Episode 34 - How to avoid the stress & overwhelm when it comes to triathlon racing

How to avoid the stress & overwhelm when it comes to triathlon racing

Are you someone that suffers from pre-race nerves? Do you worry you’ve forgotten to do something important heading into race day?

There is A LOT to do, think about and organise when it comes to triathlon racing. Preparing for one sport is hard enough, but you’ve got to prepare yourself for 3!

Let me help you automate your racing process and take away the stress that comes with toeing the start line. I’ve put together a Triathlon Racing Checklist that outlines a range of things you might want to consider in the lead-up, on race day and also suggestions for post-race too.

Once you've got yourself a system that works for you, simply rinse and repeat!

To get your copy of our Triathlon Racing Checklist - DOWNLOAD HERE

Triathlon Nutrition Academy Podcast

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To download the Triathlon Racing Pack List:  https://www.dietitianapproved.com/racepacklist

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Episode Transcription

Episode 34 - How to avoid the stress & overwhelm when it comes to triathlon racing

Taryn Richardson  00:00
Welcome to the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast, the show designed to serve you up evidence-based sports nutrition advice from the experts. Hi, I'm your host Taryn, Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Advanced Sports Dietitian, and founder of Dietitian Approved. Listen as I break down the latest evidence to give you practical, easy to digest strategies to train hard, recover faster and perform at your best. You have so much potential, and I want to help you unlock that with the power of nutrition. Let's get into it.

Taryn Richardson  00:43
Hello there and welcome to today's episode. Hey, can you do me a favour? Can you jump into Apple podcast for me and leave me a quick review? Whether you're new to listening, or you're a longtime listener, I would love to know where you're listening in from. And some of the key things that I've taught you over this journey. 

Taryn Richardson  1:02
It's a really weird thing podcasting because I kind of talk to myself in a cupboard when I record this stuff, and it goes out into the world and all of these beautiful people listen. And I have no idea what you think. Do you love it? Do you hate it? I guess if you hated it, you wouldn't listen. But what is it you're loving? Tell me what you enjoy about the podcast and also give me some ideas for what you want to hear. I would love to know. 

Taryn Richardson  1:28
Alright, let's dive straight into today's episode. The world is opening up and people are starting to race again, which is awesome. Things keep getting cancelled here in Australia because of crazy weather. But all over the world, people are racing. It is the best! I feel like it's the end to this crazy past two years of events being cancelled and people having no idea what they're doing. So what I want to do is give you some really structured practical tips for racing. 

Taryn Richardson  1:57
This is my Racing Checklist 101. It contains everything that you might want to consider for racing, including what you're doing in the week leading in, the day before, some race day things, and even recovery - because everyone forgets recovery. So if you're sitting on the wind trainer, or you're going for a run or you're driving in the car, and you want this list, then all you have to do is go to dietitianapproved.com/racing and then you can download it for free there. 

Taryn Richardson  2:25
Alright, let's dive straight in. So the week leading into a race. There's a few things that you might want to think about. People kind of go a bit AWOL here - they're not really sure what to eat and what to do with themselves because generally, you're tapering training. Anything for Olympic Distance, 70.3, Ironman and, you know, beyond your generally tapering training. Unless it's not really a key race and you're using it as a big training session. But the week leading into an event, you generally want to do some tapering. 

Taryn Richardson  2:55
Now you need to probably adapt your nutrition in that week if you're tapering. If your overall training load has suddenly dropped, then you might want to look at scaling your intake to suit that. Now that's something that I'm not going to go into in the checklist. It's very individual and detailed and depends on who you are and what you're doing race wise, but it's something that I'll teach you inside the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program. The other thing you might want to do, for events like Olympic distance, and longer, is carbohydrate load. Now I did a whole episode on carbohydrate loading. So go back and listen to that if that's something that you're interested in. And if you need a plan for you for carbohydrate loading, then come and join us inside the Triathlon Nutrition Academy. We go through it as part of phase two and phase three in our short course and long course race nutrition. So that you can calculate a plan that's specific for you. 

Taryn Richardson  3:46
Okay, so that's kind of some nutrition things and some training things in that week leading in. A few practical things you also want to just make sure you can tick a box and get yourself organised. Like, if you're somebody that's running around like a headless chicken the week before you race going crap, I've got no sports nutrition, I've got no spare bike tubes and stuff like that. Then print this list out and just start working your way through it - so that you are comfortable and confident - and you don't get pre-race nerves and anxiety because of all the stuff you've got to cram into a few days. But bike maintenance is on this list. 

