When it comes to race day, there’s a lot of advice I can dole out. Over the years I’ve participated in more than 40 running events and 30 multi-sport events–and those are just the ones I thought to track in my spreadsheets (that’s for another blog post). I’ve raced in rain, ice, heat, humidity, and wind. I’ve raced with a blown out tire patched with rubber cement, duct tape and prayer. I’ve competed after too little sleep, too many indulgences, and coming off illness. I had a variety of race experiences, but despite that there are some things that are constant. One such piece is the concept of “Nothing new on race day.”
Nothing new on race day requires planning and self-restraint. On the planning side it requires paying attention during training to what works best for your body. Some things that I make note of are what outfits don’t chaffe, what nutrition and hydration fuels me best and in what timing, where do I need to apply Body Glide, which sunscreen lasts longer, and so on. On the self-restraint side it requires holding back on those fabulous expo purchases for a few days longer. That fabulous new trisuit you just bought? Race day is not the time to try it out. Neither is it the right time to try out a new brand or flavor in nutrition and hydration. You spend a lot of time leading up to a race preparing not just your body for the physical conditioning, but preparing your race day plan. Don’t mess it up with fancy new goggles that might leak. Be careful, too, when it comes to the food and hydration choices that are given out at the aid stations. Most races will list on their website the brands they plan to offer. This is an excellent opportunity to try out these brands ahead of time to make sure they work well for your body. If they don’t work well it gives you time to figure out a way to carry what you need on your person.
I competed at Eagleman 70.3 a few years ago and had just purchased a fabulous new sunscreen at a prior expo. Instead of applying the sunscreen I used during my trainings, I decided to use the fancy shmancy stuff I had purchased recently. Not to mention I also decided to wear a new triathlon top for the race, which resulted in more skin being exposed that usual. It was a huge mistake. The sunscreen rubbed off quicker than the sunscreen I normally used, and I ended up with a burn so dark that I still have the remnants of those tan lines on my back. This was my big lesson for “Nothing new on race day” and it was a painful way to learn.
Of course sometimes things happen that you can’t expect or plan for and you are forced into trying something new on race day. If this happens my advice is to change as little as you have to for a successful race. Keep as many things as possible that are tried and true and you’ll be happier for it when you cross the finish line.