Monday, April 19, 2010

For those who don't already know, St. Anthony's is a BIG race. Traditionally viewed as the triathlon season opener, it attracts ~4000 athletes from all over the world including many big name pros. It's a favorite among many charity and first-time olympic distance triathletes. And this year St. Anthony's has also been designated a USAT Regional Championship, meaning many of the area's finest will also be in the field vying to qualify for a spot in the USAT National Championship later this year.

Sounds great, right?

YES! Unless perhaps you've never done a big race before and/or are intimidated by large crowds and lots of hard, fast bodies ...

But no need to fear. If you have a race entry, you belong there as much as anyone else. Here are some tips to help things go more smoothly at a big race like St. Anthony's:

- Do your homework beforehand. Organizers of big races usually post a lot of race info online so you can know nearly everything that'll be in your race packet before you even get there. Click here to visit the St. Anthony's website where you can find swim wave start times, course maps, the event schedule, expo location and hours of operation, athlete info, etc. An email that was sent out to St. Anthony's participants with additional race information/clarifications can be found here.

- Get to the race expo early. Unlike small events, packet pickup is usually not available on race day and you'll have to go to the race expo (which may or may not be where the race is actually held) a day or so in advance to pick up your race packet. Packet pickup lines tend to get longer closer to race day as more folks from out of town arrive. Get there early too if you're looking to do some shopping or product sampling as the best giveaways and deals from vendors usually go fast.

- Know all the race rules. Big races with competitive fields will usually have a number of referees and race personnel to enforce USAT rules and other race-specific rules (transition area access, swim wave start times, wrist band use, etc). Review again the most commonly violated USAT race rules. Last year's St. Anthony's race results listed 161 penalties, mostly for drafting on the bike course. In a non-Ironman brand race such as St. Anthony's, you often won't know you got a penalty during a race until you look up your race results.

- Attend one of the earlier athlete meetings. Large events sometimes offer multiple athlete meetings where general race info, more detailed course and transition area info, last minute changes and race rules may be discussed. Earlier ones are often less crowded so you can get a good seat to hear the info and ask questions easier. Remember, you are responsible for knowing all this info whether or not you attend a meeting.

- Be prepared to rack your bike the day before the race (often required at big races). Make sure that your bar ends are plugged and that you rack your bike in the correct spot (often assigned at big races). If numbers on the racks are alternating in direction, that means your bike should face the direction the number is facing (this optimizes limited space on the rack). If in doubt about where or how to rack your bike or whether something is allowed, ASK someone, preferably a ref (yes, you can get a penalty or disqualified even before the race has begun, but you may have a chance to fix the problem and avoid it). Large races will also usually have bike mechanics on hand to help with mechanical issues if needed.

- Pump up your tires with with a little extra air before you rack your bike. That way if for some reason you can't check them on race morning (you didn't bring a pump or forgot yours, lines to use a pump are really long, you're running late, etc), you should be good to go anyway. If you are not sure how much pressure your tires lose when your bike sits overnight, test this at home before you arrive at the race.

- Figure out how to find your transition spot quickly. Big races have HUGE transition areas that are easy to get lost in. People use a variety of ways to find/mark their spots (balloons, bright towels, landmarks, count aisles, count bike racks, look at rack number ranges, etc). Before the race, practice what you'll do to find your spot coming in from the swim and also after the bike segment. Don't worry about looking silly. You'll only look silly if you take 20 minutes to find your bike like one guy did at the Chicago Triathlon a few years back!

- Mark your gear, especially your transition bag and wetsuit. If you misplace your stuff at the race or someone walks away with it by mistake thinking its theirs, you'll have a much better chance of getting it back.

- Allow extra time to get to the race and get set up. Parking may be difficult or not conveniently located so you may have to walk a while or take a shuttle bus to get to the transition area. There'll likely be lines to get body marked, lines to get into the transition area, lines to use a bike pump (if you didn't bring your own), lines to use porta-potties, lines, lines everywhere. To pass the time in lines and reduce pre-race stress, chat with some of the folks around you. You never know who you might meet at a big race.

- Stay calm during the swim. With a large number of swim waves (St. Anthony's has over 30!), people will be spread out all over the swim course. Expect more contact than at a small race as you will be passing folks or getting passed often (unless you are a faster swimmer in an early wave or a slower one in the last wave). Remember this video, smile and keep swimming.

- Avoid the "herd mentality" on the bike course. At every race there are always some who knowingly or unknowingly break the rules. As frustrating as it may be to see pelotons roll by, people blocking, passing on the wrong side (right vs. left), or not dropping back after being passed, you can only control your actions. Pray there is a ref nearby who is taking down numbers and assigning penalties to those who are cheating.

- BYOF. Race organizers strive to provide enough fluids and food for all athletes but a hot day and a large number of athletes can result in unexpected demands. If you have your own supplies, it won't matter if they run out. Also, at a big race it may be hours between the time you ate breakfast and the time you actually begin your race. Bring extra fluids and food to snack on before the race so you don't start on empty.

- Go with the flow. The GREAT thing about large events is there'll be lots of excitement, motivating athletes of all sizes, shapes and speed all around you, and plenty of cheering spectators when you cross the finish line. Embrace these things, let go of the things you can't control and you'll have fun.

If anyone else has other big race tips they'd like to share, feel free to post them in the comments. Good luck to all racing St. Anthony's on Sunday!!!


Anonymous said...

It is a pity, that I can not participate in discussion now. I do not own the necessary information. But with pleasure I will watch this theme.

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