Five Ways Triathletes Can Beat the Unknown on Race Week

Coach P

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#1 Plan Your Taper

This isn’t so much “make the world’s best taper” as it is “commit to what you are going to do for the week, and that’s it!” Something happens to triathletes when they get to the race venue.

After being confined to training in the early morning hours for months on end, they have been set free in a place where working out at all hours in strange clothing and talking about themselves isn’t just okay…it’s practically required!

All of a sudden that 20-minute wetsuit “test” swim has turned into a 30-minute talk on the beach plus a 45-minute swim, and a promise to meet up later for a 4-mile run. That extra time standing around and working out isn’t going to make your race any better. And won’t your family / friends be surprised when you get back to the hotel almost 90 minutes later than planned. Nice work.

Do yourself a favor and get up and get your workouts done. Budget time for hanging out and relaxing, but keep the ratio solidly in favor of “relaxing” vs “working out.”

After all, Race Week workouts aren’t as much about fitness as they are about logistics. Testing the bike. Exploring the swim venue in the morning to check out sighting and the position of the sun. Riding critical sections of the course in your full race gear, etc.

Simply keeping to the schedule you have planned will greatly improve the quality of your week and will help ensure you do all the “must do” workouts that will prepare you for race day.

#2 Enter Your Top Destinations Into Your Phone

This could be the single best time-saving, stress-reducing action you take all week. Many of you have never been to the city / town that’s hosting the race. Everything is new from registration to gas to the grocery store and the bike shop.

All week you’ll be bouncing around from one place to another as you complete your logistics, make up for things you forgot (what do you mean you brought no water bottles?!) and try to keep the family happy (dinner reservations, anyone?).

Most people will save their critical travel information into their calendar or will print it out. Nothing like landing at 2pm and getting a reminder on your smartphone with the name of your car rental company plus the confirmation number. Win!

You can take this another step simply by listing all the places you think you’ll need to go. Then look them up on Google Maps on your smart phone. Then when you’ve found the right destination, click “save” vs “drive” and that location (usually with phone number and address) will be saved to your places.

Now getting directions, a phone number, or sharing that contact information with someone else is a click away.

#3 Get Your Bike Tuned — EARLY

This isn’t so much a Race Week activity as is part of your taper process. Most triathletes start tapering / pointing to their next big race approximately two weeks out. In that timeframe there’s a lot of ground to cover, including, but not limited to:

  • Packing up all your gear into one (or more!) bags / boxes;
  • Planning all your logistics re travel, reservations, and more;
  • Creating and reviewing your Race Plan so that you are ready to execute;
  • Visualizing race day and your performance;
  • And much, much more…

Most of these steps, while different, share one thing in common — YOU can do them all!

Compare that to giving your bike a tune up. Let’s be honest, while we can all change a flat not everyone of us can replace brake cables, dial in shifting, clean and tune the drivetrain, etc.

And the last thing you want to do on Race Week is realize you have a problem and then get in line at that Race Expo Bike Tech line or the local shop. All of a sudden you are in a line, you are talking to someone who has never seen you or your bike before. Simply not ideal.

Avoid this mayhem by booking a final tuning session two to three weeks before your next big race. Have everything checked and tweaked early, so you can ride it a few more times to make sure that everything is rock solid. If you have an issue you’ll still have time to swing by the shop for one last tweak before you go.

Note: Don’t freak out if this happens to you. Seriously, don’t worry. No one has ever missed their race because of a mechanic who didn’t get the repair done on time. This is usually facilitated by lots of money…but nothing wrong with dropping off a good 6-pack of beer as well (especially to the local shop!).

#4 Have A Good Book (or Movie) at the Ready

The worst part of race week is the waiting. Waiting for a flight. Waiting to arrive. Waiting to check in. Waiting to fall asleep. Waiting for 6am to come so you can “officially” get out of bed.

As a finely tuned Type A personality, we all know that your amount of zen-like patience is finite.

So, instead of getting annoyed by all that waiting and stressing out how everyone on your flight not only seems like a triathlete, they all appear to be 100x fitter and more ready than you…let’s distract ourselves!

Plan ahead to download a few movies or shows to your laptop or device of choice. You can finally watch the movie that’s been on your list forever, or finish / start a new show series. If you like games, get a few of those as well.

The only thing worse than waiting for the race is waiting for something to download over your hotel or airport wifi. Waiting while you wait? I’d rather eat glass!

All those triathletes in the immediate vicinity will be sucking up the available wifi to either (A) check the weather for the n-th time or (B) confirm that their Facebook and Instagram friends are suitably jealous of the last picture they posted.

#5 Schedule Fun Stuff

Odds are wherever you are headed has something cool to do. A new restaurant. A water park. A bobsled run. A music hall of fame. A zip line tour. Find out what it is and sign up for it. Whether you do it with friends or you just set aside quality family time, it’s really important to put this whole trip and experience into perspective.

At the end of the day, this has to be fun. The longer you play the triathlon game, the better you get at it. But being able to keep the sport in perspective and make the most of each and every trip and race is a critical part of keeping it fun.

It could be as simple as blocking out time to play on the beach with the family or finding a bowling alley or just zipping out for a movie. Whatever fun is for you, put it on your schedule. Otherwise all the other stuff will crowd it out, and all you’ll be left with are memories, sore quads, and big medal.


Planning ahead really works. Take the time to do the things you Must Do first, then fill in the rest with fun. Actively practice patience. Use your extra time to review your race plan, or simply chill. Thank everyone on your journey, especially your family and friends. Smile. Breathe. And we’ll see you at the finish line.

PS – If you think that pre-race checklist might help, then here’s that link to get your copy one more time!


Coach P

All stories by: Coach P

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