Triathlon season has finally, FINALLY arrived. It's unfortunate that I'm Type A about dumb things -like how my shirts must be folded and the type of tupperware I like to use when carrying my lunch to work - but I'm not super organized or Type A when it comes to much of the rest of my life. Exhibit A: I scramble around in the mornings trying to pack my commute bag for swim practice and work in the 10 minutes I have between when I wake up and when Mr. Sweetie has threatened to pull out of the driveway. I remember getting ready for my first half Ironman (Mooseman 2008 - oh so long ago) and griping about how much preparation and stuff was required to get ready to swimbikerun 70.3 miles and OMG why can't I just go back to running because all I need to do is put on my shoessssssss.
I still dislike all the prep work (yes, sometimes I'll still leave my bike-cleaning and bike-packing for the very last minute thankyouverymuch), but I've realized just how important good preparaton is for having a successful race.
You have to write a race plan. Think through what you want to accomplish in each leg - what times you want to achieve - and how you're going to do it (draft like it's your job on the swim, bike like you stole something, and run like you're being chased). Think through your nutrition plan and whether or not eating 10 gels on the half Ironman bike is a bright idea (hint: it is not). Make realistic goals and plan to remember those goals when you feel like crap on the course because that will keep you going. And if you do the same races over and over again, you can just use last year's race plan you sent your coach and add a few tweaks for this year (is it a coincidence that my race schedule the past few years has looked the same, an illustration of my race plan drafting laziness?)
You have to eat alot of pancakes. I'm always thrilled when Training Peaks instructions tell me to eat alot of food, the more food the better, and the best kind of food is carbs. Long-course triathlon is a long way (duh) and 5+ hours is a long time to be racing, topping off the glycogen stores is key. And pancakes are magic in the 2-3 days leading up to the race.
Drink water and keep up your electrolytes. Summer has been on hiatus until NOW (of course the East Coast is experiencing a heat wave during race week, of course) and I think a hot day for race day will be a bit of a struggle in terms of acclimation. I'm trying to do everything I can to minimize the effect the heat will have on me by eating salty foods, drinking more fluids than I normally do, and adding electrolytes to my drinks (typically in the form of Skratch Labs hydration, but I forgot it at home today and settled for Gatorade post-sweaty run instead). I also have a Gatorade slushy percolating in my office freezer, which I'll probably eat tomorrow.
Visualize the race - visualize how you want everything to go on race day, how you plan to feel, what you plan to do during each leg. See yourself powering up the hills and fluidly running the downhills. And if you've raced on the course before, that should be especially helpful on the visualization exercises.
Get more sleep than normal, especially if your normal amount of sleep isn't adequate during a regular week, nevermind race week. Eat healthy, go easy on the chocolate chips and processed foods. And do the workouts you've been assigned at the designated level of effort- nothing more and nothing less. Nobody wins a workout.
Make sure you have all your stuff together BEFORE the day you leave for the race. It's never helpful when you discover at 6am, on your way out the door, that you don't have your favorite nutrition product and oh shucks the place where you usually buy it doesn't open until later that morning and you are out of luck. Never a fun feeling. I always try to drop my nutrition money bomb a few days in advance of race day and I try to have my tri bag mostly packed (or at least be aware that I have all the essentials) a good couples days before a race.
So those are a few things that I do to try and limit the haphazard way I used to approach race day and I do notice that I arrive at the race site more confident and calm, with my head in the right place to be ready to race well.
PS: I just noticed in my blog archives that I wrote my first post 5 years ago today on May 29, 2008, about my epiphany on why swimming is first and not last in a triathlon (because we would all die).