8 Tried and True Triathlon Race Day Tips

triathlon race day tips

Are you getting ready for your first triathlon? Or, are you a veteran looking for new ways to up your game before your next race?

Whatever camp you fall into, keep these eight triathlon race day tips in mind so you can show up with confidence and run your best race yet!

1. Fuel Your Body Properly

You’ve been focusing on your nutrition plan for months now as you’ve been training for this event — don’t blow it on race day by forgetting to properly fuel yourself.

Remember, fueling up for the big race starts the night before. Make sure you eat a carbohydrate-rich dinner the day before your triathlon. You should eat no later than 12 hours before your race’s start time to give your food plenty of time to digest.

Pasta with low-fat sauce and some bread is a classic pre-race dinner option. But, you can also go with rice and lean meat like chicken or turkey if that’s more appealing to you. Whatever you choose, make sure you’re also drinking plenty of electrolyte beverages like Gatorade or coconut water.

The day of your race, start with a light, carbohydrate-rich breakfast. A bagel combined with a little bit of peanut or almond butter is a great option. Try not to deviate too much from the norm and eat what you normally eat as a pre-workout breakfast — hours before a big event is not a good time to experiment with new foods.

Continue to sip on electrolyte beverages, and add in some coffee, too, for an extra energy boost.

2. Get Your Head in the Game

Triathlons are both physically and mentally demanding. Remember to take some time to mentally prepare for the challenges you’re about to face.

Lots of people like to practice meditation to combat pre-race anxiety and put themselves in a good frame of mind to compete. It can also be helpful to repeat an encouraging mantra to yourself to keep you going when your body starts to feel fatigued.

A pre-race ritual can also be helpful for shaking off nerves. That’s why so many athletes have a highly specific warm-up routine that they repeat before every race.

3. Review Your Race Packet

Don’t forget to take a few minutes to read through all the materials you received in the packet you picked up the day before your race. This will help you feel calmer, and you’ll be caught up on important information about things like cut-off times and start waves.

It’s also important to review the map of the race course. You don’t want to end up missing a turn and having to run or ride a bunch of extra miles to get back on track!

4. Show Up Early

Arriving early is another one of the best triathlon race day tips you can apply, especially if you’re feeling anxious about your first race.

Arriving early gives you ample time to set up your gear and get familiar with the transition areas. You’ll be able to take some time to visualize exactly what you’ll do during each transition and make note of any obstacles you’ll need to avoid.

5. Set Up Your Transitions Strategically

Since you’ve arrived early, you’ll have plenty of time to get your gear set up in the transition areas.

Keep these tips in mind during your setup to make the transitions as efficient as possible.

  • If you’re able to choose your own spot, find one that’s at the end of a row and close to the exit
  • Use a balloon, flag, or brightly colored towel to make sure you can easily see your spot
  • Take note of other landmarks to help you find your spot
  • Bring only essential gear since space is limited
  • Lay your belongings on an open towel that you can stand on while you change
  • Set your socks in your shoes so you know right where to find them

Remember, too, that a 5-gallon bucket makes a great transition bag since you can easily turn it upside down and then use it as a stool to change shoes.

6. Don’t Let Your Wetsuit Get the Better of You

Many first-time triathletes struggle when it comes to changing into their wetsuit. Keep these tips in mind so it doesn’t hold you back on race day:

  • Give yourself plenty of time to get into and zip up your suit
  • Use lubes that are specially designed for triathletes since petroleum jelly can degrade your suit
  • Fold the suit down at the waist before stepping into it
  • When pulling the suit up, pull from the inside out
  • Tuck your timing chip and ankle strap into the leg cuff

It may look silly, but it’s also easier to slide your wetsuit on if you put plastic bags on your hands and feet first.

7. Refuel While Riding

At some point during your race, you’re going to need some extra calories to help you push through to the end.

For obvious reasons, eating while swimming isn’t really an option. Eating while running can also be tricky, and, since the run is the last part of the race, it’s often too late to refuel by the time you get there.

This is why eating while biking works so well. To avoid forgetting, set your watch to beep at regular intervals (lots of people like to have it beep every 20 minutes).

Stick to high-calorie, easy-to-digest options like energy gels or energy bars. Something like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich can also work well, though if you need a quick carb boost.

8. Be Flexible

Of all the triathlon race day tips, perhaps the most important one is to remember that, no matter how much you prepare, something could still happen that doesn’t align with your plan.

Because of this, it’s important to stay flexible and remember that there are lots of factors that are out of your control.

Don’t get worked up when a new obstacle enters your path.

If the weather takes a turn for the worst, remember that everyone else is dealing with the same conditions you are.

If you get a flat tire or drop you bar halfway through, remember that you still have control over how you react to these less-than-ideal situations. You can let them break you or you can see them as opportunities.

At the end of the day, you’ll still have participated in a triathlon! This is a major feat that not a lot of people can save they’ve accomplished. Don’t let small setbacks stop you from enjoying this amazing day.

Looking for More Triathlon Race Day Tips?

Keep these triathlon race day tips in mind to help you have a great experience, whether it’s your first race or your fifth.

Looking for more advice on nutrition, transition set-up, or anything else that has to do with race day?

Be sure to check out our other training-related blog posts for all kinds of tips and tricks that will help you rock your next race!