Taryn Richardson  4:16
So if you haven't already and you’re a last-minute type of person, then get yourself some bike maintenance happening in race week. Whether it is the mechanic or you're doing it yourself, it doesn't matter. Just give the old girl a tune-up and make sure she's running super smooth. Race week is also your last chance to practice if you're planning on racing in a particular race suit or a wetsuit or different shoes or things like that. Don't try anything new like this on race day. It's not fun, it's doesn't end well if you end up with rashes under your arms and something doesn't fit well or you missed a spot with Body Glide, or your shoes rub - all those sorts of things. You want to figure that out before you get to the big dance. 

Taryn Richardson  4:55
You need to get yourself some race nutrition products too, if you haven't already. Ideally you've done this well before because one of the things on your list is to make sure you practice with your race nutrition. And, you know, race week is almost too late for that. You want to be doing those over weeks and months heading into your key event. But race week is your last chance to practice with anything that you might want to do on the day. You also want to make sure that you've got your pre-race dinner organised. And if you're cooking at home, or you're away, you've got the ingredients you need, you know what you're doing. Or if you're eating out, then chances are everyone else is probably thinking that as well. And you might want to make a booking or organise some takeaway or just figure out the logistics of that so you don't end up wasting hours the night before your race trying to source something to eat. 

Taryn Richardson  5:41
Get yourself organised ahead of time with that. Make a booking, organise some mates. Take some food from home with you if you can. You can freeze up your pre-race dinner, whatever that is, and take it with you to travel - even if you're travelling on a plane, you can often do that, just take it in your carry on, freeze it, wrap it in some tea towels, put it in a cooler bag, there are plenty of options just to make sure you're not running around like a headless chicken the night before trying to source some food - because that's when you should be resting. 

Taryn Richardson  6:08
You might also want to add to your list something like body maintenance or a pre-race massage. These are optional, but some people like to race having that stuff done within a certain period of time beforehand. So organise that ahead of time too. If you know that you've got a key race coming up and your massage person or your physio (or whoever you've got) books out. Lock that in the diary now so that you know that you're guaranteed a spot when you want it. 

Taryn Richardson  6:34
The week leading in is also your time to start getting on top of your hydration rather than trying to chase your tail with that the day before or on race day. Starting to think about that the week heading in so that you're turning up to the start line really well hydrated. So that's on your list for race week. 

Taryn Richardson  06:52
Do any course familiarisation type things in race week as well. So again, you’re just, kind of, lowering your anxiety levels when it comes to where to go and what to do, where the aid stations are, where transition is, how to get from the swim to transition, all of those types of things. Just familiarise yourself with that what's online, and what's in your athlete guide beforehand. So when you turn up the day before your race, you kind of already have in your mind what's going on. And then you can just check those little minor details that you can only do when you're there.

Taryn Richardson  7:24
You're going to want to print out your race nutrition plan that you've got from your awesome sports dietitian and also print out your race day pack list so you don't forget anything. If you don't have one of those, I've got one for you. Head to dietitianapproved.com/racepacklist to download one. This is perfect to make sure you don't forget anything on race day. And then my final advice for the week leading in is don't do anything weird. Don't do anything new, just be normal. Do your normal self. Don't get distracted by what others are doing, or what you've suddenly started to read on the internet. Just be normal.

Taryn Richardson  8:02
Okay, there's some thoughts for what you need to do the week leading in. Tick those off. So you know you're organised ahead of time and you're not running around doing crazy things. 

Taryn Richardson  8:11
Okay, the day before. So use our race pack list to pack your bags, if you haven't done so already. And just make sure you've got everything - you haven't left your shoes at home, you've got some goggles, you've got your race belt, all those types of things. And you're confident you're organised here. The number of athletes I've seen turn up to transition and have forgot, like, their helmets or lots of things or turn up to a race without goggles or shoes. It's pretty nuts. 

Taryn Richardson  8:35
So use the list again, to make sure you've got everything packed and you're not stressing about forgetting things. Or not sleeping also because you feel like you've forgotten something. The day before we need to be making sure we're hydrated and we're not too busy running around to transition and catching up with mates and going to the expo and we're not staying on top of our hydration. And also making sure you're topping up your fuel tank which means eating carbohydrates, if you're a carb fueled athlete, to make sure your glycogen levels are optimised. 

