Any advice I’ve ever received during my years of racing always came down to the following: have a plan, be flexible, take care of what you can control and stay positive. No race ever goes as planned. You might get a flat tire, you might miss the swim pack, you might get blisters. You need to be mentally prepared for anything and roll with it. Have an execution plan (with nutrition, strategy, heart rate/pace) but realize that not everything is controllable. In triathlon, anything can happen. That’s a scary concept for some of us! Those who embrace the challenge are the ones who have great performances. Here are some of my tips for preparing for a race.
Have a plan. My coach, Jesse, and I go over a race plan before every race. We talk race dynamics, go over nutrition strategies and the goals for the day. We are always focused on what we might be able to control and make sure to be flexible. No race will ever go as planned. Accepting this and embracing this will allow you to excel come race day. My plan has become very dialed in with the three most important variables: nutrition, fluids and pacing.
Patience. In the past I used to be frantic. I would come from the back of the pack in the swim and bust a move as fast as I could on the bike to get to the front. Now I stay patient and use my strength on the bike to get to T2 confidently and set myself up for a good run.
Control your thoughts. Your mind is a simple yet powerful tool. I find that my best races are those where I’m able to clear my mind of unhelpful thoughts and just execute. I practice this in training. I use positive words and phrases that I repeat over and over to help me achieve this. “I am strong” is one I use often. I work at maintaining a positive headspace no matter what happens.
Gratitude. Focus on being thankful for everyone who has helped you get to the start line. As triathletes, we should all be grateful for our health and the opportunity to race. When things get tough, I remind myself no one is forcing me to do this. I’m very grateful for my body, support team, family, friends, sponsors and competitors. Without any of them, I’d never have the chance to do this. Be grateful for what you get to do and share it!
Develop a race day ritual. Developing your own unique race day ritual that you practice before each race can be helpful on race day. It can keep you calm and focused on the task at hand. For me, I have a set plan from basically a week out of the race — this includes the items I pack, what I eat and a general time schedule leading into the race. It’s consistent for every race and provides me with a sense of calm. I asked a couple fellow pro Canadian athletes what their race day rituals are. Here’s what helps them have a successful race.
- “I am a list person. I have a race morning check list that takes me from wake up to race start. This really guides my timing for eating and ensures I don’t miss any important details before the gun goes.” — Alicia Kaye
- “I am a talker in transition. Some people like to focus inwardly and go to their own quite place, but I find the more I talk the better I feel. This means I crack a bunch of jokes, most of which probably aren’t as funny as I think they are.” — Jeff Symonds