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Professional triathlete Bree Wee explains why you can lose your race before you even enter the water, and how to avoid making the common pre-race mistakes that often lead to race-day woes.
Written by: Bree Wee
Having a tough race can be your friend if you look for lessons learned, learn from them and use them to fuel your next race. Some of the best ways to ruin a race actually come the week before. These are ones you can easily prevent. I thought I’d share a few of my favorites. Don’t try these in the week leading up to your race…
1. Add in a few extra training sessions. That is just silly. The hay is in the barn; 10 days pre race is time to stack it! A few extra sessions won’t help you gain any extra fitness or keep you in top shape. You are robbing your body of valuable healing and recovery time. You are using up moments better spent on that pre-race mental preparation.
2. Continue eating the same amount of food as you eat while training. This is super hard! We get used to consuming massive amounts of pre-workout snacks and post-workout smoothies. We get used to the extra little meals here and there to tide us over. Once we begin to reduce our training volume we also need to begin reducing our daily calorie intake.
3. Use your free time for playing catch up. Once our training load is reduced we find ourselves with a little more free time on our hands. That free time, especially if you are a parent or work a busy career, soon becomes time to catch up on laundry, spring cleaning, dusting, redoing the garage, mowing the lawn and other life activities that get pushed aside to keep up with training, family and work. Just say no. If all that stuff has survived this long it will make it another 10 days. Use those hours to put your feet up!
4. Stay up late. You may have time to sleep in now that your training load is reduced. Getting to sleep in may lead you to believe you can stay up later. No. No. No. Sleep is your friend. Race day requires so much mental alertness, focus and energy. These things come from sleep. Lots of sleep.
5. Sleep in. Avoid the temptation to rack up extra zzzzz’s by sleeping in. Most races start early. Your body thrives on routine. Because you will be racing early, it is best to help the body get used to that early morning wake-up call and all the early morning activities you will need to tackle on race day. Practice waking up at the hour you plan to awake on race morning.
6. Shop and play. One of the most fun activities of race week is exploring the location. Often we get to see new cities, new restaurants and new shops! This leads to exploring, which often leads to a lot of time on our feet and walking. You have just spent hundreds of hours training for a single race, spent a large sum of money to make the trip possible, and all of that can easily come undone by the temptation to see the sights. As boring as it sounds, the hotel room is the safest place to be pre race. The pre-race training sessions are the only exception.
7. Mix and mingle. Bring on the race expo and the friends! Race expos are perfect as they have just about anything and everything you might need for your race. If you need something, take advantage of them. If you have everything you need, avoid the temptation to shop and spend too much time on your legs. Another thing that presents a challenge is gathering with friends. This is one of the greatest aspects of our sport, the friendships. Just keep in mind that a lot of time with a lot of people can provide an opportunity to loosen up, however, it can also become a distraction. Find a balance and save most of your mingle time for post-race celebrations.
8. Race. It is important to wait until your race number is on to race. The bike is finely tuned, the body is finely tuned and race week presents several opportunities to race. It’s very common to be jogging along and get passed by another athlete in town for the race. It’s even more common to try and pass them back. Resist the urge to splurge. Save your racing for race day. This goes for race week swims and rides too.
9. Second guess yourself, your training and your coach. The nerves, the anxiety and the butterflies are all set in motion race week. This can create a lot of questioning: “Did I do enough? Am I ready? Should I do more?”. Avoid all that nonsense. If you made it to race week, you made it. Period. As an athlete there is always the desire to do more or compare your training to your peers. If you can show up to the race, in one piece, then you have every right to be there. Trust your fitness, trust your plan and trust yourself.
10. Catch a cold. Your body is very fragile race week. It is in the recovery phase after a taxing training load. This means your immune system is a little more fragile than usual. To top that off, you will be spending loads more time around people and germs (especially if you are flying to a race), you have pre-race stress and your sleeping and eating habits will be slightly off if you changed time zones. To help your body, avoid close contact with strangers and crowded places, get extra rest and load up on vitamin C (try a papaya, they have 33% more vitamin C than oranges) and load up on Echinacea.
Good luck at your next race!