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Triathlon Tips: Countdown To Your First Race

Getting ready for your first triathlon is exciting!

It’s also a sport with lots of equipment and a bit of planning involved. There are some things you can do leading up to the race that will make you feel more prepared and give you a better experience.

Here are some tips for two days before the race all the way through race day morning. Don’t worry about following every instruction exactly in order – just use this to get some ideas to remember that will help you out before your race.

Two Days Before Your Triathlon

Two days before the race is a good time to pack your race bag. You can wait until the day before, but for your first race, or even the first race each season, it’s helpful to have some more time to round everything up.

You may want to have a packing list to make sure you don’t forget anything. Some of what you pack will depend on your preference. Here’s a sample list of what you may need:

The essentials:

• Race belt and pins (for attaching your race number)

• Bike and bike computer

• Bike pump

• Pre-race breakfast

• Swim cap and goggles (two pairs, in case they break!)

• Bike shoes

• Directions to the race

• Helmet

• Running shoes (or racing flats)

• Sunglasses

• Sunscreen

• Race suit (and maybe an extra just in case)

• Towel

• Water bottles

• Wetsuit

• Race nutrition (sports drinks, gels, etc.)

• Spare tube for your bike

Some helpful extras:

• Electrical tape (for taping gels to your bike or taping your timing chip strap closed)

• Sidewalk chalk (to mark your place in transition)

• Black sharpie (for doing your own body marking if the lines are too long – just make sure it matches everyone else’s)

• Personal stuff like hairbrush and extra hair ties, deodorant, ear drops for after the race

• Toilet paper

• Body glide (so your wetsuit won’t chafe your neck)

• Timing chip strap (if you have your own)

• Hat or visor

As you race more, you’ll figure out what works for you and come up with your own list.

You may also want to give your bike a good cleaning if it needs it, and check it over to make sure everything is working well. Two days before the race is also a good time to make sure you get a good night of sleep, since the night before the race you might not sleep as much.

The Day Before The Race

Depending on the race and your travel schedule, you may be able to check in for the race the day before. This way you can minimize what you’ll need to do on race morning. You may be able to get your race number, timing chip, and swim cap the day before and have some time to get everything ready. At some races you’ll also have a number to attach to your bike, and you can do this the day before too.

If possible, check out the course the day before.

Do a pre-race workout on the course, like a short, easy swim and ride. You don’t want to do too much the day before, but a short workout to feel good and stay loose can help. You can drive the rest of the bike or run course (if it’s on roads) if you want to check it out.

You’ve probably heard about having a high-carb dinner before a race.

You do want to have a good dinner with enough carbohydrates along with some lean protein and vegetables. But, you don’t need to go overboard and eat a much larger dinner than usual. The day before the race also isn’t a good time to experiment with new foods.

Eat foods that you’re used to throughout the day, and keep drinking water to stay hydrated. Then, try to get as much sleep as you can, since you’ll likely be up early the next morning.

The Morning of Your Triathlon

Plan on arriving at the race about an hour and a half before it starts. This should give you enough time to get everything ready and warm up before the starting gun goes off. However, for some big races it can take more time to get from the parking area to the transition area, so you may need to allow for more time.

Eat a good breakfast before you get to the race or on your way there. Ideally, it should contain mostly carbohydrate with a little protein and fat, and should be something you’ve practiced eating before workouts.

Make sure to drink some water or sports drink and stay hydrated while you’re getting ready for the race.

Once you arrive at the race is also a good time to top up the air in your bike tires if you haven’t already. (But don’t put in more air than the maximum amount listed on your tires.) Then get checked in if you didn’t get to the day before.

Your race bag should have your swim cap and race number that you’ll need to wear. Sometimes there are additional numbers for you to put on your helmet and bike. If it’s not in your bag, you may also need to pick up a timing chip and strap. Then, you’ll need to get body marked. Your race number and possibly your age or division will be written on your arms and sometimes legs.

Next, you’ll rack your bike in the transition area.

Sometimes there is a specific area for you to rack your bike that will go along with your race number. If not, you can choose where to rack your bike. Find an open place where no one else has set down their belongings.

Make sure you’ll be able to remember where you left your bike.

Count how many rows there are until yours or find a landmark near your bike. If you’re on pavement, you can also draw something with sidewalk chalk near your row to help you find it.

It’s a good idea to do a short warm up before the race.

Do some easy running and biking. You can do some strides or pick-ups (going fast, but not all-out, for a short amount of time), but don’t do too much hard running or biking. Save your energy!

Your warm up is also a good time to check out the course again. Make sure you know which way you’ll be going when you leave transition and that you can find your bike coming into transition from both directions.

Also, check out the end of the run course so you’ll know when you’re getting close to the finish!
Make sure everything is set out how you want it in the transition area. Think about what you’ll need for each transition and set it out where you can easily get to it.

You can set your shoes on a towel or transition mat that you can stand on to absorb some of the water after the swim. Have your helmet, sunglasses, race belt and number, and anything else you’ll need to wear like a hat or visor set out.

You’ll also want to get your nutrition for during the race ready.

For a sprint distance or shorter race, you should be fine with just water or some sports drink. For an Olympic distance triathlon, you’ll need to take in a little more when you’re on the bike. Gels are easy to eat. You can tape them to your bike frame or put them in your pockets if you have them.

As you’re getting everything ready, there may be a cutoff time when you’ll need to exit the transition area. Put on some sunscreen, grab your wetsuit, cap, and goggles, and you’ll be ready to head over to the start of the race.

Put your wetsuit on and check out the layout of the swim course.

Figure out where you want to position yourself for the start and which buoys you’re going to sight. If you can, try to get in the water for a few minutes for a short warm up. But make sure you get out of the water in time to line up for the start.

You’ve done everything you can now, so relax, be confident in your training, and have fun!


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