Taryn Richardson 9:04
Now, depending on what sort of race you're doing, would depend on how you do that. But carb loading is very individual and it's something I'll teach you if you come inside the Triathlon Nutrition Academy. Check your bike's working smoothly. Nothing weird has happened since you've had the mechanic look over it or you've done your own mechanics. Pump up your tires if you want to the day before or you could do that also race day morning if you want. You might want to freeze your bottles that you use on the bike too. If it's going to be a particularly hot race, I would be looking at freezing bottles. But again, I would be testing that in a training situation across the same temperature to see how long it takes to melt.

Taryn Richardson  9:42
You don't want to freeze your bottles in the middle of winter for a sprint race and have them not melt in time for you to actually drink them. So something to test out earlier. But it's on your list here the day before if you do want to freeze your bottles for hot racing, and you know that that plan is going to work for you.

Taryn Richardson  9:57
Lay your race gear out all ready. Take your photo of the flat lay, post it to ‘the gram’, and then stay off your feet and out of the sun. Try not to get distracted by what others are doing. It's quite easy to get pulled in different directions by people the day before a race because it's, you know, race day vibes. Everyone's there. All your mates are there, everyone wants to do their own different thing and eat at different places or go to the expo at certain times. This is the one time that it's okay to be super selfish, and just tell everyone to go away.

Taryn Richardson  10:30
You want to do what you need to do for you. You might want to be doing some light body maintenance today. But again, something that's well-rehearsed and well practised - don't do anything new. We're ticking off our pre-race dinner. And ideally, you've got a plan for what that looks like - you're not winging that. And at the end of the day, get to bed early for a really good night's sleep. Stop scrolling through Instagram at least 30 minutes before bedtime, so that we're kind of winding down and we're not looking at a screen. But that is on your list. I've physically put that on your list - to get off Instagram, at least 30 minutes before bed. Ideally more like no screens from dinner onwards if you can, just to help the body relax and settle and wind down. So not amping ourselves looking at that blue light right before bed. And again, don't do anything new. Whatever you've practised in training is what you need to do in the same racing scenario. 

Taryn Richardson  11:25
If this is your very first race and you don't know what to do, then just stick with what you normally do in training, you know that you can wake up and train based on the day before, so don't do anything completely random and new to you - just stick with the norm.  

Taryn Richardson  11:41
Okay, so you wake up and it's race day. Obviously, you need to get up early enough to eat before you do your race. I wouldn't recommend doing any distance of racing fasted - not even sprint. So you need to get up with enough time to have some food. Whatever it is. You need your own pre-race breakfast plan. It is customised to you and what type of athlete you are, what goals you have, and what types of foods you like to eat and digest. There's definitely some strategy to the pre-race meal. But it is individual and we go through that as part of the academy program. 

Taryn Richardson  12:17
You also need to get up in time to get to transition. Generally, we're either going back to our bike, or we're going to rack our bike. And transition closes way earlier than the racing starts. You probably need to apply sunscreen before the race, particularly here in Queensland where the sun is hot and bitey. Apply it before the race rather than during the race, particularly for the shorter stuff. If you're doing the longer stuff you might need to do before and during, to make sure you're not getting burnt on race day.

Taryn Richardson  12:47
On your list is to warm up. A lot of triathletes don't warm up for racing. Get in for a swim warm-up, do some run stride throughs. I'm not a coach. I'm not telling you how to warm up. But just like training, you do a warm-up to do your high-intensity efforts. Do a little bit of warm-up for race day. Do you think the elites go and do a race cold? They definitely don't. Even if they can't get in for a swim warm-up, they're doing dry land-based, band warm-up stuff to get their shoulders warm.

Taryn Richardson  13:12
On your list is a toilet stop. It's a given. I don't even know why I put it in there because everyone does it anyway. But there's a toilet stop or /stops. You know, even if it's five. It could be pre-race nerves. It could be the coffee you've just had. It doesn't matter - empty your gastro-intestinal tract and that will make sure that you're kind of feeling nice and light and ready and less likely to have accidents out on course. If you need to, this is something I used to do all the time - was I strapped my feet to stop blisters. So I wouldn't race in socks because it took too long to put them on. But I knew that I got blisters because my feet were wet and salty and sandy and sweaty and then, you know, water gets into shoes and they rub. So I would always strap my feet to stop blisters. So that might be a strategy you want to implement moving forwards.

