Cold Weather1 of 11
If you're not warm, you won't perform well. When competing in a sprint or Olympic triathlon, consider a warmup run. Wear a latex swim cap—or for really cold swims, a neoprene cap—under your race cap. However, don't ride in your wetsuit; it's not designed for cycling, isn't breathable and will cause you to chafe badly. Put toe warmers on your bike shoeswhen you set up your transition zone. If you wear socks, roll down the cuffs so they're easy to slip onto your feet. Pre-zip your cycling jacket so you can pull it over your head. If you think you might need gloves, put them on before you hit the road.
Hot Weather2 of 11
Photo/Cathy Anderson, Flickr
Wear sunblock and stay hydrated with a carb/electrolyte solution. Quality eyewear is a must on the bike since you need to protect your eyes and see where you're going. If you use a powermeter and/or a heart rate monitor, use them to monitor effort—you'll want to back off slightly, especially when the temperature and humidity are high. On the run, stay hydrated and cool; if ice bags, towels or sponges are offered, be sure to pick them up.
Rain3 of 11
For accuracy when sighting swim buoys in the rain, use clear or lightly-tinted goggles. On the bike, decrease your tire pressure by 8 to 10psi, and know it's OK to slow down more than usual when cornering. You'll likely want to avoid wearing eyewear in rain, as lenses don't shed water as quickly as needed. Don't be shy about practicing bike-handling skillsin the rain ahead of your race, even if it's not expected to have wet conditions. Consider foregoing socks on the bike and run, as they will only hold water and may promote—instead of prevent—chafing.
Wind4 of 11
Photo/Michael Gardner, Flickr
Prepare for choppy swims by practicing bilateral breathing and sighting. Hone your bike-handling skills so you'll be confident in the wind. Don't forego aero gear, such as wheels—the qualities that improve aerodynamics also enhance performance in blustery conditions. Pedal in a slightly higher gear with a lower cadence to increase stability. On the run, lean into the wind. When running with a tailwind, maintain a proud posture, and let the wind at your heels carry you across the finish line.
Forgotten Items5 of 11
Photo/Athletic Mentors, Flickr
Make a list, and check it twice—Instagram posts of fellow athletes' race gear laid out for display are a great visual checklist. If, on race morning, you realize you've forgotten a triathlon gear item, ask a fellow athlete if they can lend you what you need or plead with the race director to make an announcement for you, appealing for loaner gear.
Challenging Swim6 of 11
Prepare for challenging swims by swimming more leading up to race day. If possible, practice open water swimming instead of staying in the confines of a pool. If you swim with a group, try to simulate race conditions of a shoulder-to-shoulder and fingers-to-toes environment.
Going Off Course7 of 11
Photo/Eredivisie Triathlon, Flickr
Know before you go: Study course maps, and ride or drive the bike and run courses. If you suspect you're off-course while racing, backtrack until you meet up with other athletes. Make sure you cover the full race distance so you can still be considered a finisher.
Low-Quality Roads8 of 11
Photo/Our Beautiful Planet, Flickr
Potholes, chip seal, cracks, debris and all manner of poor road surfaces introduce additional challenges on the bike. Decrease your tire pressure by 5 to 10psi for a comfortable ride, and practice bike-handling skills. If possible, pre-ride or drive the course to look for avoidable obstacles ahead of time.
Crowded Roads on the Bike9 of 11
Photo/Johann Schwarz, Flickr
Stay to the right, unless you're passing—it's safer, it's courteous and it's the rule. When passing on the left, announce yourself so you don't surprise others. Try to look up the road to anticipate other riders, obstacles and turns. Ride with road cyclists to perfect your bike-handling skills in crowded conditions.
Flat Tires and Mechanical Issues10 of 11
Practice proper preventative care and bike maintenance. Learn how to fix a flat efficiently. If you have a mechanical issue like a broken chain or snapped spokes, consider throwing in the towel for that race. Risking a crash and injury as a result of failing equipment isn't worth the risk.