Following on from our blog post on 'top tips for training for a triathlon', Kirsty O'Brien gives us her advice for coping with the race day of a triathlon.
1) Remember everyone loves a war story
Triathelites are a really friendly bunch of people. Much of your time on race day is spent messing about with your kit in transition beforehand and chatting to those that are racked near you. They are more than happy to give advice, share stories and even lend kit if you have had a mishap. I once split my wetsuit just before a race (too much cake I think) and not just one, but five people offered me spares from their kit bag. But all triatheletes love a war story. When they find somebody who has not done the course before, they absolutely love to fill you in on how tough it is, how many mishaps they have had on it in the past, and (when you are racing in Scotland) how many sheep you can expect to have to dodge on the bike and run. Don’t be freaked out by this – the course is never as bad as we have made it out to be. If it was, we would not be back for more. I met a guy in transition last year before the Scottish standard distance championships who had been told so many war stories he was freaking out to the point of nearly seeing his breakfast again. I tried to calm him down, and at the end he was ecstatic he had not only completed the race but also enjoyed it. Trust me, it is never as bad as we make it out to be.
2) Have fun
Following on from my point above, make time to enjoy the race. There will absolutely no doubt be highs and lows throughout the race. There will be moments when you really want to quit, and moments when you feel like Ironman (as in the Marvel character rather than the race distance). But racing is fun. Triathlon is fun. Even training for triathlon is fun. A happy athlete is a faster athlete. We are so privileged to be able to do this crazy sport, so relax and enjoy it. Trust me, you will have a better day if you do.
3) Involve your loved ones
Nowadays, quite often when I pick a race, I pick a race that I know some of my friends and family will want to come to. Where we can, we make a night or a weekend of it. We camp or stay in a hotel nearby and spend the night or few nights before just being normal people having a good time and talking about anything other than the race. Being a triathlete can be a very individual and lonely life sometimes in training, so when I race I like to have my loved ones with me. None of them have the remotest interest in triathlon, but they all enjoy chilling out, eating good food and (dare I say it) the occasional glass of wine. Hanging around with them before a race keeps me happy and grounded. It stops me obsessing about the race which can only be a good things for my state of mind on race day. It would probably be my number one tip for keeping in a happy race day frame of mind.
4) Control the controllables and forget about the rest
With the length of time triathlon takes and the various different bits of kit that are involved, things can go wrong. Try to anticipate what these could be and think of a plan beforehand on how you would deal with them. For example, what will you do if your goggles fall off or fill with water? Will you carry a puncture kit? Do you know how to fix a puncture? Have a plan for these types of things so that you know you are in control. However, there are ultimately going to be things that happen that are out of your control. Once, during a cross triathlon race, there was a cow completely blocking the course. I have a slight phobia of barn yard animals. I had no plan in place for cow related incidents during a race rather than to scream and hope they are more scared of me than I am of them (this particular cow was not). I get that this is a rather random example, but there are many variables in triathlon that cannot be controlled. My advice - forget about them. Don’t worry about them before or during the race. Things will crop up, and if they do, they will give you a war story to share in transition at your next race.
5) Get your nutrition right
No matter what distance you are doing in triathlon, your nutrition plan is almost as important as your training plan. Try things in training and see how they feel. People’s bodies respond differently to different things. Obviously I feel that Active Root is the best product for me and would advise people to try it, but your body will tell you what products are working for you. I often thought when I felt rubbish in training or in a race it was solely down to my lack of fitness, or ability, or something else that my body wasn’t doing right. The first time I used Active Root in training I realised it was the part of my nutrition plan that had been missing all this time. The first time I used it in a race I was amazed with the difference. When you find the product that is right for your body, you will know straight away. It is like a match made in a Disney film.
6) Leave your dignity at the door
I remember reading the rules for a race I was doing in Denmark, and it was actually written in them that, if you needed to soil yourself during a race, you had to do this while still moving. If you stopped to soil yourself, then you could be disqualified. It made me actually laugh out loud that I do a sport that has to include rules on how to deal with your bodily secretions. But it definitely sums up our sport. In transition you will find yourself applying lubrication to areas that you would never have thought to lubricate before. Coming out from the water on to the bike your hair is going to be a riot (as evident in all my race photos) and you are going to be covered in bogies by the time you run up to T1 (as also evident in all my race photos). Depending on the length of the race and how hydrated you are, you may also be faced with that decision – to pee or not to pee. And how do I do it while moving? By the end of the race you are a sweaty mess covered in bogies and possibly other things. Don’t worry, so is everyone else. This is part of what bonds us as a group – we are all rank. It is fine. Just maybe save your hugs for friends and families until after the post-race shower.
Other top tips from our Ambassadors Rachael and Kerry:
- talcum powder to help getting your cycle shoes and trainers on and off. Also prevents trainers rubbing if you’re not wearing socks. Race belt means you don’t have to pin your number on front and back.
- train in the kit you intend to race in and with the nutrition you intend to use. Don’t do anything new on race day...it won’t end well!!
- Have a plan for your equipment.......then have a back up plan for your equipment (stuff has a tendency to break at the most inconvenient of times).
- Maybe not so vital in Scotland but if there's even a chance of sun F50 all the way!!!
Be confident in yourself
- try not to get distracted by what other competitors are doing on race day. We all have our little rituals!!
- Race plans - I like to break my races up into each section, if one doesn't go the way I want it to I put it behind me and focus on the rest of my race. A couple of bad sections in a race don't have to equate to a bad finish overall. Within each section I tend to think about my timing, speed, effort and most importantly what I'm going to eat or drink and when.
- My most important tip for racing though is to smile - smile at your fellow competitors, smile at the volunteers, smile at your supporters and smile at yourself for being able to do the race no matter what your time is or your position.
- Take note of a landmark which is definitely not going to be moved (you may laugh at this but I got fooled by a huge inflatable pint of beer that moved 20m and completely thre me!) near where you are in transition.....the number of times I ran up and down past my bike like a headless chicken in a mad panic before I learnt to do this is ridiculous.
Have a nutrition plan (I would say this is one of your most important plans to have....stock up on Active Root ;) ...)
- In all seriousness, I think this is the part that I have had to work hardest on improving over the years.....I remember the first time I told my coach I took 1 banana on a 100km ride and couldn't understand why she looked so shocked. Turns out if you fuel your body you can go faster for longer...who knew?!?