Now at least where I live it’s not exactly race season but things live on the internet forever. Maybe you’re prepping for an upcoming race in the southern hemisphere, good for you but we all love some new, practical and realistic race day tips. I would love to be the super-organized, spreadsheet making, calm as a cucumber, type of person who folds their laundry the day it comes out of the dryer but I’m not. I mean I do okay, I’ve never lost my car keys or driver’s license permanently but I have washed then both. I’m pretty much average and pretty busy, especially in training season. All of the other tips and tricks for race day out there are absolutely true but consider these ones add ons for you know human type people.
A race day bag
For me a lot of this hinges around the existence and use of a race day bag. I actually wrote all about mine in this post about my secret bum bag. Trust me it’s nothing fancy but rather a pair of honey’s old work pants I turned into a bag. It is about the right size for reference he has a small to average size bum, size 36 if you want a better reference. You can have whatever you want as a bag but I would argue that the existence of the bag is critical. It obviously works well for carrying your stuff on the day but also in putting it aside in the days leading up to the race. So keep that in mind as you read this.
Don’t wear your race day clothes in taper time (2 weeks before)
I do laundry at our house about once a week but I don’t use the dryer unless we’re prepping for or recovering from house guests (too many sheets). Usually I put last weeks away as I’m hanging up this week’s. Don’t judge me no one is running around naked and we have lots of clothes, although would that really be so bad? We all know that you should test your race day outfit before the big day, like your last long run before you taper. I think it’s a pretty practical suggestion to not wear any of those articles you might wear on race day (all the weather options) in the two weeks before. Instead put those items aside, possibly in your race bag so that they are clean and available when you need them. There is nothing worse than the freakout that comes with not being able to find your cold weather pants the night before when there is a last minute change the forecast.
Plan as if you’ll be drunk the morning of
Not that you should be, definitely not a good idea but make your morning stupid proof. Assume you’ll only have about 14% of your normal morning brain function. The combination of a super early morning, a time crunch, adrenaline and low caffeine means you might not be functioning at your best. This means do everything you can the night before like:
- Rack your bike on the car
- Fill your water bottles
- Make breakfast (PB&J works)
- Put your keys by the door (or in the car)
- Load the coffee maker
- Cut your tape, lay out makeup etc
- Set out your travel mugs
- Anything you can think of, do it!
- Attach your race bib
- Pack for your spectators too
Lay out your clothes and stuff in the order your need them
Tape first then undies, then clothes then deodorant you get the idea bag at the end. It sounds excessive but then you can sleep for 15 extra minutes and almost be sure you’re not forgetting anything. I lay it all out in my upstairs hallway and then just walk down it getting dressed.
Scope out the location before hand if you can
It’s always nice for local races if you can pick up your kit before hand yourself, especially for bigger races where you’re more likely to be nervous or have big goals. If you’re traveling to a race it’s an especially good idea to head out to the course the day before and see what it’s all about. Olympic athletes swear that being able to visualize themselves winning in the venue makes all the difference. Even if it doesn’t lead you to the podium it will take a lot of the stress off the next morning. This summer, this tip really helped me stay eerily calm taking on my first olympic. I picked up my bib at the bike shop and then headed out to Melmerby Beach to look at the transition area, the roads and go for a swim in the ocean to confirm that it was in fact still cold. I slept well and woke up with a clear picture of what I was headed into.
Join the facebook group, page and follow the race
This day in age every race had a social media presence and it is a good way to get the most up to date info for possible updates and cancellations. But you will also get to read previous years’ posts and get a better idea of what you’re into. There might be other cool things on there too like race photos of you’re big day and exclusive discounts codes for next year. That triathlon, at sunrise they went live so everyone could see the wave conditions for the day.
Take the pressure off your sleep schedule
Are you an overthinking anxious person who can lay awake for hours the night before a big day when it’s most important that you get a good nights sleep? Me too! Want to start a support group? Plus you can get stressed out by the fact that you might no be able to sleep tomorrow the night before the night before a race. Now what I do is starting a few nights before race eve I start to prioritize sleep depending on the race distance. Usually for a bigger race I can ‘gain’ about 4 – 6 hours in the few days leading up to the night before. Then on the big night I’m thinking ‘I’m basically up a night at this point, so no pressure. Then low and behold on the big night I sleep like a baby.
Lie to your loved ones about time
Again I would love to be the type of person who wakes up sprightly and full of energy no matter the time. Though honey says he is I assure you HE IS NOT. Race mornings are usually early and in combination with living in the boonies sometimes that means out the door by 5 something. I have no shame in admitting that I outright lie to honey about the time we have to leave. He’s not passive aggressive or anything about it but he’ll use every minute he has available for caffeinating and relaxing in the very early am. If you have people to wrangle the morning of consider lying to them about your out the door time every single time. That early they are easy to trick!
Plan your your spectator’s comfort and yours after the race
And put that stuff in the car the night before. It’s always a good idea to plan a change of ALL of your clothes (socks, undies ands shoes) if it’s a longer or rainy race. I always forget dry shoes after a wet race. This is a have too for longer races where rain is in the forecast. You’ll be happy you changed in the back of the car if you get taken out for celebratory brunch later. Also bring an extra sweater, umbrella, travel mug and anything else you think your spectators might need while you’re out there. That way they can grab it out of the car while you’re gone. No matter the weather conditions standing in it is way worse than racing in it and they’re there to cheer you on so be nice to them. Finally things you might want after like a phone charger, gatorade, snack or whatever can live in the car too. Finally if at all possible throw all that stuff into a bag and into the car the night before if you can.
You might also find these posts helpful
- How to look (sort of) your best in race photos
- Why we carb load
- Race day checklist (free printable)
- Make your own race tutu for $25
What are your best race day tips and tricks that everyone might not know? Any weird rituals? What’s your start line song?