Race Prep for Your First Triathlon (or First 100 of Them) – Part II

To Do’s for Race Day Eve and Morning

By: Brittany Berry, 2019 event ambassador for Toronto Island Triathlon

If you have a triathlon coming up soon, hopefully you’ve already read the Part I of this article on race prep to do’s in the week before an event or have at least started thinking about how to get set. This blog post here builds on the tips in Part I to have you ready in the final 24 hours leading up to a multisport event. As mentioned in that article, every triathlete will have their own race goals and experiences, so their exact preparation methods will be unique to them too. Also, no two multisport events are the same, each with their own differences in challenges, so how an athlete gets ready for one race will vary as well from how they prepare for another. Part II here will help you plan what you need to do for logistical preparations for your upcoming triathlon.

Ideally, at this point you will have already done these activities over the course of the week leading up:

  • Mentally simulated going through the event,
  • Started gathering race day and travel items to be ready for packing,
  • Inspected your gear and replaced any needed pieces,
  • Have already built up your fitness over time (of course!) and more recently, brushed up on technical skills, and
  • Reviewed the info on your event or checked out MultiSport Canada’s Resource Library if your race info is still on the way.

I hope you have your pen and papers ready!

Lining Up the Final Dominoes

Get set-up to bring your best self to the race. That includes your best equipped, best fuelled, and best hydrated self. Here are my tips for planning out what detailed tasks you need to do and when in your multisport preparations:

Write down your ideas, either manually or digitally. Sometimes we might think that getting ready for a certain race will be so simple that we don’t need to write notes down. I suggest doing it anyways though. In the worst case scenario, if after writing it all down, you actually end up with a straight-forward list of only a few items and to-do’s that you can easily remember… then you can throw it out. I think more likely than not though, you’ll realize you had missed a few things that you won’t want to forget.

If a task can be done further ahead of the race rather than later, then plan to do it earlier (ex. on the day before rather than the morning of the triathlon) and stick to it. The only tasks that should be left to do on the morning of an event are the tasks that can only be done at that time.

Lay out all the items you plan to take, organize it, and double-check against your checklist. No, it’s not over-obsessive to do so.

Make divided checklists of race items that are categorized by different stages. Divide them into categories like things you need (or might need just in case) at and before the start time, in T1 heading into the bike, in T2 heading into the run, after the finish, and – if your event allows – in your Special Needs bag(s). If the event has a separate equipment check-in ahead of the race (ex. check-in for bike and transition bags the day before), then I will mark on my checklists which items need to be put in place in that earlier check-in and which can be added in on the morning of. For a clearer visual check, lay out all the gear you plan to take, organize it, and double-check it against your checklist. Finally, depending on the extent of the travel involved for you to get to the triathlon, you may want to keep another checklist of things you need for that on its own.

Review your in-race hydration and nutrition needs. Which foods (aka. fuels) and drinks will you need? How much? At what points in the event? Which ones will you take from on-course aid stations vs. ones you’ll bring yourself? If you’re still new to understanding this stuff, this article on fuelling and hydrating during a triathlon is a great start for beginners.

If you are lucky enough to have a friend or family member helping you for the event (aka. a “race sherpa”), communicate with them. Make sure you’ve discussed the tasks you need their help with, what info they only need to be aware of, when to give you your space to focus, and how to support you in those just-in-case scenarios.

The race begins soon! Better boogie over to (and at) the starting line!

Look After Yourself: Biological Needs

Eat and hydrate well heading into to the event. Avoid potential problem foods and beverages in the last day coming up to your race – this is not the time to try new things. Get the best sleep you can the night before. Have a pre-race-appropriate breakfast – a good top-up of carbs that are easy to absorb and that your body is used to. Speaking of doing things as you’re used to, don’t be afraid of coffee – again, only if it’s already a habit for your typical morning. Go to the washroom one last time (important!). After you’ve checked-in for the race start and have your gear all set, start moving around to get your body revved up and, if possible, get some warm-up swimming in. You’re ready for this!

