Pre-Race Prep

For all athletes, pre-race preparation is a key and often overlooked aspect of the race.  For multisport athletes it is a must!  Athletes that skimp on this part of the race may not pay the price every time, but they will pay the price sometime.  And, if Murphy's Law holds true, the price will be paid at the worst possible moment.  So to minimize the chances of a possible disaster happening, always do pre-race preparations.  We have recommended some prep-work and activities to do prior to the race below.

Event Study.  Days and even weeks before the race, get a feel for the event.  Try to get an idea of how many people will be in it; including how many people will be in your category and in your speed range.  In other words, try to get a feel for the competition.  Also, study the course map to get an idea of what the terrain will be like.  Will you be going uphill, downhill, into the sun, or in circles; will the streets and paths be narrow or wide; will the swim be along the shore or circular, or, with or against the current?  Not all your questions can be answered by just reading a map, so if you have the opportunity, try to visit the actual course prior to race day.  This will help you strategize and will greatly assist in your visualization!

If there is a hairpin turn at mile 5, you want to be ready--even if the volunteers are too busy gabbing.  If you will have an opportunity to see your competition at a turnaround, you may want to be prepared for it.  If the 15th mile of the bike has a hill the size of Mt. Everest, you can plan ahead.  And, if there are any potential hazards along the course, you can avoid them.

Before You Leave.  Before you walk out of the house to go to the race, make sure you have all of your equipment--both vital and desired.  Try to get yourself into a pattern.  Store your items all the time in one area, and follow the same packing and checking procedure every time you get ready to leave.  Pack ahead of time, while you can think clearly.  Trying to remember everything at 5 AM while you are running 10 minutes late is not the best time to be checking for everything.  Do it at least the night before.

Make sure you know where you are driving to ahead of time and that the car has gas.  Some gas stations aren't open 24 hours a day.  And, always leave early--set two alarms if you need to.  Refunds for entry are not usually granted, and starting the race a half hour behind the pack does not help either.  Also, starting off your morning in a frantic way may get your heart-rate up but it is not the best mental preparation and increases the likelihood of making mental errors--provided you don't miss the race altogether!

Pre-Race.   Aside from warming-up, there are other activities that should be addressed prior to the race.  Regardless of whether or not you are familiar with the course, it is a good idea to check out the conditions on as much of the course as possible the day of the race.  Look for areas to avoid and possible hazards. Look at the road conditions and get a feel for the water.  By assessing the course on the day of competition, you can alter your apparel and your strategy to maximize your performance.

More important than checking out the course, however, is making one last check of your equipment.  With your bike, make sure tires are inflated, wheels are on tight, the seat is at the right height, the clips are working, and the number is correctly placed on the bike.  With your shoes, make sure they don't have any pebbles in them, that the laces are good, the chip (if used) is properly threaded in the laces, and (as dumb as this sounds) the left shoe is on the left side and vice versa.  Trying to put a shoe on the wrong foot can cost you a minute by the time you realize it and correct the problem.  Also be sure your goggles are in good condition and ready to go for a swim.  Put your bicycle computer on zero and put the bike in an easy gear!  If your equipment is not working correctly, find some one who can help immediately!

Transition Area.  At a minimum, you must spend some quality time getting acquainted with the transition area.  Check out the entry and exit points, the flow of traffic and overall setup.  Run the wrong way, and you could cost yourself some serious time.  Also, be sure to know the rules for the race.  Some races will require you to have your number on and displayed prior to leaving the area, others will not let you out until the helmet is on and snapped.  Know these little rules and follow them!

You must organize your little area as best as possible to make your transitions smooth and error-free.  Since there is not a lot of room to work with, try your best to have everything laid out in an orderly fashion that will promote speed.  Many athletes have a towel or two ready for drying and wiping off sand and dirt.  Many hang their bike with the back wheel up to expedite the take-off and most have their number already on their singlets and placed in an area that makes it easy to put on.  Having fluids and/or food products available is also a good idea.

As a courtesy to others around you and to keep your stuff from getting knocked around by those around you, try to keep you area small and tight.  Don't be a transition area hog!

Those are some of the basics (and not-so-basics).  Try to keep these in mind for future races.  And, if you think our tips won't make much of a difference, go watch a race and stand by the transition area.  You are sure to see at least one example of each of the potential pitfalls we brought up.  After the race go check out the transition splits of the winners and compare them to those a quarter of the way down.  You will see that the winners blow the rest of the pack away in the transition area and that pre-race prep can make quite a large difference.