Recent Penn State grad Kristin Goett dishes out advice for the U23 crowd (and the U23 at heart) in her Tri University column.

You’ve signed up for your first long course race, you’ve trained hard, you’ve shined up all your well-loved equipment in prep for the big day. But… the big day is still three days away, and you’ve stepped off the plane, out of your car, or off your magic carpet in the race location and have no idea how to fill your time before the big dance. Bite your nails? Pull out your hair? AH!

Everyone is shaved and muscular, and here you are timidly holding both your helmet and a few school notes to study in your spare time. No fear, here’s the ultimate guide to how to spend your time in the days leading up to the race without blowing your confidence—or your wallet.

Thursday

Whether you arrived by a train, plane or automobile, you made it. You’re really here! First thing’s first —get checked into your AirBnB or budget hotel (let’s be real, we aren’t going over $90 a night). As tempting as it may be to go right over to the race site, getting your shot blocks in a row is far more important. Plus, the odd amount of sweat you built up from lugging your equipment-stuffed non-checked bags means you could really use a shower. Like, really, use one.

Woot woot! You’ve checked in to your dwellings. So adult of you. Depending on how far from the race village you are, you’re going to figure out how to get there. If you can walk, walk. You need to get those legs moving and those gorgeous muscles churning! Resist the urge to call an Uber. Resist! Think of your dwindling dollars!

Ok, whew, you got to check-in! Brace yourself for a bit of a whirlwind afternoon. Let’s start nice and easy: check in and get your packet. You’ll get your bike next, don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about it. Tip: smush everything you can into the backpack you receive. Carrying less things equals less stress equals better mood equals major key.

Oh baby, it’s bike time. Pick up is likely near the village, but be sure to check with your shipping company beforehand. If you checked your bike with your airline, boom, you’re cooler than me and already good to go. But if you didn’t… go grab your steed, give it a hug, tell it how much you missed it, and then run through all the gears. Go for a short ride. Test it out like it’s the first time. If you have any doubts, stop by the mechanic tent. Thursday is the calmest day to have a mechanic check out your bike. You’ll see what I mean come Friday…

Friday

Which brings us to here, Friday. Ah, did you sleep well? Scarf down a PB&J? Nice! You’re right on track. No stress. We got this. Still two days to go. Today is a great day. Why, you may ask? Because you were smart, scrounged a little extra money, and got here on Thursday. Today, sit back, relax, and watch the frenzied athletes descend upon the race village as you happily go for a shake-out run with your smoothly functioning bike and check-in wristband. Sweet serenity.

Today is a great day to get in tune with how you’re feeling. Whatever you do, don’t—and I mean don’t— spend your whole day at the race village. The hordes of chiseled and intense athletes with nicer bikes than yours will only make you wallow in self-doubt. Remember: equipment doesn’t mean anything regarding talent. Remove yourself from that situation the same way you’d remove yourself from the lamest party on campus and find some friends to connect with, do some yoga, whatever it is the cool kids do these days.

Shake it off, shake it out, follow Taylor Swift’s instructions. She seems to know what’s up. Get to bed early and get ready to lock in your race-day mojo tomorrow morning.

Saturday

One. More. Day. How are you feeling? Good? Good. Great! Today’s the day to spend the rest of your moolah on some good food because you’ll need those nutrients tomorrow.

First thing’s first, though—practice swim! Pro tip: Ironman races now require you to wear your timing chip and issued swim cap to partake in the timing swim. I may or may not have had to walk a mile back to my hotel to get this. Don’t be like me.

Enjoy the water, get a feel for any currents, and remember how cool it is that all of the athletes here are voluntarily doing this. You are voluntarily doing this because you are awesome, dope, cool, rad, all of it. That’s you!

Head back to your temporary home and pack your gear bags. But first—deep breath. No need to stress with your bags. Pack the essentials first before worrying about allocating nutrition, treats, and magic talismans. What do you need to, at the bare minimum, function in the race? Probably your two pairs of shoes, helmet, sunglasses, socks, and race belt. Get those out of the way and then we load up on delicious gels, blocks, waffles, and sugary treats. A method to the madness does exist!

Tip time: decorate your bags! Bring or buy some brightly colored duct tape and permanent markers. Tape your bags up on the outside so that they stand out from the crowd. This will not only help calm your mind with a fun activity the day before a race, but it will ensure you find your bags much faster during transitions. Just make sure you label your bags with your number in marker and with the sticker!

Final Thoughts

It can be easy to run up your credit card bill while at a race. Expenses seem to lose their meaning when you’re so focused on kicking butt and taking names. When I did Louisville, I was able to keep almost four days of expenses right around $100 thanks to careful planning. I brought my own bagels, bread, and energy bars and bought peanut butter and jelly so that my breakfasts and lunches were taken care of. For lunch, I found some fresh fruit or veggies to add. Make dinner your main expense for the day. Eat a healthy, moderately-priced meal to ensure you’re getting enough fiber and nutrients in the days before the race.

Alright, it’s go time. You’re fed. You’re watered. You’re… Ironman ready! Don’t worry about the trip home, it’s totally not painful, and totally easier than pre-race… I swear. Let’s get you through race day first—time to shine!