Keep in Mind: Control What You Can, Adjust to What You Can’t

That’s the right attitude! You can find MultiSport Canada’s #RaceTipWednesday posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Although this blog post is meant to cover just logistical preparation, it wouldn’t be complete without a small note on mental preparation. Being prepared for different scenarios you can see possibly happening (within reason) helps you take control of your race experience for yourself and make the best of things in the case you encounter a difficult situation. However, things can happen in triathlon that we don’t have control over, that we can’t plan enough for, and the best way to handle those cases is to adjust to them, even if it means modifying your original plans. With all the training you’ve done to get here, you know that you can plan, carry through, and even adapt your actions for your best race. Go get ’em!


Race Day Countdown

By Angela Lilly

Here we are! You’ve had months of planning, training, learning, nutrition consumption and hopefully, great race day experiences in your blood. As soon as I wake up one week from race day, it’s called “race day countdown”.  We have many challenges, juggling family, career and triathlon training. Here’s some tips for this week.

  1. Get your gear ready now; make sure everything is working as it needs to and do this when you have the time.
  2. Make paper lists; write down what needs to happen every day this week as well as lists for Friday, Saturday and Sunday (if needed) by the hour.
  3. Plan your nutrition liquid and food; whatever it is, stash it at home and make sure you, nor anyone else, consumes it. Nothing worse than packing Friday night and your gel isn’t where you left it.
  4. I like to take my “race gear” out for a test run; everything from the wet suit to the bike with race wheels and whatever you are going to carry for nutrition to even my race day shoes carrying whatever nutrition I am planning to use. It just helps for race day when you are dumping out your bag at T2 and need to get dressed in seconds.
  5. Take care of yourself; you should have more time daily so fill that with “to do items” that are off your feet. I like to use my TP massage roller more and just sit on the floor and stretch while chatting with the kids and paying attention to our dog after school.
  6. Sleep and rest; I’ve set myself a firm bed-time and let those around you know what time this is. Open communication with my husband and kids let’s them know when I’m “on” and “off” duty. They are wonderfully supportive when they know.
  7. Pack the extras in a separate bag; I know what I’m going to race in BUT if it’s cold on Sunday then I might need something to keep my toes or fingers warm prior to the start or during the race. I like to keep all that packed in a separate bag so I’m prepared if I need it, but right now in my planning, I’m not counting on it.
  8. Independent support crew; Team Lilly is ready and with their experience, will rock out their race day with their plan just like I will with mine. If your goal on Sunday is more competitive, let them do their own thing and you do yours. If it’s less competitive, experience every hour together. There is a lot to do between the athlete meeting on Saturday right through to the awards presentations Sunday afternoon. They want you to be your best so go do it.

How to be a Student Athlete

I recently finished 6 years of school completing my undergraduate degree and post-graduate degree.  Training for triathlon can be tough for anyone. School is a time for finding yourself and there are so many opportunities. I am going to lay out some tips on how to train for triathlon during the post-secondary school year.

  1. Always have your training gear with you. You can always squeeze a workout in for a study break or between classes. I found myself swimming between classes when I was not swimming for my varsity team.
  2. Join a varsity team. If you feel confident in one of the sports, joining a varsity team can help you improve that sport and also help you meet like minded people.
  3. Pack your meals!! I can’t say this enough. When training, you need to be prepared to have good food ready. This is especially true if you plan to swim in the morning, have a full day of class and then squeeze in another workout later.
  4. Studying on the trainer can kill two birds with one stone. I find myself looking over notes while doing easy spins. When you are time crunched it just makes sense.
  5. Try to become a morning person. University is tough in that respect because of classes all the time, but getting a workout done in the morning is one less thing to worry about.
  6. Sometimes you have to miss a workout and that’s okay. Sleep and school is important. If you have a big essay or mid-terms coming up just let it go and move on. Triathlon will always be there but school won’t.

Balancing triathlon and school is tough but very rewarding. I could not imagine not racing triathlon in university. I was able to train and race on the swim and cross country teams at my university, represent my school and country at the world university triathlon championships, and also keep myself healthy physically and mentally. Just remember, work hard but also realize it is okay to miss a few workouts!  Happy Training!

-Stevie Blankenship

Life will happen, so let it

By Dempsey Cruz

It’s hard to believe how quickly this race season has come and gone. I remember looking forward to another fun year of racing back in May, and it definitely feels like September arrived just like a blink of an eye. 

