You've spent months training for your big race, and the moment to step on the starting line is finally here. What should you do on your big day to make it a success? I asked professional triathlete Jenny Fletcher, who knows a thing or two about race jitters, to share her favorite race-day tips. The model and Oakley Perform Beautifully ambassador competes in at least 10 triathlons a year, ranging from Olympic to grueling half-Iron Man lengths. Read on for her tips on what you should do when it's finally time to race.
Eat right: The best pre-race meal for one person may be the worst for someone else, so the day of the race isn't the time to introduce unfamiliar foods to your body. "When you're training, you have to experiment with what your body can take," Jenny recommends. Make sure you stick to what works once it's time to race. What you eat the day before the race is important as well. Make sure you drink a lot of water and eat an adequate amount of calories the day before your race.
Warm up and stay warmed up: The starting line scene can involve a lot of waiting for everyone to assemble. But if you've warmed up awhile ago and the gun still hasn't gone off, then make sure you keep your heart rate up with simple moves like jumping up and down or jogging in place. This helps you avoid what Jenny calls the dreaded "red zone." In it, "you start out too hard, you're breathing too hard, you get all that lactic acid buildup, and you can feel your body fighting. That's not supposed to happen at the beginning of a race," she says.
Keep reading for more race-day tips from Jenny!
Change your mentality: Take it from a triathlete — it's hard to stay motivated on a long course when you just feel like you can't go on. That's when your mental state kicks in. "Once you train yourself, your body is capable, but it's what your mind's telling you. That's basically the key factor to pushing yourself to the next level," Jenny explains. Instead of thinking about just how much of the race you have left, break up your remaining miles into "baby-step goals," Jenny recommends. "On the bike, I try to focus on going hard for 10 minutes [at a time] or one mile at a time on a run."
Have fun: Jenny admits that this piece of advice is the one she's still learning to follow. "Some people live to race, but I live to train," she says. "Now I'm trying to teach myself to have that same fun, excitement, and enjoyment that I have in training [while I'm] racing. In racing I put so much pressure on myself, and it takes out all the fun." While competing with your fellow racers can be important, you'll be more successful if you compete with yourself to make your own best times. "Just go out and push yourself. If you're training long enough, you know what your personal best is, so push yourself to that. The biggest strength is pushing from within instead of always being focused on what everyone else is doing," she says.