You're awake and ready to train most mornings at 4:30 a.m. You've pushed yourself on hard workout days and you've practiced transitions enough to do them blindfolded.
Even with all this training and prep work, you should complete a practice race before participating in your main, or "A," event.
No matter how good your preparation is, "There are things you can't mimic in training that you get in a race," says Cami Stock, head coach and owner of Wild Blue Racing.
There's a lot to deal with from navigating crowds and managing nerves to dealing with your own competitiveness and getting to the race site on time.
A practice race is exactly how it sounds. It's a shorter or easier triathlon, completed before the primary race, that allows triathletes to work out any kinks and help ease any fears or concerns.
"You might know what your stomach does with certain fuel, but you don't necessarily know what it will do with that fuel when you have butterflies on race day," Stock says.
Practice, or training, races provide a better real-world scenario than even the hardest training sessions.
"Training races are the best places to practice full-speed, full-energy transitions and swimming in a race environment, both of which are hard to simulate in training," says Jason Gootman, co-director of Massachusetts-based Tri-Hard Endurance Sports Coaching.
Training races also help triathletes mentally prepare for their upcoming event.
"They help you get the edge off, mentally," Gootman says. "If your peak race is your first in a long time, you can have excess nervous energy. If you've raced once or more leading up to the peak race, you'll tend to be calmer." Gootman says.
Here are the coaches' best tips for making your practice race pay off:
Pick the Right Distance
If your "A" race is a sprint, pick a less daunting sprint race for your practice event. For an Olympic-distance peak race, participate in either an easier race at that distance or a sprint.