Keep these pointers in mind to get ready for your best race yet.
by Amy Stone
The day you've been waiting for, training for, and dreaming of is finally approaching—race day. While seasoned triathletes have their race-day routine practically memorized, for newbies to the sport, these steps may still be vague or in flux. Read on for tips to get you to the finish line and remember, it's just as important to be mentally prepared as it is physically.
Enjoy the day. You will only ever have one first race. The excitement and energy can build up to a fever pitch over the long weeks of training. There are a lot of details to keep track of and small items can all of a sudden feel like enormous issues on race day. Remind yourself to take a minute to look around and enjoy the day as you go through it. I will personally never forget the start of my first IRONMAN standing on the beach ready to swim. Just before the start I took a deep breath and thought to myself, 'this is it, I am finally here.' Those memories are as important to me as the medal I received at the end of the race. Look around, take in the full experience and remind yourself that all the training and all the hard work has paid off and you are now participating in your first race.
Commit to finish. My coach gave me this advice as I started my taper for my first race and now I share it with my athletes. The training is done and now mentally it's time to make sure your focus is on getting to the finish line. Not everything will go perfectly on race day. You might lose your goggles, perhaps you'll get a flat tire, or even forget to stick to your nutrition plan. No matter the situation, you have a choice—will you let this stop you or will you find a way to continue? I suggest you make sure your mental focus is on what you can do to get through the struggle and make your way to the finish line.
Keep moving forward. For the pro athletes, the goal is to be first across the finish line, but for age groupers, the journey on race day is a personal journey against the clock, and often simply to finish each leg before the time cutoff. Throughout the race make sure you are constantly moving closer to the finish line. Remember running is faster than walking, jogging is faster than walking, and walking is faster than stopping. Just keep moving.
Race your own race. During a race, you will see all types of people, from the pros to age groupers, and the first timers, who with each step are setting a new personal record. Each participant has a story that got them to the start of the race—including you—and no two stories are the same. Unless you are the winner there will be people out there who are faster than you, so to make the most of your first day, stick to your race plan. Be sure to celebrate your personal achievements of the day without worrying about the performance of others on the course.
Smile, be kind, and say thank you. With thousands of athletes on the course and hundreds of volunteers—not to mention friends and family spectating—you will have a lot of opportunities to interact with those around you and being grumpy is wasted energy that is better focused on reaching the finish line. Keep in mind the volunteers are working hard all day to help you cross the finish line, so a smile and a thank you goes a long way. Plus, research shows that smiling releases endorphins that help alleviate pain. Sounds like a win-win to me.
Amy Stone is an IRONMAN certified coach and a 4-time IRONMAN finisher. She hosts the endurance sports podcast named Mile after Mile and writes about coaching, her own training, and other adventures at www.amysaysso.com