm-up. Get used to the
water, your stroke mobility, etc. Practice your breathing.
Get a look at the coarse, where the buoys are, and where
you want to be at the start of the race. After you have
completed this task, you will still have a few minutes
before the start of the race. This will seem like the
longest 10 minutes of your life…But that’s ok…
…just get away from the crowds. Listen for your age group
but stay clear of the masses. Go find a place to stand and
relax. Actually, you may find it amusing to sit and listen
to some of the conversations. Its incredible. You will
find it ridiculously generic and somewhat self centered in
will be talking about themselves!!! Think about it, at
this point, do you think your fellow competitors care
about you and your problems? Hardly. And the funny thing
is, no one will be listening to anyone, just a bunch of
My point to all of this is, try to steer clear of the
masses during the critical part of the race. Specifically,
the morning of the race. Always stay within earshot of the
announcer, but stay away from the babblers. Remember, you
have spent weeks, even month’s training for this race.
Don’t be a sponge for someone else’s energy. You will
have plenty of energy of your own stored inside.
Good luck and Enjoy the Race!