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Coaches Blog

6 Ways To Prepare For The First Endurance Race of the Season

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

Spring is right around the corner for most of us, which means the endurance sports racing season is upon us! Whether you’re a mountain or gravel cyclist, triathlete, or distance runner, you’re probably eagerly anticipating your first race of the season in the next few weeks.

Whether it’s your first season or you’re an “old pro.” you might feel a bit rusty or out of practice preparing for your upcoming race! There are so many nuances of race preparation that are easy to forget. Let’s go over some tips, tricks, and strategies to help you feel confident and get to the start line prepared for success.

1. Racing takes practice

Most endurance athletes understand that racing well requires quality training. Many athletes forget that racing itself requires practice, too! Not everything in cycling, triathlon, or running is fitness-based. There are preparation and tactical aspects and the mental and intellectual dynamic.

If you’re a road cyclist or mountain biker and haven’t ridden with other people in a while, your bike handling skills might feel a bit rusty. Getting reacquainted with the dynamics of riding in a group, drafting, and other skills can help you feel more confident and prepared for your first race of the season.

Most triathletes and cyclists will benefit from practicing “hand-ups” with a partner to get comfortable grabbing bottles and bags on the fly. Don’t forget to practice grabbing from both the left and right side as there’s no way to know which side of the road the aid station or Soigneurs will be stationed on.

Off-road athletes should take some time practicing hard starts and passing drills. It would be a shame to miss a pedal on the start line or get stuck behind someone on a singletrack.

Speaking of hard starts, this is an excellent time for triathletes to practice transitions. Moving from swimming to biking and biking to running takes repetition and practice throughout the triathlon season. While the transition time might not be quite as critical for long-course athletes, short-course triathletes can make up quite a bit of time on competitors with speedy transitions.

2. Prepare your gear for race season

Don’t wait for the week or two before your first race to take inventory of your gear! Start now by ensuring you have all the equipment you need and everything’s in good working order.

Many bike shops are still experiencing a backlog of work orders and parts shortages. Schedule a pre-race bike tuneup well in advance of your first race.

Several weekends before your “season opener,” gather all the miscellaneous items you need for race day: tools, hydration, nutrition, clothing, shoes, helmet–everything you would take to a race. Getting everything organized in advance will give you plenty of time to order replacements and ensure you have enough of everything. Don’t forget to check your bike repair kit to ensure your tube and flat repair kits are in good shape!

This pre-race prep is especially critical with the ongoing shipping delays and supply chain issues. Even Amazon Prime can’t always guarantee they’ll get your order to you in a few days!

3. Don’t let race intensity catch you by surprise

After the winter and a few months of off-season, race intensity can catch some athletes by surprise and be a bit of a shock to the system. Work with your coach to add some intervals and drills to your swimming, cycling, and running workouts that mimic race intensity.

Don’t forget to practice start-line intensity, too! Add in drills that replicate races that have you going hard off the start line and then settling into your race pace. Individual time trials or race simulations with a training buddy can be fun and stimulating ways to get re-acclimated to race intensity.

For cyclists, an unconventional way to prepare for race intensity is to add one or two Zwift races to your training. They’re a fun, punchy way to increase the intensity and reignite your competitive fire just before in-person racing. Work with your coach to identify workouts that can be swapped for race simulations.

For triathletes, consider adding a bike-to-run transition to the end of at least a few race simulation sessions. Practicing that transition after an intense workout will help prepare you for the mental exercise of moving efficiently through transition on race day.

4. Spend time visualizing your race

In addition to preparing physically for your race, it’s important to mentally and strategically prepare for race day.

Visualize your entire race morning, from when you wake up to the moment the starting gun goes off. What “rituals” or routines will you do? What actions will mentally and physically help you get to the starting line warmed up and ready to go?

Then, visualize the race itself. How will you approach each leg of the race? Many racecourses have maps and even online videos. Take time to review the course even before race weekend, so you’re prepared and feeling confident. Look at photos or topographical maps of important sections if possible. It’s a great way to build out your race strategy and begin anticipating the strategic demands of the race.

For cyclists and triathletes, online tools like Rouvy or Fulgaz offer the opportunity to ride well-known courses virtually as many times as you’d like leading up to race day. Focus on crucial climbs or other strategic sections.

5. Practice pre-race nutrition

Most athletes know the saying, “nothing new on race day.” Yet, most of us are guilty of forgetting that applies to meals leading up to and the morning of race day! As your coach schedules “race rehearsal” workouts, consider the day before your opportunity to practice all your nutrition strategies for the 36 hours leading up to the race.

From hydration to food choices and sleep strategies, there are many small ways to gain an edge on your competition on the day before your event.

6. Set realistic early-season goals

Work with your coach to evaluate your off-season training progress and set some reasonable early-season goals. Be realistic about what you can expect from yourself in your first race of the season.

It’s tempting to set lofty goals for the first race. While it’s valuable to be ambitious and push yourself, setting realistic goals will position you for growth and progress throughout the season.

Overall, the first race of the season is no more or less important than the rest of your season. It’s an opportunity to assess and celebrate your off-season progress, but unless it’s your A race, don’t worry as much about the outcome. Instead, focus on getting back into “race fitness.” Have fun and shake off the winter “race rust.”


Gregg Edelstein is a certified USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, an IRONMAN University Certified Coach and a USA Cycling Level 3 Coach based in the greater Boston area. Gregg offers his athletes insight on the principles of exercise, nutrition, sports psychology, and injury prevention, working to make them well-rounded and engaged athletes that share his passion for sport. Gregg can be reached at


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