Tina from Tampa, Florida asks: “How early should I arrive at a race?”

I can definitely relate to being nervous about race-day logistics. It’s intimidating. How much time should you leave immediately before a triathlon? Sometimes it’s those crucial beginning minutes that separate athletes from attaining a podium position at a race or not.  In my opinion it is always better to be at a race earlier rather than later. You want to become familiar with the course and reconnoiter it at a comfortable pace. For example, if you are coming from out of town – arriving no later than the Wednesday before a Saturday race, or the Thursday before a Sunday race should give you lots of time to become familiar with the race venue.

There is a lot to do and consider in order to have your best race: planning your travel logistics and accommodation details, packing everything you need for the trip and race day, picking up your race package, doing your last pre-race workouts, getting your bike setup and gears tested, organizing your nutrition, hydration and electrolyte needs, and so on. It is easy for some items to slip the mind – but don’t panic! Normally triathlon events will have multi-sports stores present around the race expo selling items you may have forgotten.

Arriving early also allows you to source out grocery stores, triathlon stores (or running and cycling stores) and restaurants. Although don’t forget to pack certain food items if you are unsure about whether you will be able to find them where you are staying. The rule of thumb is to do what you always do at home, and change as little as possible while on the road. For example, I always bring bottled waters, bananas, a stash of snack items I eat at home, a zip lock of granola, and even instant coffee in case I can’t rely on the place I’m at.

If at all possible, you should review the swim, bike and run courses so that you can be prepared and you can segment the course. It is also good to go into and out of transition from a few different directions so that you can ensure you know where your bike is and how you enter and exit the area during the race. In addition, sometimes knowing where on the course the port-a-potties are can be invaluable…! 

My best advice is to STICK TO YOUR ROUTINE. Follow whatever your specific training and preparation tells you to do. Arriving early can do a lot to reducing pre-race stress, you can attend athlete meetings, find landmarks to site on for the swim, know where to park race morning and just have a good feel for the venue. Arriving early also gives you the upper hand in dealing with things you didn’t expect. Maybe the water is colder? Maybe something happened to your bike during travel? Maybe your swim suit ripped? Things happen to everyone and its simply part of triathlon. Remain calm and have the confidence that you have allowed yourself enough time to confidently overcome all those hurdles putting you in the best position for success on race day.

Now go forth! And have fun!

Based in Vancouver, BC, Mark Shorter is a Premier level coach at LifeSport Coachnig which is ideal for athletes of all levels who like an interactive coaching relationships with specific attention to their life and training requirements. Mark is an NCCP certified triathlon coach who has completed over 90 marathons as well as over 40 Ironman races, winning National Age Group Championships along the way.