Preplan for a Well-Executed Race


Posted by Coach Laura Henry


I’ve traveled to a lot of places in order to participate in various races.  I love the excitement of exploring somewhere new, the change of scenery (and sometimes climate), and breaking away from my normal routine. This might seem counterintuitive since one of the “cardinal rules” is “nothing new on race day,” but with a little preplanning, even a race on the other side of the world from home can be well executed.


Prepare for the race course and typical conditions

One of the best things that the internet has provided to athletes is access to course maps, elevation maps, and race reports. All of these tools can be utilized to gain insight into what the race course will be like. Is it hilly? Is it flat? What type of swim conditions typically exist (ocean/river/lake)? This gives both the athlete and the coach an idea of how to structure the athlete’s training. For instance, if the athlete lives in a very hilly area but the bike course is going to be flat, then the coach may advise doing some trainer rides to get used to the continuous effort that flat courses require. If the swim is an ocean swim and the athlete doesn’t live near the ocean, open water swims in rougher water on windy days can help simulate the waves encountered during an ocean swim.


Plan your pre-race food

When traveling to a goal race, there are a few ways to approach pre-race food.  If an athlete is driving and has the ability to store food, I generally recommend that they pre-make at least some, if not all, of their own food to eat before the race. This gives the athlete control over what is going into the body prior to the race without worrying about unknown foods from restaurants. If an athlete is flying or staying somewhere where they don’t have the ability to store food, I encourage them to research local restaurants ahead of time so that they are prepared with options. This generally provides for less stress for the athlete since they have a plan and also gives them the opportunity to get nutritious, well-balanced meals before the race, as opposed to settling for whatever local eatery they encounter.


Lists are your friend

Come up with a packing list to ensure you don’t forget any race day or preparation essentials.  I have a list that I keep for triathlons and races in general (Google Keep is my go-to app for this), and then I make additions to it that are specific to the event that I’m participating in (i.e. additional nutrition, warm layers if needed).


Know your pre-race routine

Whether you’re racing close to home or far away, having a universal pre-set pre-race routine can be comforting and help reduce race day anxiety.  This could include things like eating breakfast, reading a book, listening to music, listening to a mediation app, or doing some light stretching/yoga.


Embrace the FUN

Traveling to race is exciting, and at the end of the day, it should be fun; that’s why we all got into the sport in the first place. I have found that taking time to soak in the experience of a destination race contributes greatly to my overall enjoyment of the event.


~ Coach Laura Henry can be reached at

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