t2coaching: Tips to Prepare for Race Day Success

challenge your limitsFeeling a bit nervous and/or excited about your upcoming race?

I remember my first triathlon like it was yesterday, read more here. Through trial and error 25 years ago and now with the abundance of resources,  I learned what works for me and share the following tips to help ease your anxiety and prepare you for possible setbacks, situations that are of your control, to gain confidence and establish familiarity

Race Week Preparation 

  1. Review your SMART GOALS
  2. Focus on how far you have come by review your weeks and months of training
  3. Write out your race plan based on your training and SMART goals.
  4. Prepare your mind for the “what if”scenarios and how you will handle it. “What ifs” are those uncontrollable issues you may encounter on the race course that maybe you did in training or maybe not.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin


The swim can be the cause of most anxiety for even the seasoned athlete. Most events have self-seed rolling swim start or age group wave start. Unless you are near the front you will still encounter plenty of bodies in the water. Set yourself up for swim success.

Training in open water beforehand can be often difficult if you are doing a springtime or early summer event. You can simulate open water swimming in a pool, click here to learn How to Master Open Water Swimming. The mass or wave swim start will influence how you line up, in the water or on shore

  • Pre-Swim the swim course to build comfort and familiarity. Take advantage of the practice swim times if available for your race. Swim for a bit then stop. Look around. Note buoys, landmarks, structures that are readily visible from the water for sighting. In which direction do you swim around the buoys, how many buoys before your turn and are the turn buoys a different color or shape what does the swim exit look like from the water
  • Know your swim entrance and exit
  • Break the swim down into manageable segments and swim from buoy to buoy
  • When you arrive at the venue keep an eye on the weather since that might influence your goggle and wetsuit choice. Learn more about Sleeveless or Full Sleeve wetsuit tips here. Know the water temperature and if wetsuits are allowed
  • Know where do the athletes enter and exit the water
  • If your goggles get knocked off by another swimmer or loose, simply stop, adjust and keep swimming.
  • Continue to swim as far as you can to the finish and into the shallowest water possible.
  • The swim time is 10-15% of the race. Relax and pace yourself.


My biggest anxiety during a race is having to deal with a flat tired or bike mechanical. In 2008 my chain broke at mile 42 of Ironman CDA.  If I have the choice I would take a flat tire over a broken chain. Prepare for either.

  • Flat tire-if you have never changed one, race week is a great time to practice in the comfort of your own home. You will need a tube that fits your wheel, tire levers, CO2 cartridges and or bike pump. CO2 is recommended.
  • Bike mechanical such as a broken chain is less likely to happen and you are not expected to carry a spare chain. You should know what do to if it does happen many races will have race support, but there’s a good chance race support won’t be close to you. Be patient and wait.
  • Stomach issues could be caused by dehydration or nutrition so if you follow your training plan nutrition in the race you should avoid it unless you are dealing with extreme heat or cold weather. Refer to my race day nutrition suggestions. Energy sources that are most valuable for the athlete. so much reserve on the internet and it will vary from person to person.
  • You can’t control mother nature. Often athletes coming from colder northern climates to a springtime southern race have not prepared for the heat and vice versa, training in hot climates and then racing in cooler climates. Know ahead of time.
  • I never heard athletes say “bring on the wind”. Don’t avoid training on windy days. Safety is a concern in extreme wind so mentally prepare.
  • I don’t tend to train in the rain and have raced it. I just slow down and don’t risk going fast downhill or around corners.
  • Pain like in knees, hips or other body parts that have not happened in training. Assess the situation, figure out if you did something that caused the pain and if it is a potential injury or just a reoccurring nagging issue you have debt with and determine if you will end your race and save it for another day or continue on. Triathlon is a lifestyle so no need to push through an injury that could end the lifestyle you love.
  • If you see a hurt athlete on the course will you stop and assist or keep going and tell the next aid station to call for help?
  • If you see a teammate, friend or fellow competitor with a mechanical or flat tire- Will you stop and assist or keep going and tell the next aid station to call for help?


A successful triathlon run is not all about how well you ran in training. Lots of things can go wrong on the run portion of the race that could have been prevented by proper pacing or nutrition on the bike

  • Although cliche, “Don’t try anything new on race day”, new running shoes, clothing, drinks and other nutrition products.
  • Dress for Comfort
  • Wear socks for 70.3 or 140.6 events.
  • Use the aid stations to psychologically shorten the run. Especially in the longer events, if I am feeling bad my philosophy is never walking between aid stations.  The distance, generally a mile between aid stations is very achievable
  • Carry backup nutrition as some aid stations may run out of “fuel”
  • Follow your pace plan
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Wear sunscreen visor or cap
  • If you get stomach trouble, slow down! Your problems will resolve if you give your body the chance to recover.

You made it successfully through your swim, bike and run. Remember to smile along the way and  thank the volunteers Click on the link to learn more about t2coaching and t2 training programs to guide you on your journey to the finish line


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Happy training and make it a great day!

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