May 3, 2017 12:19 pm

Louellen Coker

My first triathlon. No race plan for this day since Duane signed me up without asking!

The 2017 triathlon season is well underway here in Texas and we’re getting ramping up for two races: TexasMan Olympic Triathlon (April 30) and our “A” race, the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon (June 11). Let’s face it. Race day can be stressful. Whether it is your first race ever, first race of the season, 100th race, or any race in between, there’s a good chance you have some level of pre-race jitters. Jitters that will either heighten or destroy your race experience. One way to help keep harmful jitters at bay is to do some mental reps in the form of creating a race plan.

Race plans are relatively easy and difficult at the same time. As a high-level dreamer and having more things on my to-do list than are humanly possible to do, it can be difficult for me sit down and write out the details. The shorter the race, the harder it becomes. The longer the race, the more daunting a task my race plan becomes. I’ll be honest. Sometimes I do a race plan, sometimes I don’t. Turns out, the races for which I’ve done a race plan are the races at which I’ve performed the best. There’s something about the mental exercise of creating a race plan that settles my jitters and puts me one step closer to having a great day on the course. So much so that I’m certain a race plan will do the same for you.

What is a Race Plan?

I have to admit, when I first started doing triathlons and heard my Triple Threat Tough teammates talking about what was and was not on their race plan, I had no clue! I mean, seriously, training isn’t enough?

It took me about a year (and signing up for my first 70.3) before I finally owned up to my ignorance and asked my coach and my teammates what the #&?! a race plan even was! And these great folks were more than happy to help me figure it out. Each of them sent me race plans that they had done in the past and patiently answered any an all questions I had.

Looking at their race plans was a great exercise and I learned a great deal. The most important things I learned?

  • I was doing some, but not all, of the work in my head already. Great, except all of those thoughts tended to be swirling around in my brain come race day and my ability to catch them in the heat of the moment was right up there with catching a butterfly without a net. Doable, but dubious.
  • I was overlooking quite a few details that made me scramble on race day. I instantly saw that this was a great way to pull everything together in one place to make sure that I hadn’t overlooked any detail.
  • I was looking at a golden ticket to making race day much less stressful. Sure, it’s a piece of paper or a few screens on your smart device with little seeming significance. But it’s also a lot of information at your fingertips that keeps you grounded and minimizes the scrambling you might have to do. A race day checklist that makes you feel confident when you feel as though you’ve forgotten something important.
  • I was looking at a way for my support crew to help me without having to direct them. Your friends, family, and coach want to support you, but getting them to the right place at the right time can be an overwhelming logistical item that can added unnecessary excitement to race day. Information on the race plan gives them enough information to figure out when and where to find you on the course and how to help you with logistics if things blow up.

What is Included in a Race Plan?

When I looked at all the different race plans I quickly saw my teammates in them. My accounting- and engineering-minded folks had extremely detailed plans with times down to the seconds and nutrition down to the calories. My more creative-minded folks had very general information with lots of wriggle room. And there were a many that fell between the two extremes. All of them, however, included these general categories.

  • Race details: date, distance, race website, address including links to the main venue, start, transitions, and finish line, lodging information, along with travel and transportation information.
  • Training and Activities: workouts and a list of whatever tasks that need completing starting 4-7 days out from race day and including race day.
  • Nutrition: food and nutrition for the days leading up to the race and particularly what you will consume on race day.
  • Clothing: what you’re going to wear for each discipline including kit, electronics, shoes, race numbers, timing chips, etc.
  • Race strategy: where and when you’ll be on the course; your predicted pace, effort, and times for each leg, and nutrition plans
  • Finish details: finish time, meet-up location, awards ceremony location, bike transport drop-off location
  • Possible obstacles and how to overcome them: your worst nightmares and what you’re going to do when it happens

The great thing about the mental exercise of creating YOUR race plan is that you capture what you most need for race day. Race plans are not set in stone, so they can evolve on the fly if needed.

What does a Race Plan Look Like?

There is no prescription for what a race plan should look like. As I mentioned above, I could instantly identify each of my friends in their race plans. Some people had written bullet points on a scrap of paper, others had a word document, others had a very detailed spreadsheet, one even had a PowerPoint presentation. I took bits and pieces of each and made a plan that works for me.

I opted to create my race plan in Google Docs so that I could share it with my coach and support crew in an easy accessible way. It also allows me and my peeps to have access anywhere, anytime as well as print easily. As a picture is worth 1000 words, here is the current iteration (typos included!) of my race plan for my upcoming race.


Questions or suggestion for making the race plan better? Let me know in the comments.

Wondering how the 2017 TexasMan Olympic Triathlon turned out for me? Check back for my race report.

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