How to Prepare for Your Triathlon Race

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: The Importance of Race Preparation

Some triathletes are addicted to training. They just love to train or they are anxious about getting enough hours in for their next big event or goal. So they put all their energy and effort into adding hours and hours of training. Sometimes, they are so caught up in training that they forget to make a race plan or keep postponing it until race week is there.

Others are too novice to think about a making a race plan and then there are athletes who make a race plan but don’t stick to it.

But making a race plan, believing in it and actually sticking to it is a crucial skill and perhaps even more important than training for your next triathlon.


Try to think of training and racing as two different disciplines that have to work together to achieve the same goal. I always use the analogy with Formula 1 car racing. During off-season, the R&D and technical department are trying to make the fastest Formula 1 car of the next season (within the limits and guidelines of what’s approved).

You can compare that with the all the training you’re doing, all the hours you’re putting in. And if all goes well, you have the perfect, fast, and lean car-- I mean, body-- that is ready to race. But you still need a driver to race the race. Her goal is different: to bring that very fast race car in the fastest time possible to the finish. Her skill set is completely different than that of the car builders. She needs to know at what speed to race, have course knowledge and know when and what kind of fuel to put in the car.


So how can you prepare and execute a race well? First is to make a race plan and second is to actually know the plan and STICK TO IT. A race plan can contain a lot of things:

  1. Course knowledge – Make sure you know the course. Try to make time to visit the course a couple of weeks before if possible and otherwise a couple of days before the race. Take caution of sharp turns, hilliness of the terrain, dangerous descents and also location of aid stations.
  2. Know your numbers – Know what heart rate and/or power you want to ride. You can base those on the training and tests rides you did (just like Formula 1). Make sure you don’t overdo it on the bike because your legs are feeling great. It’s a long day if you’re doing a full Ironman and you’ll probably pay for it on the run if you go too fast in the beginning.
  3. Eliminate as many uncertainties as possible. Know where the aid stations are, know what you want to eat/drink at what times, know what you want to put in your transition bags etc. etc, know what you want to eat/drink a day before a race.
  4. Make a time schedule for the 2-3 days leading up to a race and make sure you schedule includes some time to relax. This plan should also include your food strategy the day before the race to avoid GI distress. Also, review your plan and visualize your race from beginning till end.
  5. Make a list of all the mantra’s that work for you. A couple of mine are:
  • One - Stick to the plan
  • Two - Wait for it….
  • If I’m really having a bad moment during the run, repeat: one, two, one, two...


Most importantly, if worse comes to worst, make sure you have a plan B and know what to do if something happens that you didn’t foresee. This could be having a flat tire, losing your nutrition, having a panic attack during the swim or whatever comes to your mind.

Happy racing!

Written by Marleen Valk, Siren Luminary

Follow Marleen on Instagram! @valkmarleen

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