Being an age-group athlete has its challenges, mainly having to juggle my full time job, time with loved ones, and training. The last several months unfolded quite unpredictably, to say the least. I had such a solid, consistent pre-race training season that I dove into my first couple of races full of promises. Despite being strong enough to qualify for next year’s ITU Worlds, I had no idea what was coming my way. To share a few, I became a homeowner in June, suffered from a concussion in July, had my first DNF, and now have the honour of being my sister’s “Man of Honour” for her wedding at the end of this month.

All that said, life took over which impacted my training and performance for the rest of the season. I’m sure many of you can relate. 

Last weekend, MultiSport Canada hosted its final race of the season in Lakeside, one of my favourite venues of the series. Sure it was the standard du provincial championships but my goal was to have fun, cheer on fellow athletes on the course, and race without concerning myself with the numbers. It’s incredible how an intention can make you look up and around, instead of looking down at your gadgets.

The first thing I noticed was the scenic venue. It was a pleasure running on the lush trails and cycling surrounded with clear skies and acres of fresh farmlands. The next were the volunteers and spectators. They created a positive atmosphere for all athletes as they were all so happy to be there and encouraged athletes by their names. The energy was infectious, I couldn’t help but smile and have a great time!

Most importantly, there were so many athletes rooting for each other. I heard my name being cheered for at least ten times from different athletes on the race course. There’s a general realization that we’re all in it together, not against each other. This is the type of friendly atmosphere that so uniquely defines MultiSport Canada.

What I love most about the amazing team at MultiSport Canada is the focus put on the athlete experience and the celebration of diversity in the community. At every race, they make a genuine effort to recognize athletes of all ages from all walks of life such as first timers, and first responders. They also do their very best to make every race as fun and safe as possible for all athletes. More than ever this year, I was constantly reminded of why I’m such a huge advocate for MultiSport Canada. I’m thankful to be part of a community that is so inclusive and welcoming.

There is a place for everyone.

Bracebridge Olympic fun and Santa

This was my first time in at Bracebridge for the MultiSport Canada triathlon event. Every year I like to try another location in the Multisport series, they say variety is the spice of life, so I go back to my favs and expand my horizons each year. I had often seen signs for Santa’s Village from my car on trips in Muskoka and had this idea that it was a big Christmas seasonal fair… it turns out its several parks and camping sites with a Christmas theme. Something very different and people were out from the camp cheering us on the bike course which definitely added a new element to any Tri events I have done in the past.

I wandered around transition chatting to a lot of athletes, there are always a lot of people doing their first triathlon and have questions which was easily answered and put them at ease so they can relax and get ready for the race to begin. I was wearing an Ironman Ireland bike jersey and one female athlete came over to share her experiences from that wet day in Cork this year.

We headed down to the water and it was an in water start and the being in the water was warmer than standing on the beach for a surprise start to an August day.

The bike was challenging, a lot of ups and downs to make it more interesting and the aforementioned Santa’s village and support were a nice addition. There was a large crowd gathered at the run start/ finish area cheering everyone on. As you head out on the run you can see fellow athletes coming the other way, there were a lot of high fives and encouraging words flying about. The final stretch to the finish is where you muster up your last bit of strength to look fast in case anyone is taking pictures.

This was a great event and I am glad so many people came out to enjoy it. I am known for my love of ice cream post race and Bracebridge didn’t disappoint, I had even googled where to go in advance of my race so that I would know where to go and I got to see more of the town of Bracebridge . The ice cream store even had Muskoka chairs for us to sit in and my dog to stare at us outside as we watched the world go by.

There is a full weekend of events so there is something for everyone J. Another well organized event by MultiSport, just gotta love being able to drive to my races and home again to my own bed and bring my family.

My last triathlon of the season will be this month in Niagara at the Barrelman Half Iron distance race – North America’s largest Non IM Branded Half Event. If you see me come over and say Hi. Happy racing to you all

Felicia Long

Why Do We Do Hard Things?

By Emilie Whitson

Do your non-triathlon friends and family ever ask why you voluntarily put yourself through upwards of an hour of physical pain on a regular basis (aka racing triathlons)?

Do you ever wonder to yourself the same thing?

