Three Key Points to Consider on Triathlon Race Day

There may be no worse feeling than the morning of a race. Nerves, fear, and an indescribable queasiness paint the picture for most of us on our way to T1 for final pre-race preparations.

How do we combat the deep anxieties and use our accelerated rush of adrenaline as an advantage?  You’ll want to consider three key points on triathlon race day: have a solid race morning nutrition and gear check plan, warm-up effectively, and train your mind to be mentally sound and strong.

1. Race Morning Nutrition & Plan Execution

When it comes to triathlon, a plan is always a good thing. This extends to your gear set-up and nutrition the morning of the race. Always have your race gear ready to go the evening before the race. The last thing you want to be doing in the morning is scrounging for your race belt or digging for your goggles.

Create a transition set-up plan before you even step a foot out the door. Know exactly which tasks need to be done and in which order you’re going to perform each. The day is stressful enough already so put your Type-A brain (since you’re a triathlete odds are this will be easy) into play and be organized and logical in your transition set-up.

Lastly, know what nutrition is going to work for you. There are few rules for this one, although some omissions are obvious (for example don’t eat a full plate of Fettuccine Alfredo in the morning). In reality, though, everyone responds differently to the food they take in when the nerves are strong.

Maybe solid foods are impossible to get down. That’s OK. Do you thrive on a little coffee? Fine as long as you don’t overdo it (coffee is a diuretic after all). Find out what nutrients your body needs the morning of a race and stick to the plan that works best for you.

As a general rule of thumb, you’re going to want carbs (glycogen), a little protein (optional and preferably from a bar), and sodium (especially if it’s going to be hot). But above all – HYDRATE.

2. Effective Warm-Up

Like nutrition, pre-race warm-ups are going to vary from person to person. Therefore, this may take some experimentation if you’re a newbie.

For many events, bike racking the night before is mandatory. This makes a few pre-race pedal strokes impossible. Under these circumstances, I like to do a few light lunges, squats, and jumps to get my cycling muscles firing. However, remember that warm-ups are never about feeling the burn. We’re just trying to get the blood flowing.

Personally, I also always need a light jog with a few strides and a few minutes in the water to warm up my arms. Sampling my race pace is a must in each case. Some of this, admittedly, is purely for mental reasons. I need to feel race pace so that I know what I want my body to do once the gun goes off.

Once again, discover what type of warm-up is going to fit your body and is going to boost your confidence.   

3. Mental Fortitude

From the professional athlete, Olympian, middle of the pack age-grouper, or the person who is worried about the 17-hour cut-off at an IRONMAN event, everyone gets nervous before a race. Everyone!

How you handle the nerves can have a direct impact on the race to come. My recommendation is to compartmentalize the events ahead.

This means focusing on your race and how you’re going to handle each leg. Visualize your percentage of threshold pace that you’ll be holding in each discipline. Don’t worry about the guy or gal next to you. Think about what you need to do at T1 and T2, when you’re going to eat and hydrate, and how you’re going to handle the conditions.

In other words, slow the race down in your mind.

Likewise, keep your thoughts in check if you are susceptible to being overwhelmed. For example, I actually get intimidated rather easily. Even if I know I’m the only elite athlete at a race, I still get caught up in thinking some guy is going to be faster than me just by looking at his physique.

I’ve learned to conquer this weakness by keeping my head down, avoiding too much eye contact, and simply thinking about my race and only my race. This mental tactic has served me well in keeping my priorities in check.

Learn what tactics will give you the mental edge on triathlon race day.


Triathlon race day doesn’t have to be an overpowering affair. You can rise above the fear and the nerves by considering the aforementioned key points. All of the topics mentioned should allow you to compartmentalize your tasks and mentally slow things down. As a result, you’ll begin what you trained for with confidence rather than trepidation.


These were three tactics you can use to make triathlon race day more manageable. Do you have questions about any of these topics? What other points do you consider on race day? Let us know in the comments!

JARED MILAM is a professional triathlete, TriDot coach, and member of the Tri4Him Pro Team. He has 16 years of competitive running experience and 11 years of competitive triathlon experience with a half Iron PR of 3:59 and a full Iron PR of 8:30. Coaching under the TriDot system since 2011, Jared loves working with aspiring triathletes of all ages and performance levels.

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