10) Get Plenty of Sleep
I was a bit sleep deprived the morning of the 2007 Ironman Wisconsin, thanks to the drunk college girl who returned to the hotel at 2:30 a.m. and banged on every door until she found her own room...which happened to be next to mine.
After training for an expensive race like an Ironman, you want to get at least a few hours of sleep before the big day. Find a hotel away from airports, amusement parks and spring-break hot spots. Better yet, stay with friends or family (as long as they don't have crying newborns). Most of all, practice going to bed early. Staying up late every night except the one right before your race will ensure a night spent lying awake in bed thinking too much.
9) Swim the Swim, Drive the Bike, and Bike the Run
If possible, I recommend getting up close and physical with the swim, bike and run course in the days before the race. Learn the eccentricities of the course. Ask around or try emailing the local tri club. It cuts down on the surprises.
There was an especially enchanted part of the Ironman Wisconsin bike course my race buddies and I called Rude Monkey Forest. Why? Because somewhere around the 40-mile mark, when you plunge down into what can best be described as a tropical forest, you get pelted by something nasty from the thick canopy of trees. That knowledge in hand, I wasn't caught off guard when a mystery object smacked my helmet during the race.
8) Never Try Something New Before the Race
Don't even think about switching to a new type of seat for your bike, race supplement for your nutrition and hydration, or pre-race diet. The best thing you can do is the exact same thing you have been doing in the weeks and months before the race.
When your buddy suggests trying the new Indian restaurant down the street, just say "no thanks," make yourself a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and call it a night. After the race feel free to go nuts.
7) Listen to Your Body, Not Your Watch.
I've pretty much given up on using any technology right before a race. There are two reasons for this: the official reason and my real reason.
Official Reason: There's a school of thought that claims endurance athletes have become too reliant on technology. Instead of listening to their bodies, they shape their training and racing based on what their Garmin, Polar or Timex says. Race-day performance is being influenced by data from the last, short pre-race taper training, not by how you actually feel.
My Reason: Just before the race, I have a hard enough time checking in and getting all my transition bags together to worry about heart-rate specifics or data from a brief taper run. I find it much healthier from a mental standpoint to just listen to my body. It can be very liberating to simply go for an easy swim, bike or run before the big show without worrying about numbers.
6) Visualize Victory
The week before your race, find 15 minutes each night and get yourself into a quiet place with no distraction. Try to remove all the daily clutter from your mind and visualize the race.
See yourself in the water swimming with a strong and steady stroke. Visualize yourself running out of the water and putting on your helmet, biking shoes and sunglasses, and heading out onto the bike course.
Did you notice what I just did?
I completely forgot to see myself removing my wetsuit. That's why you do this, so that at race time you know exactly what you will do and how you'll do it. It's a lot easier to go back to transition for gel in your mind than it is to do it in a race.
* Please come back tomorrow for the rest of the list.