I’m here to give you some great answers, for when your boss asks you why you rode your bike for 5 hours on a weekend.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt and change as a result of experiences we have. If you weren’t looking for a science lesson, stay with me here. Just as our muscles regenerate and recover after a hard effort, ready to come back stronger in anticipation of the next interval, so does our brain.

During workouts, we are creating new neural pathways, allowing us to learn and acquire memories. As it turns out, even though our adult brains are fully developed, they are still mold-able (aka plastic).

How does the brain’s incredible ability to adapt help us in athletic training? The first time you try a skill, your brain’s neural pathways are not optimized. But, as you practice this skill by training or racing, you get a little bit better at it, as neurons and muscle fibers are coordinated more efficiently.

Although we don’t need studies to tell us this as triathletes, the more we practice a skill, the less we have to consciously think about it. (Remember how much thinking you did during your first swimming lesson?)

All this information probably seems straightforward for the motor control aspects of sport, such as timing your swimming kick, or dismounting your bike gracefully. But what about the mental aspects of sport?

You can recruit your brain’s neuroplasticity to help you to be not only a mentally tough athlete, but all around mentally resilient person. Sticking to it during a hard session and teaching yourself not to quit, is a skill that can be learned. Making decisions quickly under pressure is another skill that triathletes need to excel at, that can be transferred into real life application. Anecdotally, athletes who have completed Ironman distance triathlons report greater confidence in every day mentally tough situations.

So the next time someone asks you why you’d choose to suffer during a workout, just tell them- it makes the hard things in life seem not so hard!

Training and Racing Old School

By Tim Doris

As I prepared to go for one of my lunch hour runs at the end of June. As on all my runs I would periodically glance at my wrist looking for the data that would appear, my pace, heart rate and distance travelled so far. But on this particular day my watch screen was blank. Oh well just keep running and when I get back to school I will try to fix it. The next 60 minutes running one of my favorite routes was pure joy with nothing to gauge my progress except for the sound of my own breath.

Once back at school, several attempts to reboot my watch and even with a trip to a local sporting goods store after school it was clear my watch was done. If this had happened a year ago I would have just run out and bought a new one. But for some reason I thought of this as an opportunity to train and race a little different. So I decided this summer racing season I would not rely on electronics to help me train or race. I found an old watch in my closet that I used only as a time piece so I knew at least the time of day.

So I began to do something that I had already been practicing for the last 10 years and that was listening to my body to tell me how and when to train. I have to admit at first it took some getting use to, lying in my bed a little longer to check my heart rate before getting up in the morning and at night before falling asleep, and making sure that that the alarm was set for my morning workouts.

It was one thing to train this way which I was really enjoying instead of pouring over all the data at my fingertips, but I wasn’t sure how this would work while racing.

So off to Welland I went for the first race of the Multisport Canada Triathlon Series to participate in the sprint duathlon. A lot of familiar faces where on the start line so when the horn sounded for the race to start and once the initial opening nervous sprint off the line was over it didn’t take long to find a pace bunny for the first 2.5 km run. I fell into a comfortable pace behind a group of 3 individuals and just waited to see what would happen at the turn around. As expected one of the threesome dropped off the front so I just continued to hold my pace into the transition and then out onto the bike.

The changes to the Welland bike course meant that I would be able to see all of the other racers in my age group constantly for the 20 kilometers. Again without my bike computer working I had to measure my speed by perceived exertion and off of the other athletes on the course. Well by the start of the second lap, I was riding literally right behind one of my age group competitors and decided that if I kept in close proximity to him then coming out of transition onto the final run I would be in good shape.

Back into the transition area I went only a few steps behind my competition, bike racked, running shoes back on and then out for the final 5km. Immediately I could tell the pace was a little quicker than the first run but I was feeling okay. I ran up behind my bike buddy and stayed a step or two behind him for the first 2.5 km. Then for the last lap I ran up onto his shoulder and there I stayed until the 4 km mark at which point I decided to use the water station as my spot to pull away. With runners coming in both directions there was just enough space for me to run down the center and open up a little gap. Then a series of 4 short burst of about 100meters and finally seeing the finish shoot was all that was needed for me to get to the end.

