￼MAY We Start Racing Now?
It’s May. “April showers bring…May races and June races and July, August and September races.” That’s not quite how the saying goes, but many of us are race-focused now. Here in the Midwest, the next four to six/seven months hold the bulk of the ’22 season. So much will unfold and be revealed as we move forward. It’s an exciting time of year!
That alarm will go off early, and your lips will curl into a sleepy smile because it’s RACE DAY! Will you be ready? Will you scramble around looking through crusty eyes for your helmet in the garage, mixing your race-day nutrition while trying to find those darn car keys and slam down some java? Will you realize after you find those keys that the car needs gas? And wonder, “What exactly is the best route to that place where the race is held?”
Will you arrive at the race site a bit late only to find long lines to park, more to get body marked, and more lines backing up from the porta-potties? Will you rack your bike and discover that you left the nutrition you mixed earlier on the kitchen counter? Will you still be setting up your transition when you hear the five-minute call for your wave to start, only to rush down to the lake and discover you forgot your goggles back in transition?
Yeah, I’ve had bad dreams containing a lot of that stuff and experienced some of them first-hand. You’ve put in some hard training, so don’t sabotage it with a lack of planning and a bunch of brain farts. Race morning has enough stress without facing difficulties that you can blame on no one but yourself.
Here are the Top Ten things I think about, plan, and execute starting the day before the race leading right up to when the starting horn goes off:
- I check out my bike. I clean it and lube the chain. I go over the bolts making sure everything is tight and secured. Nothing’s worse than halfway through the bike, you hit a small bump, and your aerobars drop down four inches because they were a bit loose. In transition, when setting up, I check to be sure the wheel quick-releases are tight. I make sure my gearing is set correctly for what I’ll face the first 400m of the bike (flat, uphill or downhill?)
- I pull out my checklist the day before and lay out everything on the list, then put that gear in my tri bag. You need a checklist for all your gear. Google it and you’ll find a bunch of them. That list ensures you’ll be ready the next morning, packed, car keys found, car gassed up, bike in car, etc. I once forgot my bike shoes and had to do the bike with my large-soled Hoka shoes on small Speedplay lollypop pedals. No fun! Use your checklist AFTER the race too. I’ve left and lost a race wheel, a wetsuit and other things as I happily drove home not checking to be sure I had everything with me.
- If I really want to sleep well the night before, I leave myself notes/reminders on the kitchen counter and/or in my car. “Did you remember to bring (or do) _?” Might seem over the top, but not really. I live and work off notes and lists all the time, maybe just because I’m old, but those notes have saved my butt many times!
- I try to arrive very early. This helps in SO many ways, relieving all kinds of pressure before the race. I can check-in, set up, warm-up and do everything with plenty of time to spare. KNOW where you are going. That seems obvious, but have the address of the race site plugged into your GPS if you’ve not been there before. Beware of road closings and/or detours. It may be dark out, so finding your way to a new place might be tricky. If you’re out of town and arrive a day or two before the race, drive to the site and learn what it’ll be like the race morning. If you’ve not seen the course, drive it if you can. Course recon can help you race with confidence.
- I make sure I have (see your checklist) my ID and USAT membership card/number. I have one in my wallet and one on my keychain. I also took a pic of it and it’s in my phone. Bring your printed race entry confirmation in case there’s a question about you being registered.
- If there are not assigned bike rack spots, I try to get a spot on the end of the rack closest to the flow. Also, I like to run through transition, pushing my bike along as little as possible, so I try to rack as close to the Bike Out/Bike In entrance as possible. Once my T1 is set up, I walk down to the water and walk the exact path I’ll be running from the water to the transition area so I know exactly where I’m going. Be SURE to know where your bike is racked. Use a colorful towel or find some kind of marker or count the racks, whatever it takes, but KNOW where your bike is! Leave the balloons at home. No one wants balloon string caught in their bike.
- Porta-potties. Here’s the skinny. Use them! Ha! Take a flashlight/headlamp/phone light and toilet paper with you. Try not to wait until the line is super long because it might eat up your warm-up time. This leads to…
- I warm up. THE biggest mistake I see athletes make pre-race is not warming up. Chit-chat in the transition area, don’t follow a plan, get in long lines and poof, transition closes. You’re supposed to head to the water, but you’ve not jogged one step or done any dynamic stretching to loosen up. If I know that my start time is well after transition closes, I’ll take a second pair of running shoes, leaving the pair I’ll race in in T1 and have the other pair to warm up in before my race starts. I like jogging for 5 minutes and stretching for a minute. Then, repeat 2, 3 or 4 times if possible. Do leg swings, lunges, some jumping, maybe a few pushups, whatever gets the blood flowing and your heart rate up.
- I get in the water if at all possible before the race starts. If cold, my body will have a chance to acclimate. If I’m wearing a wetsuit, I let some water in so it can warm up next to my skin. If you can actually swim even a few minutes before you have to get out and line up, do it. Be sure your goggles don’t leak and don’t fog. Use the goggles that you used in your last swim workout so you know they won’t fog. Have clear and tinted goggles with you as it might be sunny or overcast.
- Finally, I smile. I take a deep breath. Remember, we do this because it’s fun. Let’s lighten up. Let’s be thankful and express it. 100% of people in hospital beds would give anything to do what we’re about to do.
There you go! Or maybe I should say, “On your mark. Get set. GO!”