Race Morning Anxiety – Tip to reduce the stress

Alarm Clock

I wake up on the morning of my big race of the year, and look over at the clock. It reads 7:42 am, and my race start was at 7:30. Panic and terror flood through my body. I just trained for 20 weeks for a race, and I just missed the start.

This was the nightmare I had two times before my first Ironman. Race mornings can be very stressful, if you are not prepared. I’ve seen athletes leave bikes, shoes, goggles, and everything you can think of at home. This makes for a very stressful day, and sometimes can cause an athlete to DNS.

Now that I have stressed you out, it doesn’t have to be this way. If you are well prepared and organized on race morning, your stress can be reduced, and you can have a great day.

The Night Before  

Pre-race Prep – Plan to pack your gear the night before your race. The night before you have more time, and you are not frazzled. Have a checklist of all of your gear. List all of your gear for each leg of the race, your nutrition, and any other items you need. If there are gear bags, organize and pack them as well. If you have already picked up your race packet, attach your race numbers. Tip – Have a gear checklist, and double check it. 

Set Two Alarms – You will most likely wake up before you first alarm, because of excitement, but it is a good idea to have a back up. You have the peace of mind, that you won’t sleep in.

Get To Bed Early – I know this sounds like common sense, but make an effort to get some rest. Relax, read, watch TV, and get off of your feet. You may be excited and have trouble getting to sleep, but the time spend resting is still beneficial.

Race Morning (Early)

Wake Up – Plan to get up early, and give yourself plenty of time to get ready. Also, if you have friends/family coming with you, be sure they are up early as well. Tip – Bribe your family with a nice breakfast. 

Bathroom Plan – Everyone’s  body is on a different schedule. Be sure to have time to take care of your business. Using the toilet in your own house, sure beats a dirty port a potty, so plan accordingly. For me pooping is the fourth sport of triathlon.

Packing – Pack all of your gear into your car, boat, train, tractor. While packing use your checklist to double check you have everything. When you pull out of the driveway, you should be 100% certain you have everything.

Race Morning (Race Start)

GET THERE EARLY – Plan to get to the race at least an hour early. Do your best to account for drive time, traffic, and parking. Arriving late to a race is very stressful, and can make for a bad race. Tip- Check out a map of the start, and find the best areas to park. 

Check In – If you didn’t pick up your packet the day before, find the registration area to pick up you packet. Have your ID ready, and other info ready to go. Tip – Take a photo of your ID with your phone. If you forget your ID, you have a back up. 

Body Marking – There will be volunteers around with Sharpies to mark your race number on your body. Find them and let them draw on you, its a funny experience at first. Tip – If it is a cool morning mark yourself, before leave the house. This way you can leave your warm ups on until the race start. 

Transition – Since you got to the race early, you should get a nice spot on your transition rack. The racks will be marked by numbers, so you know where to set up your area. Be courteous to others, and leave plenty of space. While you are in the transition area, notice the entrance and exits to use during the race. Tip – Practice transitions before the race, so you know how to set up your area. 

Warm up – Give yourself 10-15 minutes to get in a warm up. A good warm will loosen your muscles, and get your heart rate up.  Jog, do yoga, jumping jacks, anything to get the blood flowing. If it is an open water swim, get in the water for a quick dip. Swim around and get a feel for the water.

The Start – Walk down to the start with enough time, so you don’t feel rushed. Have time to breath, relax, and focus on your race. You have put in the training, now its time to show your stuff. Tip – Remember to reset your GPS/watch while you are waiting to start. 

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Racing Through Resistance – Finding a way to flow through

 

Moving your body through a triathlon is a practice of pushing through resistance. Friction, wind, and will are forcing you to expend energy. You have two choices, fight against the resistance or find a way to flow through. Finding your flow through the resistance is mostly a matter of mindset. How you react and adapt to the resistance determines your success.

 

Swim Resistance

The average human swimmer is 12% efficient when swimming. Your average dolphin is 80% efficient. The dolphin has evolved to flow through the water. To move effectively through water, you must concentrate on good form that minimizes drag. If you fight against the water the water will win.

Tips for flowing through water:

  • relax
  • Keep the body in a streamlined position
  • focus on gliding through the water
  • reduce any inefficient movement

Bike Resistance –

On the bike the wind is the major force of resistance. Pushing through the wind gets exponentially more difficult the faster you go. Flowing through the wind means reducing drag, and flowing through the air flow.