Once back from Welland and looking at the results on the Sportstats website I was able to see my results and pace for the run and bike segments of the race. This gave me a great indication of where my fitness was and also if my new old school training was paying off and it was. I finished 4th overall and won my age group.

I continued to go old school at MSC Gravenhurst and MSC Kingston. Making the overall podium and age group wins in the sprint duathlon events.

This may not be the best way to train or race for everyone but for me it was a welcome change. I am planning on purchasing a new watch but I haven’t decided on which model or brand yet. For anyone new to multisport racing you don’t need all the fancy gadgets to help you train and race, you just need to listen to your body, eat well, get lots of sleep, and if you have aches and pains know that it is okay to take a day off.

Tim Doris Radio Interview

Give Them Opportunities and Watch Them Grow

Sunday, July 14th, 2019 marked my return to Gravenhurst to compete in the Multsport Canada Triathlon Series Sprint Duathlon. When I first competed in Gravenhurst in 2016, I made the trek up to the Muskoka area solo as I was unfamiliar with the race course, venue and a little inexperienced with the steps and procedures  to follow on race morning ( even after using the MSC website to read all the prerace information)!

It became clear as soon as I arrived that MSC goes out of their way to provide the racer with an easy to navigate registration process so that every athlete can have a positive race experience from start to finish. Racing in Gravenhurst also provides me with an opportunity to share my love for multisport racing with my kids. Since 2017, I have brought at least one of my three children to volunteer at the event.

This year due to sports commintments only my middle child Emerson was able to come with me, but we agreed that he could bring a friend along with him (Will) from his soccer team. On the way up on Saturday evening, I was listening to the conversation in the back seat of the car. Emerson was explaining some of the jobs that they would do in the morning with extreme detail and care! When we arrived on course the boys were put in charge of timing chips and I was able to help out until it was time for me to begin my warm up before the sprint duathlon start. They were given their instructions and immediately began to have athletes coming to claim their chips. They were confident and polite explaining where the timing chips should be worn for new racers and also wishing everyone good luck. Knowing that they were in the capable hands of the MSC team, I said my goodbyes and got ready to race.

Once again I ran into the finishing chute to see my son and friend busy at work taking timing chips and handing out finishers medals. I introduced the boys to a number of athletes and sponsors that I am happy to call friends.

Of course the highlight for the boys is the free pizza lunch and volunteer t-shirts that they received. Once the medal ceremonies were over, it was time to pack the car and head for home. On the way home I heard all about the events of the morning that I missed while racing and of course how amazing the pizza was.

The boys told all their friends about the volunteer adventures. I have already  been approached by another  soccer parent from my sons team about bring their son along next year.

Volunteering at MSC races has been a great way for me to introduce my kids to multisport racing, become involved in supporting the races and also spend time making memories together.

So for anyone wanting to show their friends and family what multisport racing is all about, sign up to volunteer at one of the races. Those of you with high school aged kids, it is a great way to pick up some of your community service hours. Need some more information on the volunteer opportunities at an MSC race head over to the MSC website.

Tim Doris

K Town Tri Post-Race Report

By Matthew McGuckin

A great city to host an even better event. If you’re looking for a getaway weekend to wrap into an unbelievable race, this is it.

The City:

With an abundance of local attractions, it’s easy to keep busy pre- and post-race in Kingston. If you’re looking for some low-key activities on the weekend you can take a boat tour in the thousand islands, visit the historic Kingston Penitentiary or Fort Henry, walk around Queen’s University campus or rent paddle boards and kayaks to paddle along the waterfront. You can also walk down Princess street and check out the Promenade event on the long weekend, where local stores bring merchandise out onto the street and plenty of entertaining events are happening (including a Crossfit competition). Also, with the highest number of restaurants per capita in Ontario, there are plenty of options to take in a nice pre-race meal. If you’re feeling like some heavy carb loading, check out Woodenheads for an amazing gourmet pizza and/or pasta (Pro tip: make a reservation). After the race you can reward yourself with some craft beer (Stone City has a great patio and some great eats) or some home-made ice cream at White Mountain or Mio Gelato.

