While everyone trains to be their best on race day, more often than not the day itself leaves a lot to be desired. Being able to adjust your expectations and strategies at the spur of the moment is a critical part of racing successfully.
Be Mentally Flexible
It's one thing to race to your level of fitness; it's another thing to manage your fitness on race day according to the terrain, the conditions, and how your body is handling the work.
It's really hard to let the goals you have set for weeks and months simply go. But more often than not, it's required if you are to have a good race performance.
Race Day doesn't care what your fast bike split from last year was.
And yet, when things go wrong, you will see countless competitors race like robots. They simply do what they did in training. That's all they know. If Race Day throws extreme heat or wind at you, and you don't adjust, your day will most certainly end prematurely.
Think of your training as physical preparation, but know that your real race day goal is to execute like a veteran. This means adjusting your goals so that you can be your best given the cards you have been dealt.
Rain Affects Your Gear
Cool weather means you will probably forget to fuel properly. The first hour of the bike is still critical, so make sure you focus on feeding while everyone else forgets. Keep the hydration up, especially as you wont think about drinking with water everywhere.
Note that rain will make the roads treacherous – operating bars and gels will be much harder. it will make aid stations crazy. You must alter your plan so that your food will be accessible and safe to eat!
Rain Affects Your Racing
When the weather goes bad, you absolutely have to put your pre-race performance goals aside in favor of a great overall race.
On the swim: You may wear something warm and dry over your tri-suit to keep warm. Bring a garbage bag and cut a hole for your head. This is a great way to stay dry before the swim. The effect of rain on the swim is negligible – other than reducing visibility – so keep your eyes open during the swim and watch the line on the bottom. Stay on your side!
On the bike: Rain will make the roads extra slippery and dangerous. When the roads are wet, remember to turn with your body, not the bike. Feather the brakes to slow down well before any hard turns, and use your body language and signals to communicate with other racers.
On the run: This will mean soggy shoes and potential blisters. Putting Vaseline on your feet will help prevent these. It also means lower temperatures, so you should be able to run up to or perhaps better than planned. Of course, this depends on how you handled the bike and your fuel, but know that this is where you'll redeem your performance.
You still need to follow your general pacing plan based on your race distance, but know that you have a bit more flexibility.
Rain Affects Your Recovery
After racing in the rain, you will be really, really cold. Almost hypothermic. You will need to get into warm, dry clothes as soon as possible. Again, a base layer is a great idea.
You'll also need to eat and drink more than usual because your body was working overtime to fuel your muscles and keep you warm. If you choose hot liquids like coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, do your best to consume water as well. A nap is a great way to accelerate recovery.
Finally, don't forget that all of your gear – especially your bike – will need some attention. Odds are your bike will be covered with grime, and you will have worn the brake pads down a lot. Your shoes will be soaked and all your gear will start to stink unless you clean it up soon.
And don't forget a quick mental recap of what worked and what you'd change so that you can do it better next time!