Tips for flowing through the wind:

  • use a set of aero wheels, energy savings of 5-8%
  • wear an aero helmet, energy savings 5%
  • a properly set up TT bike with aero bars can save 10-15% energy
  • Keep your knees tight to the top tube
  • in a stiff headwind maintain effort, don’t increase effort and burn yourself out

Wind can also play into mental resistance. A persistent headwind will wear you down. At times you are putting out a ton of effort, but making slow progress. In these times, you have to accept the headwind and flow through. If it is a race the wind is effecting everyone. Make yourself as small as possible, conserve your effort.

Run Resistance –

Running is essentially falling forward. You lean forward move your legs and you propel forward. Gravity is providing the greatest amount resistance, but also it is also moving you forward. Your job is find the flow, where you are using gravity to your avantage.

Tips for flowing though gravity on the run:

  • lean forward from the ankles
  • maintain good body position
  • take quick steps, to minimize contact with the ground
  • minimize up and down movement, concentrate on moving forward
  • breathe, relax, and don’t fight against your body

 

Life  –

Good things happen, Bad things happen. There is constant resistance trying to keep you from achieving your goals. The trick is to find a way to flow through the resistance. You can either fight against the resistance, or accept it and find a way to flow through. Be flexible, and adapt to the changes and situations. Things good and bad will happen, it how you react is what matters. If you are focused on your goals, you will find a way to flow through.

The Runners – Long Run Meditation

I came across this video on Youtube that interviewed random runners during their workout. Most of the people were pretty open in their discussions. During my runs alone, I tend to get into my own thoughts. Sometimes this leads to deep thoughts about the meaning of life, or I think through my current issues with new perspectives. I tell my family that this is my church, and where I feel most spiritual.

What do you think about on your long runs?

 

Enter the Washing Machine – Tips for your first open water swim

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An open water swim is the most daunting part of the race for most new triathletes. We are land animals, and jumping into the water with a washing machine of arms and legs is not natural. With some practice and some strategy you can do it.

Here’s a recap of my first open water swim:

This was my first long open water swim. My plan was to survive, any means necessary. I would use my Swiss army knife of stroke techniques to complete the course. I was surprisingly relaxed at the start, ignorance is bliss. Some concern did creep into the group, as the race officials were still pulling the buoys into position as we were start. The countdown began, I positioned my goggles, and we were off. A sea of swim caps, arms and legs overtook me. My goal was to stay smooth, and conserve energy. First buoy can relatively quickly, and I sighted toward the second. As I turned the wind and current hit me in the face. The next 20 minutes were a blur of swimming and controlled drowning. The last 20M to the buoy took about 2 minutes. (I later learned the marker was actually floating away, nice.) I will not recount the last leg of the swim, because it was very painful, and I have put it deep in my memory, along with bad first dates, Vanilla Ice, and that halloween witch that scared the crap out of me when I was 5. I emerged from the water tired and dizzy, and headed for T1.

Here are some tips to help get you through your first open water swim:

Relax – This the most important and difficult thing to do in an open water swim. The situation goes like this: The guns goes off, the athletes stampede into the the water, you start to swim and there is a sea of arms and legs all around you. With all of this stress your heart rate is going to spike. It’s your job to breath and relax. Slow things down and find your own rhythm. It’s a long race, no need to burn all of your energy in the first 5 minutes.

Practice – To be comfortable in open water, practice in open water.  Not every workout needs to be in open water, that wouldn’t be practical. A couple of practice swims with a buddy prior to your open water race will suffice. The idea is to get used to the sights, sounds and feeling of open water.

Confidence – Be sure you are comfortable completing the distance. Having confidence in your ability to swim the distance will alleviate stress. Be sure to cover the distance in the pool a couple of times.

Warm up – It is a good idea to get down to the water prior to your race start and warm up in the water. It doesn’t need to be very long, maybe five minutes of swimming. During the warm up you can feel the water temp, and practice breathing. A good warm up should leave you feeling relaxed and ready to start.

The Start – Open water swim starts are chaotic. A group of athletes entering the water turns into a sea of arms and legs thrashing about. You are already excited about the race start, and the adrenaline of the moment can cause your heart rate to spike. This is where most people run into issues. My advice is to find some clear water and swim your own race.

If you are uncomfortable with contact,  start on the side of your wave, or let the group go for moment and then start. I haven’t found a good simulation for a race start. They get much easier with experience.

