After 10 years in the sport, I’ve written my pre-race routine in stone—and I’ve learned that what happens in those three hours before the gun goes off can make or break you.
Waking Up3 hours to start 1 of 8
I wake up and eat breakfast, which consists of a few cups of apple sauce, one scoop of whey protein and one medium sized banana. This combination sits well on my stomach, is high in carbohydrates and low in fiber. The protein satiates me through the morning and gives my body the amino acids it needs after the race to kick start recovery. Also, chasing this with a strong cup of coffee is a must.
Topping Off the Stores2.5 hours to start 2 of 8
I sip on a bottle of sports drink with sodium and carbohydrate. This is the final push to top off my glycogen stores and it also loads me up with a bit more sodium. I also have one can of Beet Performer beet juice, which allows my blood vessels to open up and carry more oxygen to the muscles.
Heading Out the Door2 hours to start 3 of 8
I already packed up my backpack, mixed up my bottles and set out my clothes the night before. So I grab it all and get out the door to head over to the race site. If it's a cold morning, I bring layers, hats and gloves. Thermal gear if it's really cold and waterproof gear if it's raining.
Transition Setup1.5 hours to start 4 of 8
I arrive at my transition area and get everything set up. Before I leave the transition, I visualize myself coming out of the water and getting on my bike, then coming in from the bike and heading out on the run. If there is anything I have that I will not use, I take it out of the transition area. Only the essentials. If I am confused about the location of the exits or entries to the transition area during that visualization, I walk through them to make sure I have it down.
Suit Up1 hour to start 5 of 8
I go for a 5- to 10-minute jog to loosen up. At this point, I try to get away from the busyness of the transition area and find a more relaxed area to warm up and put on my wetsuit or swimskin.
Core Cool Down30 min to start 6 of 8
If it's a hot race, I've gotten my hands on some ice and I am putting that all over my body. I am trying to bring down my core body temperature to offset the inevitable rise later in the day. I also take down one more can of beet juice, but if you have a sensitive stomach, skip the first can early in the morning and stick to just one 30 to 45 minutes before the start. That is the most important dose in order to time its peaking during the race.
Time to Caffeinate15 min to start 7 of 8
I take a caffeinated gel with 50-100mg of caffeine, perform as much of a swim warm-up as possible and then get ready to rock and roll.
The more times I do the routine, the easier it gets and the more comfortable I feel. Race morning is always going to be filled with nervous excitement and a bit of tension—but locking in a familiar pre-race routine is critical.
The majority of what I do is a great starting place, but everyone is different and it is important to find what works best for you. Spend some time in training playing around with all of these variables, and then try it out in the race. Don't be disappointed if it doesn't work perfectly the first time. Learn from that experience, refine the routine and get ready to tackle the next.