The food you eat, how you physically prepare your body and your mindset are all major contributors to your race day performance. In this series, we will take a brief look at what you should be focusing on in each area ONE month before, ONE week before, ONE day before and ONE hour before. Put these together and you’ll increase your chances of racing well on the big day.
ONE Day Before
With one day before the event you should have reduced training volume over the last few days (‘Tapered’) and also had a day off yesterday to let your body fully rest and absorb all the training you have done in the run up to the event. Ideally, this should leave you feeling fresh, energised and ready to go. However, for atheltes who often train most days, easing back like this can leave you feeling sluggish, so with a day to go it’s good to do a short session that will wake the body up, without causing any fatigue.
Running is quite strenuous, so it’s advisable to make this session a swim or bike. It also doesn’t need to be long, it is so easy to ‘panic train’ the day before, but this simple session should be short, light in intensity and leave you feeling fresher than you did before it.
If swimming, warm up with 5-10mins of drill work to establish good technique. Next swim a series of short easy reps of 25-100m. Breaking these up will make sure that your technique stays as good as possible and form doesn’t break down as it might do over a longer distance. After this, you should swim a few very fast short reps with full recovery. This is with the aim of getting the muscles firing and energising the body ahead of the race. If you read our last ONE series article, you will remember that less is more, so don’t overdo it. 1-3 reps of 25m might be enough, more than 6-8 over 50m is probably the limit even for very high level performers. You might also do these with a deep-water start to practise this ahead of the race. As a cool down, you might swim another few 50m reps, with perfect form before jumping out of the pool. All this shouldn’t take any more than 30mins max and should leave you feeling really good ahead of the race.
If biking, the session is even more simple. Ride for around 20-30mins with 3-6 high cadence spin ups at about 75% effort in the second third of the session. Each of these spin-ups should be less than 30secs so that you don’t accumulate too much lactate and should have a few mins of easy pedalling inbetween for a full recovery. Make sure your form for each of these is as smooth as possible and your shoulders, face, neck and hands remain relaxed.
After these sessions you may want to stretch off any tight muscles, however, as static stretching hasn’t been shown to improve performance, and massage the day before a race might bruise the muscle, you’d be best advised to apply heat to the area affected for 10-20mins as you relax the evening before the race – a hot water bottle is perfect for this.
Much like the ‘panic training’ I referred to earlier, many atheltes have succumbed to the temptation to panic eat the day before a race too. With so much advice out there to carb-load and eat pasta before a race (as well as the increasing number of events with ‘pasta partys’) this isn’t really surprising, but remember that there is no need to over eat. For those who will be competing their race in under 90mins there is no need to take in higher levels of carbohydrate, for those who will race for longer, the dietary changes you need are small tweaks rather than big shifts. We looked at these in our last ONE week to go article, so have a read of this for more information.
The day before the race, is not a particularly interesting day when it comes to food. Eat smaller portions, of simple, plain natural food. No big meals, no rich, spicy or creamy dishes and avoid processed fast food and take always. If the weather is hot then add a small amount of sodium to what you eat the day before (for example a packet of salted pretzels gives a little sodium and carbohydrate in minimally processed snack). Aim to never feel too full especially in the evening if the race is an early start, as you may need to get up and eat early before the event.
As we have mentioned before, too much fibre can cause stomach issues especially if it comes from fruit, so while this should normally be a big part of your diet, limit dried fruits, bananas, apple and stick instead to grapefruit, watermelon, grapes or oranges. The same can be said for vegetables as many of these are high in fibre, if you have the choice, choses a lighter salad option, rather than broccoli or cauliflour (although not technically a vegetable, potatoes are usually lower in fibre and so can be a good choice).
Lastly, use this day to prepare any food, bars, Bloks or gels that you might need for the following day. Race day is the day when many foods made by CLIF Bar really come into their own and weather it’s a CLIF Bars before the race, gels during or a Builder’s Bar afterwards, use them to support your performance and recovery.
With ONE day to go before the race, it’s a good time to get hydrated ahead of the race. However, a word of caution. The body doesn’t absorb water on its own well, and needs sodium to absorb it. We can get most of what we need from our food (as we covered above), however, it’s good to remember that there needs to be a balance here and we shouldn’t just drink as much as we can without any thought to a small amount of salt intake. If you are of fairly average body size and the weather is typical for a Welsh summer then you’re unlikely to need to drink much more than 2-2.5ltrs during the day. It’s a good idea to keep track of this by getting a 2ltr bottle of water, filling it up first thing and using it to drink from through the day, that way you know what you’ve drink as it’s easy to lose track. 3-4 pinches of salt and a splash of juice in this means it will be an even more functional/useful drink the day before your big event.
Both in terms of logistics and your mindset, the day before the event should be as calm as possible and you should emphasise feelings of confidence where possible. Many atheltes feelings of panic increase the closer the event looms and how many of us have seen triathletes talk themselves down in the build up to the event by focussing on what hasn’t gone well in training, that niggle that they are carrying or how unsure they are of achieving their goal. Avoid this negativity. If you have followed our ONE series you should have picked out your goals and motivations, put them into a race plan and mentally rehearsed this several times. You should commit to deciding to feel positive and prepared in the 24hrs before the gun goes. Try sticking to a mantra such as ‘I am here, I am ready, I am strong, I am confident’ or ‘today, I will enjoy every bit of being a triathlete as much as I can’. Simply saying like this can be a powerful anchor in the emotional storm of the competitive environment. Make up one for yourself and see how it works for you.
With ONE Day to go, you should also make a timeline for the morning of the race and note down any important items that you need to take to the event. Doing this without the pressure of race day means you can plan with a clear mind and then having a plan will help you at the event as you won’t need to think about small logistics as much and some have more room for bigger decisions that might arise. The other advantage of this is that it means you will have to go over race guides and maps in some detail and so will know the routes, timings and event logistics in more depth. Triathletes are often underprepared at events, and you should aim to get a racing advantage by knowing as much about how the event will run as possible. It will help you a great deal on race day.
In many ways, the day before your race should be a simple as possible. Use it to get ahead of yourself so that the event day is calm and well organised. Eat simply, get hydrated, be confident and organised. Our next guide will look at ONE Hour to go – a time when you can still do a great deal to positively affect your performance
The ideas and suggestions written below are the opinions of Joel Enoch, an award winning triathlon coach for the Hartree JETS, 9-time GB Age-group triathlete, 2 x Great Swim/Run winner and CLIF Bar’s paid nutritional ambassador in the UK. This article is provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or care. The contents of this article are not intended to make health or nutrition claims about Clif Bar & Company products. Always seek the advice of a Doctor or other qualified health provider before beginning any physical fitness or health and nutrition related activity. @ClifBar #feedyouradventure @joel_enoch (twitter) @tricoachjoel (Instagram) @HartreeJetsTrihttps://www.facebook.com/hartreejetstri/