Race Preparation Tips from Challenge Tri Camp

Race season is kicking off!! We are almost into May and already some big races have taken place and with The Championship along with other high profile races coming up over the next few months it is time to start thinking about your own big race and that all important race preparation.  Below is some useful advise to start considering.

So at Challenge Tri Camp Coaching we always work backwards from the race week, planning in the taper period and then rest blocks between building and peaking periods. So if you don’t know how many weeks you have left until you big race this is the first thing to do.  Once that is set then add in a taper usually around 2 weeks if it is a half distance (more for full and the same or less for shorter distances) and then you know how many weeks of training you have left.

So you have some training time left, but the race is approaching. You need to start to get more race specific if you have not already done so and we are not just taking about race intensity heart rates, paces and wattage.  Do you know what the course is like and is there anywhere you can practise on similar terrain? What bike will you be using for race day? Is it the one you ride all the time or if you have a ‘race bike’ have you started using it and getting used to a different position and is it suited to the course. All things to start thinking about in advance.

Pictured below we have one of our coached athletes Mark who is racing Challenge Malta on the 15 May . We have had him try out both his road bike and time trial bike on the course early morning as this is when he will be racing and also practising with fluid consumption at aid station points to see if we can save him weight on the bike by not having to carry much himself. Note – Mark was three minutes faster over the 90km on his time trial bike.

Along with your bike choice and bike training ready for the race course you also need to think about the swim and run. Are you in a lake, the sea or even a pool and what does this mean for your training – can you practise in these water conditions. Do you need more wetsuit practise to get the shoulders used to being in a suit, do you need to run on hills as you have an undulating course or is your event mainly off road with steps/sand! If so have you practised on these and got the right footwear to race in! Also clothing on the day – what are you going to wear and have you tried and tested it.   Another important consideration (if available) is your starting time. Knowing this then allows you to fit sessions in at the same approximate time as you will be racing so the body gets used to racing at that time of day.

So a lot to think about in making sure your swim, bike and run disciplines are practised, fine tuned and simulated where and when you are racing. But what about the fourth and fifth disciplines……. transition and nutrition.

So transitions, no matter how long your event is from sprint to full distance, can be key and some thought and practise beforehand can save you crucial time and energy. It might be the practical side of actually doing them and practicing such elements as getting out of your wetsuit (how fast can you do it!), getting on to the bike before a mount line, putting your trainers on quickly etc… but by going over these skills and not just on race week but well in advance can help you avoid any silly mistakes and mean a smoother race overall. So do separate transitions sessions or include them in multi discipline (brick) sessions within your training. Transitions can also be about getting changed, taking on extra fuel, putting sun lotion on…so all things to start thinking about and having a plan for – are you going to have some extra food and water in one of your transition bags and if so what and why!?!

Nutrition, a key element and one that if you get wrong can lead to that dreaded DNF. So a bit like the transitions, you need to practise and practise this to find out what works for you and have a routine come race day that you have tried out and are happy with. What are you eating and drinking, how are you carrying it, how often are you going to consume it, are you using your own or the race event supplies?   Use your training sessions and especially your longer bike and run sessions to work this out. Trust us, it is a lot better to ruin a training session six weeks before the race due to one brand of sports drink or food type giving you stomach issues rather than finding this out on race day.

So as you get closer to race day and you have practised all of the above and are starting to get a race plan together or discussing with your coach how you are going to approach your pacing there are still some crucial things to consider.  Starting with your equipment…is it all in good working order, have you been training so hard that, that noise from your back wheel has not been checked out! Does your bike need a service or at least some oil on the chain to make it function a little better, are your goggles so old you can’t really see through the lenses anymore! Time to make some checks and ensure everything is as good as it can be to help you, or not hinder you come race day.

Are you now close enough to check the long term forecast – that ‘what’s the weather going to be” question! Now we know we can’t do anything about the weather but we can prepare for you need to take or practise in an extra layer or even a rain jacket and how will you carry that, are you used to running in sun lotion, have you considered extra fluid intake or sweat rates if its a lot warmer than expected? Being prepared is vital,  so whether the weather is hot or cold, wet or dry – make sure you have thought about this.

From something like the weather which you cannot control to something you can…your attitude towards the race and the build up. One thing we see a lot with athletes we coach is how differently each person approaches a race. Some are very excited as the big day gets closer and just want to get it done, others can be more anxious and nervous and start to doubt themselves.  Now everyone deals with this side of racing differently but one of the key elements is to remember why we all do this sport and that’s because we enjoy it and want to push ourselves but also have fun. Post-race is always so much easier once everyone has finished and you are chatting away and discussing the course and how you all did but beforehand is a different story. Don’t get over excited or go off too fast but also don’t doubt yourself.  So relax, breath, believe in yourself and your training and go do the best you can do. You should have an ‘A’ plan but mentally be prepared that if something goes wrong and it can, a mechanical, puncture, loose your goggles in the swim etc that a ‘B’ and even a ‘C’ plan might be needed – be prepared mentally for this.

Another thing we are in control of is being organised, and leading into the race this can be very helpful. As soon as the race information is out start looking at it – you should have already been on the event website to check the courses out but as the race gets closer more information is normally released on timings and logistics. Knowing this will help you plan…what time can you rack your bike, when is your start time, what is on the aid stations, where are they, are there any rules you were not aware of, what is the drafting distance and so on….It is all well worth a read and in advance.  We had a lady who was racing her first half distance last season and didn’t look at her start time until the day before. She was staying 30 minutes from the race start by car and couldn’t get a taxi organised so had a last minute panic trying to organise a lift. Knowing this information in advance would have meant booking a taxi much earlier and not having the extra stress.  Knowing the race schedule will also help you plan in when you will need to be on your feet, e.g. going to registration and briefings (important if any last minute changes) and when you have to rack so you can plan when you can have some time off your feet as well.

In that final week, all the hard work has been done, you know the race information and the rules and it is now just about staying sharp and ticking over. It is not a time to panic about training or trying to do more, we don’t want you injured or tired come the start line.  You will know your start time hopefully so can start to adjust your body clock if its an early one, and do some sessions at the times you are racing. Its also a great time to start visualising the race and going over the motions of the three sports along with transitions and how you will do each one.

The night before is a time to relax and get some sleep ready for the big day tomorrow. But before you set that alarm clock make sure you have everything ready and laid out for the morning so there is no last minute stress, check you bag one more time to ensure you have everything in it and that you know what time you need to be up and how long its going to take you to get to the transition area. Go to sleep knowing you are as prepared as you can be and you are going to execute your race plan, have fun and get the result you want.

We’d love to hear from you if you are interested in a training camp, want to discuss options for a camp later this year or have any questions on which type of camp would be most suitable for you.  Drop us a line at