10 Solutions to Common Race-Day Mistakes

Even after you've done all the training, tapered the right way, and prepared yourself mentally for the day of the race, there's still a lot that can go wrong during a triathlon.

The good news is that race day will go much smoother if you can implement a few simple strategies to avoid most common mistakes.

Here are 10 triathlon race-day blunders and solutions to fix them before they happen.

More: What I Wish I Knew Before My First Race

1. Putting off packing until the night before the race. It's easy to put off packing for the race until the night before. Work, life and other obligations sometimes take priority. Even if you use a race-day packing list (and you should), if you discover at 9:00 p.m. the night before that something is broken or that you're out of your special race-day fuel, you'll have little to no wiggle room to solve the problem.

Solution: Have a race-day packing list and pack two days prior to the event. This will lower the likelihood of being without something you'll need on race day.

2. Forgetting to practice open water swimming in your wetsuit. If you haven't used your wetsuit since last season or if you've just bought a new one, it's a risk to assume it will fit. If it doesn't, an ill-fitting wetsuit can cause hot spots or blisters that can wreck your race.

Solution: Practice swimming and sighting in your wetsuit at least once before the first race of the season. If you're traveling to a warmer climate, it's a good idea you to test your wetsuit in a heated pool that mimics race-day conditions.

More: Bike Shorts Vs. Tri Shorts

3. Building no time contingencies into your race morning. Getting as much sleep as possible before your event is important. But it's a mistake to not give yourself a little more time for travel the morning of the race because you want to sleep in. Know that everyone is working backwards from the same start time and traffic could be a big issue on race morning. This will cause unwanted stress and wasted energy.

Solution: Add 20 minutes to the amount of time it normally takes you to get to the venue. It's better to be 20 minutes early than 20 minutes late.

4. Setting up your transition area and heading straight to the swim start. If you didn't bother to get your transition navigation dialed in before the race, you'll be running around the lanes after exiting the swim like a maniac looking for your bike.

Solution: Before you head to the race start, walk from the exit of the swim into transition. Select markers like trees or light poles to find your bike. Do the same for the bike entrance into the run transition.

More: 11 Tips for Your First Triathlon

5. Leaving the transition area without double-checking your bike. It's an awful feeling to jump on your bike just past the mount line only to find out you left your bike in the big chainring and the smallest cog on the rear cassette. It's immediately impossible to pedal and you're in a panic trying to change gears before you fall over. Equally annoying is the awful sound of a brake pad rubbing on your rim just as you take off, which could waste precious time if you're forced off the bike to fix it.

Solution: Make a small transition area checklist that includes inflating tires, checking for rubbing brake pads, and putting the bike in the right gear before the start of the race.

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6. Forgetting the sunscreen. This is particularly important for long-distance triathlons, when forgetting sunscreen can impact your race and increase your chances of acquiring skin cancer down the road. And let's not forgot how painful a bad burn can be in the days that follow.

Solution: Add this item to your transition area checklist along with the items in number five.

More: 6 Ways to Develop Fast Transitions

7. Giving away free speed. It's remarkable how much time can be wasted in transitions. A fast transition can make the difference between a PR or not—and it's time that can be saved with much less effort than what you'll have to put into the swim, bike, and run.

Solution: Practice transitions during training in order to eliminate wasted steps and time. Have a spouse or a friend video your transitions to look for ways to improve your efficiency.

8. Assuming you can eat and drink anything on race day because you have an iron stomach. Just because you can normally eat anything without a problem, it's no guarantee you can do the same on race day.

Solution: Practice hydration and fueling during training and high intensity sessions. Make sure your plan is flexible to account for warmer or colder temperatures than you're used to. If you aim to consume a certain number of calories every 30 minutes, make it a calorie range rather than a precise number.

More: 10 Bike Fix Essentials

9. Not knowing how to change a flat tire. Don't be one of the many racers that have no idea how to change a flat tire. Going into a big event hoping to not flat is an easy way to waste all the effort you've put into your training by having to cut your race day short.

Solution: Learn how to change a flat tire and then do it at least three times prior to race day. Deflate your tire, remove it from the rim and put it back together. This will improve your confidence and improve the overall time it takes to make a repair on the road.

10. Letting others dictate your pace. Only you know how your training has progressed. Before your event, you should have an idea of what pace, speed, power or heart rate you need to maintain to have the best race possible. Allowing others to control your race and race strategy can ruin all of your hard work.

Solution: Unless you are racing draft-legal races, it's best to control your own destiny. Know what your race day pace feels like and stick to it. Going out too hard during the swim or pushing your bike leg a little harder than you'd like can turn into a disaster on the run. Stick to your heart rate and power numbers that you've decided on during training and race at your own pace.

More: 7 Tips for Triathlon Newbies

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About the Author

Gale Bernhardt

Gale Bernhardt was the USA Triathlon team coach at the 2003 Pan American Games and 2004 Athens Olympics. She's worked as one of the few World Cup coaches and delivered coached education training for the Triathlon Union's Sport Development Team. She has coached Olympic road racers, World Cup mountain bike riders and Leadville 100 racers. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's ready-to-use, easy-to-follow training plans.

Gale Bernhardt was the USA Triathlon team coach at the 2003 Pan American Games and 2004 Athens Olympics. She's worked as one of the few World Cup coaches and delivered coached education training for the Triathlon Union's Sport Development Team. She has coached Olympic road racers, World Cup mountain bike riders and Leadville 100 racers. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's ready-to-use, easy-to-follow training plans.

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