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.