Sally Drake, USAT Level II Triathlon Coach
As a triathlon coach of all levels, I have witnessed the most common race day mistakes over and over again. But, with proper training and a few ideas detailed below, these can be easily avoided! The errors made on the big day are, 1) lack of preparation or planning and 2) lack of attention to mental training. The question is, how can an athlete avoid having issues in these 2 areas and cross the finish line running and satisfied? Let’s explore the solutions!
Practice, practice, practice! As in everything that requires skill, strength, or endurance, practice is key. An athlete cannot expect to do anything spectacular on race day if the same has not been done in training. A training plan or custom coaching are both great options for guidance. The plan should be specific to the race venue. For Ultramax at Innsbrook Resort, athletes should work on endurance and plenty of climbing! Hilly runs and rides and hill repeats at the proper time will be important for a strong performance on this humbling, but beautiful terrain. Also, open water swimming should be included in training. It is much different than jumping into a clear pool with stripes on the bottom. Practice buoy sighting, wetsuit swimming,
As race day approaches, the athlete should have a clear idea of what to expect on race day. These few steps can crush any chance of failure!
Shop for nutrition and hydration products to restock what has worked well in training. This is not the time to try something new, work the proven plan on race day.
Train with the apparel and gear that you will on race day. i.e. don’t borrow a wetsuit or bike the night before or wear a great buy you scored at the expo!
Buy a fresh pair of goggles. Again, buy what you have been using. A new pair will have a better seal and anti-fog. Both tend to wear off during training.
Pack your transition bag using a checklist. This will ensure that you have everything you need.
Taper! Give your body the recovery that it needs for a strong, fatigue-free performance. Depending on the importance of the race, a 2-week taper is strongly recommended. Workouts include appropriate intervals (or hills for this race!) to maintain fitness while allowing the body to recover from the training over the past weeks or months.
The mind and attitude can be the difference between an excellent performance or a poor one. Athletes can use visualization at a time that is convenient such as driving or at bedtime. In a nutshell, picture a successful, stress-free, smooth race. Picture racing with all of your fears and weaknesses at bay. The second part of mental exercise is positive thinking. Anytime a negative thought enters, smash it with a positive thought. An example: During a struggle on the hills on the bike, this enters the brain, “I am so weak and my legs are exhausted.” Replace that with, “I am so fortunate to be out here doing this, how many people could climb these hills much less do a triathlon!” Daily visualization and positive thinking exercises will strengthen your mental muscle for a happier race day and cultivate an attitude of gratitude in triathlons and in life.
Best of luck on race day! Any questions or to schedule a 30-minute coaching consultation on your taper, contact Sally: firstname.lastname@example.org