Conditions – Open water conditions are always changing. The swim is affected by wind, current, temp and weather. You need to be aware of the conditions. There should be pre-race meeting that will explain the water conditions. It’s a good idea to attend so you know what to expect. Also, remember you have no control over the conditions, so there’s no need to freak out.

Sighting – Sighting is the process of picking a landmark, and using that landmark to control your swim direction. Sounds easy right? It’s not easy, and takes practice. This is another skill to work on during your open water swim practice.

Every 8-10 breaths you look up and see where you are swimming. The best landmarks are big and obvious, like water towers or a large building. There will also be buoys marking the course. During a swim buoys can be difficult to see because of chop or glare. It is best to use a combination of landmarks and buoys.

Here’s an excellent article from Triathlete Europe on swim sighting.

Relax – It is so important that I put relax in the list a second time. Swimming with a red lined heart rate, and tight muscles is counter productive and can lead to panic. The best way to combat these issues is to find a way to relax. You can fight against the water, but the water will always win. My best advice is to relax, flow through the water, and find your rhythm.

 

Ahhh, That New Bike Smell – Tips on buying a Tri bike

Bike wall

You raced a few triathlons, and you are hooked. Its time to trade in that beater bike for a fast new time machine. Before you pay out the GDP of an island nation on a new tri bike, here are some things to consider.

*legal notice – Always inform your significant other of these large purchases. Don’t try to sneak a new bike in the garage hoping they won’t notice. Believe me it won’t work.

Commitment

Have you caught the triathlon bug? Do you see your yourself progressing in the sport, and riding consistently. A Tri bike is a big expense, so let your commitment drive your investment. Garages and Craigslist ads are filled with lonely Tri bikes bought with the best of intentions. The owners raced a couple of Tris, and in the euphoria of finishing, plopped down a wad of cash on a shiny new bike. Then life/kids/job/injury/beer got in the way, and the shiny new steed went unridden.

If you are getting consistent workouts in, and a new bike will take your racing and training to a new level, now is the time to purchase that new bike. A new bike is a great motivator to get you out there riding with great excitement. Its like getting a new car, but you don’t have to ride everyone around the block when you bring it home.

Cost

Let’s get this out of the way, Tri bikes are expensive, and in some cases ridiculously expensive. Consider your budget and weigh your options when choosing a new bike. My advice is to get the best quality bike you can afford. A well made bike that is properly maintained can last 10 years.

Here’s the main items that drive the cost of a bike:

  • Frame Material/Design – Carbon fiber bikes are the most expensive, Aluminum and steel bikes cost less.
  • Components – (Shifters, Brakes, Derailleurs, etc.) Each component manufacturer produces different groups on different price ranges. Components on entry level Tri bikes are more than adequate. The difference with the higher priced groups is normally weight.
  • Wheels – Here’s where you can save some money. Entry level tri bikes will come with decent wheels. Eventually these wheels will wear out, or you will want lighter race wheels. Save money on the front end and get standard wheels, as it is easy to upgrade later.

Many bike manufacturers offer the same frame with different components. If you are on a budget choose the cheaper components. This way you are still getting the great frame, and you can upgrade the parts as you want.

Base Model Triathlon Bikes:

 

Fit

This is the most overlooked, but most important factor of choosing a new bike. You can max out your credit card with a $10k carbon dream machine, but if it doesn’t fit, you won’t go any faster.

My advice is to go and test ride some bikes. Have a person from the shop spend time with you seeing how the bike fits your body. A good shop will put you on a trainer and make adjustments to see if the bike will fit you. This is time well spent. If the shop to go to is not willing to take this time, then run away. It is not the shop for you.

Feel

We are all a little vain. If I am throwing out a wad of cash on a new bike, I want to feel like a bad ass on my new rig. Some bikes are just plain sexy. They have great lines, a killer paint job and scream to be ridden. The more sexiness the higher the price. Be sure the bike you choose works for your eye, and makes you feel fast.

Bonus – Purchasing

When purchasing a new tri bike, I always recommend going to your local bike shop. If it is a good shop, they will get you fitted, and provide you maintenance and service. You may save a some money going online, but the value provided by a good shop will far outweigh those savings.

Used – If you are on a really tight budget a used bike might be great option. this is a buyer beware situation. I would recommend purchasing a bike that you can actually see in person. Take someone with you that knows bikes, and can help you out.

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