Taryn Richardson  13:59
And then again on race day, try not to get distracted by what others are doing. Blinkers on, laser focus. Make sure you're doing your preparation for what you know is going to set you up to race to the best of your ability. 

Taryn Richardson  14:12
And the last thing on this checklist is recovery. Nobody organises recovery. I'm talking about nutrition. But there's some other things that you might want to do for recovery. Because racing is generally your biggest onslaught to the body. You've gone really hard for an extended duration of time, and you've compromised your immune system by doing that as well. So there's a few things that I want you to think about when it comes to recovery. 

Taryn Richardson  14:36
So we're extending our planning before racing, on the day, and then taking out the other side to really complete this whole process for racing. So make sure you've got your recovery nutrition packed in your street bag. And I'll teach you about all the components of what you need there inside the academy. You might want to do some sort of cool down jog afterwards. A lot of people do their race and then stop and that's it. You're more likely to get really bad DOMS and sort of seize up later and be more sore if you don't do a bit of a cool down. But you know, do whatever makes you happy. And then think about where your recovery meal might be. 

Taryn Richardson  15:13
Whether you need to book that or have it with you. A lot of people have really delayed recovery after racing, because there's a lot going on. Like you've crossed the finish line and then you mill around in that finish area for quite a while depending on if you've got mates there or not. And then you muck around talking to people, you might need to get some photos for the socials, you might need to wait for your medal ceremony. And then often we wait as well to get our bike out of transition. And all that time people haven't eaten anything. So if you might need to start to think ahead about what you want, and get that organised ahead of time so you're not just relying on what happens on the day. Because if you're not organised, you'll go to a cafe or a restaurant like two hours later, and then wait for ages for a meal. And your recovery nutrition is so delayed by doing that. 

Taryn Richardson  16:02
I've got on the list here to visit the expo now. So after your race. It's a strategy I like to use for some people if they get super distracted or anxious heading in - is to wait till after the race to go and enjoy that. Use that as your reward. And you know, buy yourself something nice if you did a good job or you know, just for turning up to the start line for some people is a good job. But try not to get so distracted by the expo before the race. You're also on your feet and sometimes in the sun more if you're doing that pre-race. 

Taryn Richardson  16:32
So see if you can put it on the back end after you've done your effort, so you can do more resting up front. You need to rehydrate as well. Depending on how hot and sweaty you are, and what the environmental conditions are, would depend on what you need to do there. You want to stretch and maybe want to look at a massage too post-race. Whether that's waiting in line for the free ones or booking yourself in one for the next day or that afternoon, whatever you like to do for you. But you can do that organisation upfront. So you know you've got that to look forward to after. 

Taryn Richardson  17:03
And then the final thing on your list for recovery - you get bonus points for avoiding alcohol. Now I'm not going to dive too deep into recovery and alcohol. I did a whole episode with Ben Desbrow on alcohol and performance - which you should go and listen to if you're the type of person that loves to just go straight to the pub after doing a key race. So bonus points for avoiding alcohol and blocking our recovery pathways here. 

Taryn Richardson  17:27
Alright, that's it. That's my Triathlon Racing 101 Checklist. So make sure you go and grab that if you haven't written all of that down - but you should go and get it anyway because it's beautiful. You can print it out and just tick it off each time you do racing to just automate the whole process. It'll help you relax, particularly, I'm going out on a limb here, and saying that you're a triathlete that's pretty OCD and likes systems and numbers. So this checklist is perfect for you to just make sure all the I's are dotted and the T's are crossed. So go to dietitianapproved.com/racing to grab it. And I hope that's helped. Please let me know if you learned anything new or there's something that you're going to implement for your next race based on today.


Taryn Richardson  26:56
Thanks for joining me for this episode of the Triathlon Nutrition Academy podcast. I would love to hear from you. If you have any questions or want to share with me what you've learned. Email me at [email protected]. You could also spread the word by leaving me a review and taking a screenshot of you listening to the show. Don't forget to tag me on social media at @dietitian.approved so I can give you a shout out too. If you want to learn more about what we do, head to dietitianapproved.com. And if you want to learn more about the Triathlon Nutrition Academy program, head to dietitianapproved.com/academy. Thanks for joining me and I look forward to helping you smash it in the fourth leg - nutrition!

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