A successful strategy is to take off two days before the race to rest. Complete your final workout the day before the race.
In that workout, if it is possible to swim on the race course, try to get into the water at the same time your swim wave will go off on race day. Check out where the sun is at that time of the morning. If the course is set up, swim out to the last buoy (if its not too far) and swim back in by sighting on a stationary object at the swim finish. Use this object to sight on during the race. Do a couple of short sprints before coming to shore.
Walk the same route you will take from the swim finish to the bike transition. If the bike racks are set up, find your spot (if possible) and count the number of racks you will have to pass to get to where your bike will be racked.
Now its time to do a short bike-run combined workout on the run course. Complete a 30-minute bike ride and a 15-minute run with a few accelerations to faster than goal race pace. Stretch at the completion of this workout, but be sure to take your time. After you stretch, check all the bolts on your bike for tightness. Spin the wheels to be sure they clear brake pads.
A normal breakfast should follow this early-morning workout. After breakfast relax and get off your feet until it is time to go to race registration. Get there early and attend the earliest pre-race meeting. Pick up your race packet and avoid hassles and crowds.
Driving the bike course is a good way to spend part of the afternoon. Pay attention to hills, rehearsing mentally what gears you will use on those hills. Check the pavement surface, corners, mile markers, wind direction and turnaround points.
After all the pre-race activities are completed, its time to relax. Avoid crowds and nervous athletes. Get off your legs and stay out of the sun. Take in a movie or read a book. Stay hydrated all day by sipping from a bottle of water, not a sports drink. Dont overeat. A light, early lunch is a good idea, and eat dinner on the early side.
Eat foods that you consider normal. Dont choose this night to experiment. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
Following dinner, try to slow your mind and body down. Avoid other competitors, watch television or read in a quiet room. If any negative race thoughts enter your mind, immediately replace them with a recent positive experience you have had in workouts and races.
Go to bed at a normal time. Place a bottle of water next to the bed to sip on during the night if you do wake up. Once race morning arrives, you should be ready to give your best performance.
Tom Manzi is a competitive age-group triathlete and USA Triathlon certified Elite-level coach. His clients include professional and amateur triathletes, duathletes and runners. Tom may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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