A Triathlete’s Guide to Race Day Prep

A Triathlete’s Guide to Race Day Prep

Streamline your logistical race prep with these key tips from expert tri coach Lindsay Leigh.

Co-authored with triathlon Coach Lindsay Leigh

When you’ve spent over six months building up to an event — including dialing in your training, nutrition, and mental preparation — there’s nothing worse than making a few simple mistakes in the 24 hours prior to the start line. A rushed morning and a few cut corners can break down your focus and leave you frustrated without a critical piece of equipment, shifting your mindset from where it needs to be for race success. 

With three sports to balance, getting your gear and your body prepared for race day isn’t as casual as showing up with a few snack bars. I spoke with triathlon coach Lindsay Leigh of No Limits Endurance — where she’s coached numerous age group top finishers — to get the skinny on how triathletes can best prepare for the start line. Here are Lindsay’s favorite pre-race tips to ensure you swim, bike, and run your way to the podium at your next race. 

Pre-Race Prep

Pick Up Your Race Packet

If you can, pick up your race packet two days before the race. For many larger races, this is a mandatory requirement. This is one less thing you have to do the day before the race and makes it easier to stay off your feet. If you have to check in your bike and gear bags the day before the race, do it quickly, then head back to your hotel to chill — no hanging out at the expo, standing on your feet, or sitting in the sun. 

Organize Your Gear

Set out all of your race gear the night before. This will save you time in the morning, and it also helps to calm pre-race jitters. Use a checklist. The less you have to remember in the morning, the better. 

Prepare Your Food and Drinks

Have your food ready to go, including breakfast the morning of, race nutrition and hydration, and post-race recovery food and drink. I always make my drinks the day before the race so I can grab them out of the fridge on race morning. 

Create a List of Race Morning Tasks

This list should also include any last-minute items you need to pack. That way there’s no guessing, and all you need to do is simply follow your list.

Race Morning

Keep Your Excitement Level to a 4 Out of 10 

It is very easy to get taken up in the pre-race excitement of race morning. Don’t get sucked into it. Stay calm and focused. Focus on the present moment, and stick to your race plan. When you cross the finish line, that is the time to let your excitement out!

Focus on Yourself, Not Other Racers 

Focus on your plan in the morning and don’t worry about what others are doing in transition as you set up your bike and gear. Don’t let someone else knock you off your game, mentally or physically.

Smile and Be Grateful

Even if you aren’t feeling it, or especially when you aren’t feeling it. When you feel nervous, remember to be grateful that you’re healthy and strong enough to be racing. And remind yourself we do this for FUN and this will be such a FUN day! Chat with others at the swim start and make some new friends — triathletes are a pretty friendly, awesome bunch! 

Take a Moment to Practice Visualization

Find a quiet spot to visualize the race before you start — how you’ll execute each leg, and how you’ll handle any challenges through the day. Also, visualize the finish line and how good it will feel to cross that final timing mat.

Swim Warm-Up 

If you’re able to do a warm-up in the water, do it! This will get your blood flowing and also give you a chance to become comfortable with the water temperature and visibility. If you are not allowed to warm up, at least do some dynamic stretches like arm circles and swings, or some swim cords.

Andrew Simmons

Andrew Simmons is a USATF Level 2 and TrainingPeaks Level 2 certified coach and the founder/head coach of Lifelong Endurance. Athletes who want to improve their race times in distance running have found major success with his Individual Coaching and Training Plans. Andrew resides in Denver, Colo., where he still trains as a competitive amateur. Follow Coach Andrew on Facebook , Instagram, and Twitter.