By Lindsay Hyman, CTS Pro Coach
After working with thousands of triathletes for more than a decade, my coaching colleagues here at CTS and I have come up with a handful of mistakes we see competitors commit again and again that sabotage their races. Some are equipment related, some are connected with preparation, and some are mental. But the positive takeaway here is that you can avoid these common pitfalls and start your race with less to worry about, more confidence in your training, and a better chance for a successful day.
Scout the Entire Course
Build in an extra travel day on your way to your event to give you time to preview the racecourse. Drive the bike route, ride your bike on the run course and pull on your wetsuit and take a swim at the swim venue. Take written notes on key landmarks that you can recall on race day. That way you’ll know where you are on the course, what’s ahead, and how far you need to go. Log the hilly sections and note how long the major climbs will be. For example: At the Boulder 70.3 race in Colorado, Jay Road turns right onto HWY 36, where you’ll hit a 2.9 mile hill at a moderate 2.5 percent incline (The race website will usually have a course map and elevation chart you can cross reference. Or use an app, like MapMyRide to pinpoint the climbs.)
Stay the course during your taper, maintaining your normal habits leading up to your event. Eat and drink the same foods, drink a similar amount of fluid that you would during your training, go to bed and wake up around the same time. This consistency keeps your body’s systems working smoothly and that calms your nerves.
Follow the Race Plan
I work with my athletes on a race plan for pacing, nutrition, and fluid intake that carefully considers the times, power levels, and running paces they have logged during training. And then I ask them to stick with it. Have confidence in your plan and your goal. It was made while you were thinking rationally and is therefore realistic.
Expect the Unexpected
Be adaptable on race day. I know this can be a difficult when you come to a race with a stated goal such as “ride a 2:30 bike split.” However every race throws its own unique challenges that will be out of your control—the heat, wind, getting kicked and punched in the swim, dropping a water bottle on the bike. Example: If you know it’s going to be hot and humid, adjust your pacing to be a little slower and make sure you drink an extra bottle of fluids. When the unexpected renders your race plan irrelevant, rely on what you’ve learned in training and adapt accordingly. And take heart that every other competitor is being forced to adapt as well.
Clean & Prep Your Bike
After all the dollars and miles you have put into your tri-bike; clean it, check it and double check it the day before race day. Why? A clean and freshly lubed bike is a fast bike! Seriously, over the course of a 70.3 or Ironman race you could lose seconds to minutes if your bike is not running smoothly. Clean bikes roll faster, shift quicker and more precisely, and decrease the risk of dropping a chain on race day. One race day, follow these 5 prep tips before you leave your bike at T1 and head to the water for the start.
- Inflate the tires to the appropriate pressure and close the air valve.
- Check the brake pads. They should be centered and not rubbing the wheels.
- Check the front and rear wheels’ quick release skewers to make sure they’re tight and secure.
- Check the handlebars and saddle to make sure they’re centered and tight. Place the bike on the ground and center your body weight over your bars and then saddle and give it a little twist.
- Set the gearing so the chain sits in one of the middle cogs of the rear cassette. This provides the right amount of chain tension when running and jumping on your bike so you don’t have to worry about dropping a chain.
Lindsay Hyman is a Pro Level coach with Carmichael Training Systems, Inc. and a certified USAT and USAC Level II Coach. In additional to competing at Ironman distance triathlons, she coaches athletes from first timers to World Champions in sprint to iron-distance events. For further information on coaching, camps and performance testing, visit www.trainright.com/ironman.