30 Jan Race Day tips from professional athlete Laura Siddall
Top Tips for Challenge Wanaka
Challenge Wanaka is just around the corner, and whether you are racing the AquaBike, half or full distance, and whether you are a complete newbie to the sport, or first timer to Wanaka, or even an established athlete who’s raced here before, here’s a few tips to help you on the day.
- Be prepared. Yes it’s not rocket science, but give yourself time in the days leading up to the race and on race day. Being prepared covers a variety of aspects.
- Weather – Whilst it is summer in New Zealand, and the sun always shines in Wanaka, right?? You need to be prepared for weather changes. Particularly if you are doing the full distance, and you have to put a long sleeve jacket in your ‘special needs’ bag, just in case the weather changes. Also, the first part of the bike course goes around Lake Wanaka out to Glendhu Bay. It’s stunning, but it can be cold as whilst the sun is up at this time, it’s not quite managed to climb over the top of the mountains, so often this part of the course is in shade still and can be cooler especially coming out of the water from the swim.
- Transition – You’ll be issued with transition bags to put your bike kit (red bag) and run kit (blue bag). It’s a good idea to make a list of the kit you need for each of the disciplines, and lay it out on the floor to check you have everything. Do this a few days before to ensure you have everything you need and have time for any last minute purchases.
Note: This is just an example of what you may need for your race. (e.g. you’ll probably need more than two gels and one bottle for the bike leg.) – and don’t forget your timing chip!
- Timings – Make a list for race morning, of everything you need to do in transition. I work back from race start, and put timings for what I need to do and where, and so also work out what time I get up in the morning. I also have a check list to double check all my kit in transition. When the nerves are running high, you mind can sometimes go blank, so having a list takes away one extra stress and can be calming and give you a little structure to sometimes a chaotic morning
- Get there early – it’s better to give yourself extra time on race morning, rather than to be rushing and getting there late, then trying to do everything quickly. Nerves are already climbing and by rushing around it doesn’t help the stress levels. You are also likely to forget things. So, combine your timings and check lists with giving yourself a little bit of extra time in the morning so things run smoothly.
- Sleep – very few people sleep well the night before the race, so you’re not alone if you are one of these. It’s good to try and get as much sleep in the days before the race, knowing that the night before may not be great. But also, if you are awake every hour, like I am, paranoid about missing your alarm, relax, don’t worry and don’t get stressed about it. Just take some deep breaths and keep your eyes close and try to go back to sleep till the alarm. Also for those of you doing the full distance for the first time (and maybe the half), whilst most people tell you that you won’t sleep the night before a race, it’s also common that you’ll not sleep the night after the race either. I never do. Again, don’t worry this is nothing unusual. You have so much going on in your body, it just doesn’t really shut off. It’s had all kinds of energy nutrition and food, and it’s also been put through quite a few hours of exercise that day so there’s all sorts of messages and feelings happening that ensure you don’t sleep. I often find I do crash out (through the tiredness from the exertion) but then 2 or 3 hours later I’m wide awake!
- Talking about Nutrition… make sure you know the on course nutrition (and flavours) and have practised in training with the same brand, so you know your body can take it on the day. Have your race nutrition planned and practised too, whether you are planning on taking your own nutrition or the on course brand. If all else fails on the run and you’re feeling low of energy and mentally in a bad place… my default is to just drink coke at each aid station and get the calories in. (The on course nutrition for Challenge Wanaka is PURE Sports Nutrition. More information can be found here)
- For those of you coming from overseas and where they drive on the right hand side of the road, remember in New Zealand we drive on the left. This means on race day you’ll be riding on the left hand side and therefore be grabbing your nutrition and water bottles off the amazing volunteers, from the left, in your left hand! Make sure you’ve practised and are comfortable with doing this, if you’re not used to it. It’s actually a good idea to practise taking nutrition in your hand as you ride anyway because it’s important you are able to take on the nutrition you need during the race. If you are not confident in taking a bottle on the go, then it’s better to stop and take a few seconds at the aid stations, rather than miss the opportunity.
- This year at Wanaka it is exciting as there are so many races going on, on the same day. It’s therefore important that you take a little time to make sure you know the course and route for your specific race and what markings to look for so you don’t end up going further or missing a turn.
- Don’t panic either if during the race you look at your speed and find you are going 1-2km per hour slower than you usually do or you have been doing in training. This is very much likely just down to the road surface in Wanaka and New Zealand. The coarse chip seal on the roads, means it’s slower, so don’t panic and think that your race is over. It’s all completely normal for Challenge Wanaka.
- Finally, whilst you are out there competing, remember you are racing in one of the most spectacular locations, globally! There is no other race like it! Yes, it’s tough, (it’s meant to be) but that’s what is even more beautiful and rewarding about Wanaka. You’ll finish the race with an amazing feeling of accomplishing something that only a few special people have done! You will go through highs and lows out there, it’s the nature of triathlon and endurance events but keep feeding with calories and keep looking around you and smiling at what you are achieving and where you are racing. Remember why you signed up and all the hard work you’ve put in to get you to the day. Race day is celebrating all your hard work and commitment to the training and goals you had. The dark patches do end as well. If you feel in a black place, try actually physically smiling, and you’ll find soon you will be back out in a manageable position. Keep positive and have little things to distract you. Think about just running to the next tree or the next aid station. Break it down.
But ultimately race for the love of being fit and active and outside in a stunning location, doing something pretty amazing! Smile on the inside and out and love every minute of it!
I’ll see you out there!
Some Little Extras
- Take a pair of flip flops / or spare pair of trainers to wear to Transition in the morning, before the race. Some people wear socks that they then just throw away by the swim start.
- Have a spare watch, to keep track of time on race morning, that you can then take off and hand to one of your spectators or a volunteer just before you race. (If you don’t wear a GPS watch for the race)
- Fix your number to your race belt, and tie a little not in the end of the elastic thread
- Use a safety pin to secure your timing chip to your ankle.