The 2016 season has been a season of learning for me. You could argue that after all these years of training and racing, I should know better. However, we are creatures of habit (good and bad), and this year has taught me to never underestimate the power of being prepared.
We all read about training plans, coaches, nutrition, fatigue, rest and hydration. We train day in and day out, following our coaches orders obediently just to get to race day and DNF. This is definitely the most frustrating feeling for anyone who has vested their time during months for an important event.
I have learned, through very unpleasant experiences, that there are less common details that we end up overlooking in our preparation leading to a race that can potentially derail us from success. Here is a list of some of those things that I have personally experienced that have made some of my races challenging (aka. A living hell!).
1. Expect the unexpected: When I raced at Ironman 70.3 St. George in May 2016 I expected hot, dry weather. I trained in the heat as much as possible and dialed in my nutrition and hydration. However, come race day, the venue was unexpectedly cold, rainy and windy. I had not taken the appropriate gear for such conditions, and ended up having a miserable race (I could not stop shivering through the first 3 miles of the run!). Looking at the weather report is important, but always make sure to take some extra gear in case mother nature decides to through a curve ball.
2. Learn the course: I know some times it is not possible to go beforehand to the venue, but try memorizing key landmarks in the course and avoid getting lost or detoured! While participating in Pleasanton California Tri, I missed the U-turn which was not marked yet! I lost 10 minutes off the bike, and ultimately the race. I'm a little embarrassed of what happened, but I use this as a learning experience and share it with everyone in efforts to avoid something like this from happening again.
3. Be a germophobe: Athletes at the Tour de France are constantly washing their hands, using hand sanitizer, and avoiding raw meats or possible contaminated foods. You should do the same! Many of the races we go to take place far from home where food and bacteria are foreign to our bodies. Back in 2014 I had prepared to race at Los Cabos Ironman. I trained during months, physically and mentally preparing for what was going to come. I went to the race venue a week in advance to get acclimatized, and avoid any surprises. little did I know that spoiled food two days before the race would end up taking me to the hospital with severe dehydration, and unable to finish the race.
4. Always take a spare: This last advice is more of a precaution than anything that has happened to me (yet!). I always think that when a race is short, say a sprint or an Olympic distance triathlon, there is no need to take a spare. My reasoning being, that if I get a flat the race is over anyway. However, during my last race, as I was pedaling (without a spare of course), the thought of possibly getting stranded due to a flat made me reconsider my unwise choice. Even if you are at a sprint triathlon, take a spare. You don't want to walk back 6 miles on your cleats just to get back to transition.
I hope this short list helps you during next race whether it is you first time competing, or you are heading out for a PR, being prepared is the key to success.