How to Deal with the Unexpected on Race Day
Despite all your best efforts, very few races go 100% to plan. Training may be interrupted by work and family life, illness may take you out for a few days, but a good training plan should be flexible and it’s important that you plan around existing factors in your life.
Being flexible and adaptable with your training will also be a valuable skill come race day, should things not go quite to plan. If you planned a ride but the weather is less than ideal, that’s OK because it might be the same on race day. Riding your bike in all weather will make you more confident in handling your bike especially in the wet or in cross-winds. If you get a scheduling class, be prepared to move sessions around or change the type of session you do to fit in with your time allowance. Being able to do this will limit the impact on your training.
When it comes to race day, so much is out of our hands, focus on things that you can control not those you cannot. From the time you line up at the swim start the weather may play a key role in your swim time. And as much as you might plan to start in a particular place in the pack, others might have the same idea. Glare on the water from a sunrise might make it harder to sight the buoys, goggles might leak a little. The more your mentally prepared for things like this, the less it will phase you. Taking two goggle choices is a good idea since you can have a tinted pair if it’s bright and a clear pair for overcast mornings.
During your bike training have you practised how to deal with a puncture or a dropped chain? While you can’t control if you do or don’t get a puncture on race day being able to fix one quickly is something you can control, a little preparation goes a long way when it comes to some bike maintenance basics. If you don’t have anyone that can show you how there are a lot of videos on you tube that can teach you how, then it’s just a matter of a little bit of practice.
Where possible do a recon the course to get an idea of the road surface and terrain you’ll be competing over. It can be a great tool for building confidence and pacing yourself. This isn’t always possible however, especially if your race location is far from where you live. If racing over a lapped course you can use the first lap to help gauge the effort on following laps. If you can’t recon the course make sure you have studied the event maps, and know the basics like number of laps and where to expect the turn points.
Equipment and clothing choice can make a huge difference to your race day. In ideal conditions all we’d need is our trisuit, however in early a late season races, or any time in the UK for that matter, the weather and temperature can be quite varied. Packing a choice of layers in your race kit will give you options, and when you’re racking up and getting ready you can make a call on what you need. This is where experience from training in different conditions is useful experience. Leaving a gilet or jersey in transition could make a big difference in colder rides especially with the added effect of starting the bike wet. Don’t confuse yourself though by leaving an entire wardrobe of stuff in your transition zone.
Be prepared to start on your feet…
Many races will have a contingency plan if the conditions aren’t safe to conduct a swim, for example extreme weather or poor water quality. Usually this could be shortening the swim or switching to a duathlon. In the latter case think about what you might need to do a duathlon; different layers, a second pair of run shoes or even socks, especially over longer distances to increase comfort and make it easier to get your shoes on and off.
Having a race plan is important so that you can execute a good race, pace yourself and finish in the best possible time. But failure to adapt to things you cannot control could see you lose out. Remember, that everyone races in the same conditions, so any race changes or weather will be affecting them too. Learning to control your focus and get on with your own race in any situation will reduce your stress levels and see you perform better as well as enjoy yourself.