The Race:

The start and finish line, transition and registration area are set right on the waterfront in front of Kingston’s city hall (this makes for some pretty awesome pictures). K Town’s swim course will challenge your open water swimming ability if the water gets bit rough but this year the conditions were fantastic. You’ll start out by swimming across the channel towards Fort Henry – an old military fort that protected the city from intruders by water. The water temperature will be cool, which is a blessing given the early August heat.

The out and back bike course heads pretty much straight east and has a few small climbs that you should save some energy for. I would highly recommend pre-riding the bike course and even try to meet up with one of the local cycling clubs (one of them rides on Friday mornings) to show you around if you have time.

The run was by far the best part of the course. The run course winds along the Kingston waterfront trail taking you past the recently renovated (and very popular) Gord Edgar Downie Pier. After a short uphill you’ll reach the Portsmouth Harbor which sits right beside the old Kingston Penitentiary. There were plenty of feed stations, and excellent course markings for the entire course which made for a (relatively) stress free event. The volunteers were amazing, cheering at every feed station, offering plenty of hydration and nutrition options so no need to bring your own on the run.

I would highly recommend this event for experienced and inexperienced triathletes alike. Kingston has a lot to offer all weekend and the amazing course views and rich history of Kingston makes it an event that will keep you coming back. See you in 2020!

A few skincare tips for tri-duathletes

As I am getting myself into the triathlon world, I am asked more and more to weight in my skincare expertise and figured I would take a moment to share a few tips relevant to triathlon and to all gender.

Pool chlorine, time under the sun cycling or running, along with sweating profusely can wreck a havoc and there are many things you can do to maintain healthy skin.

  1. Cleanse but do not strip your skin: I am not a fan of soap bars on the face simply because they are meant to bind and emulsify your skin oils and wash those down the drain. And yet, sebum is essential for pH balance and anti-again. Stripping it off will only get your skin to either overcompensate by producing more for what is lacking… and age your skin sooner. I strongly suggest looking for a cleanser with no harsh surfactant, Cream cleansers may not foam yet many provide great cleansing action without dehydrating the skin.
  2. Toner: Many skip that step. As your cleanser and water have different pH, you skin is meant to stay slightly acidic. Beware of alcohol astringent that dries your face even further and choose a product with slight amount of vitamin C, Citric acid or anything that acidic in order to have your skin at a favorable pH. Just be conscious if your skin is inflamed to have those diluted.
  3.  Moisturize like your life depend on it: Tapes and race tattoos might not stick on very well but always make sure that once showered you use a good moisturizer. For  your skin to be quenched and nourish, your body might require a different moisturizer than your face. A reminder that if your skin still feels dry after 10 minutes, you may need to apply. There are many options as to ointments, cream which are oil based and heavier or lotion which contain more water which is also necessary to skin health. If you are prone to break outs, remember that NOT moisturizing will make it worst. Try to find a lighter lotion (often with more water than oil) for  your skin type.

A note about SPF: A reminder that the efficiency of skin protection lies in the reapplication so I would say you would be best with moisturizing and using an SPF on top for sun protection (as opposed to both in one). Broad spectrum protection with prevent burns from UVB and future wrinkle damage from UVAs from training under the sun.

Another reminder is that your moisturizer can do so much more once you scrub the dead skin cells off. A weekly scrub (pumice, coffee, salt or sugar based) can reveal wonders! Do not however scrub more than once a week as many of us will end up with more breakouts or raw skin.

  1. Lip balm: Because lips dry up too! A mild scrub or even a wet cloth can help in getting the dry skin. Once you have tackle the dry skin, make sure to prevent it by re-applying as often as you remember.
  2. Mask: A face AND a hair mask once weekly can do wonders especially when EVERYTHING is dry! Some mask will pull out impurities and some will add on moisture so be sure to select one that your skin or hair needs most. A hair mask or deep conditioner once weekly after the pool can help some of the damage from the chlorine.
  3. One of the most important rules of it all… Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Because your skin needs moisture…from the inside out! Do not take your water intake for granted.

Once you have a new skin care routine, your skin might breakout in order to release impurities now that it has the chance to do so. A reminder to be patient and to wait 2-3 weeks before noticing results and to stay consistent all year long for long term benefits.

More skincare questions? I work as a Health and Beauty Advisor at Quarter Master Foods in London, ON and I can be messaged or catch us on social media! @quartermasterfoods