April 16th, 2010
02:18 PM ET

Trainer tips: Practice is essential for race day

By Jeff Coudron
Triathlon Coach to Angie Brouhard, CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge Participant
Owner, Speedy Feet Racing
13-time Ironman finisher
28 time marathon finisher

In all my years of racing triathlons and producing races, I think one of the most valuable lessons I have learned is to practice what you plan for race day BEFORE race day. This applies to everything about your race day including what time you are going to wake up, what you are going to eat that morning, what you are going to wear during your race, and how fast you plan on racing. Everything. 

Here are some tips:

Schedule:  Use a training day to practice your pre-race routine. If you plan on getting up at 3 a.m. before the race, eating eggs and oatmeal, then going back to sleep for two hours before getting up and heading to the race, do that on a training day prior to the race. Although that plan may work for others, you want to be sure your body will react the way you want it to. On race day, your nerves may make your stomach a little uneasy. Make sure you have  a practiced and proven your pre-race breakfast.

Clothes you plan to wear:  When you are at the expo the day before the race, you may be tempted to buy new items.  Don't buy new shoes, shorts, goggles or wetsuits to wear in the race you are doing the next day. You are asking for blisters, chafing or other problems. Purchase what you plan to wear in the race well ahead of race day and train in it in advance. Make sure it works for you. It’s much better to find out something is not quite right during training sessions rather than during the race.

Nutrition:  Find what works for you in terms of nutrition during your training sessions. If you think gels will provide you the best energy source during the race, buy some. Consume them during your training sessions. Don’t eat granola bars and drink water during all your training rides and then think that gels and Gatorade will give you the best results on race day.

Speeds you plan to race:  The same applies to your race pace. While you don’t have to train the entire triathlon distance at the pace you are aiming for on race day, I do recommend you mix in some interval workouts – swimming, biking and running. If you want to run eight minute miles on race day and in your training you run nine minute miles, your body may go into shock due to the stepped up pace on race day.  But you don’t have to run 10k at an eight minute mile pace if that is your goal either. You do need to run some half miles at better than four minutes.  You could do a running workout where you run six half-miles at 3:30 each with a little rest between. Then when race day comes, and you hop off the bike and start running eight minute miles, your body should think, this is not so bad. Apply the same interval type training to swimming and biking workouts as well.

Race, Race, Race:  I would like to close by advising you to race, race, and race some more. I am a strong believer in racing yourself into shape. Nothing will make you push as hard as race-day adrenaline and fellow competitors. By racing frequently, even if different events and distances, you will be more ready to deal with race-day nerves and you will automatically get some quality speed work in your training. Racing also gives you an opportunity to test all of the above before your “main-goal” race - when it counts.

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