top of page
  • Facebook - Black Circle
  • Instagram - Black Circle
  • YouTube - Black Circle

Your Blueprint for Race Week Success

Race Week!

It’s the week you’ve been waiting for for months and now it’s finally arrived. Just the other day it seemed like weeks away and now here you are. You’ve done all phases of iron distance training these past several months and now you are ready. I want to share with you what I typically do for my athletes the week of their “A” race so you can incorporate some of these ideas into your own training.

Typically, iron distance training goes down something like this:

1.General Preparation Phase

2.Specific Preparation Phase

3.Pre-Competition Phase

4.Competition Phase- Taper and Race Week

This is typically characterized by a big drop in volume without changing your intensity for any of the 3 sports. You are highly conditioned at this point and the goal is to keep your level of fitness high while allowing your body to rest with less volume. During this week I try to keep your schedule similar to previous weeks, although sometimes I need to adjust for travel, etc. This week typically has 2 swims, 2 rides, and several short runs.

Your workout week will look something like this:

This week your swims are not about getting in yards at all. It’s about getting in the water a few times before race day, preferably with your wetsuit on so you can practice once more getting in and out of it quickly. I will have you do a few faster efforts along with some race pace work.

Your cycling workouts are pretty much in Z3, although I usually throw in a few very short Z4 efforts to keep you from feeling flat. Getting outside on the bike is preferable to the trainer so you can get a feel for what the temperatures will be like on race day. The closer you train to the real thing the better.

Your runs are short efforts, although still in Z3. The day before race day is your last workout and I usually include 8-10 strides which are a gradual buildup from slow to moderate to very fast 100 yard intervals with a 10 minute warm up and cool down. This will help you get used to raising your heart rate throughout the next day’s event. If there is a swim practice hosted at the event I highly recommend being there for that. This will lessen any anxiety you have about the lake or ocean and having swam a portion of it builds your confidence for race day.

I do not incorporate any strength training during race week because I don’t want you to have any kind of muscle soreness for your “A” race. You are being especially kind to your body this week with plenty of sleep, good nutrition, stretching, foam rolling, etc.

Sleep is key this week, especially the night before the night before you race. Practice going to bed early a week ahead of time in order to get your body used to waking earlier. Set the stage for good sleep by turning off all electronics an hour or 2 before you sleep. Leave your phone in the kitchen with all sounds turned off. I highly recommend taking a magnesium before bed or a sleep gummy if you are already taking those. Keep your house cool enough for sleep conditions- 72 degrees is a good number, although I sometimes like it even colder than that. Soft music or sounds are great if that helps you relax and fall asleep.

Nutrition. Race week isn’t much different than your normal pattern of eating until you get to 3 days before race day. At that point, I tell my athletes to stop eating fibrous foods such as salads and fruits and foods with lots of fats and proteins. These are hard to digest and make your digestive system work hard to push them through. When racing, too much fiber can lead to gastric upset and make you feel bloated and then nauseous. So, 2 or 3 days prior to race day, it’s toast will jelly, pancakes, bagels, sweet potato, apple sauce and pasta. Hydration is a must so be sure to be drinking water all day long so that your urine is pale yellow in color. By now you know your sweat test numbers so you know how much fluids you need to be taking in while exercising. Below are a few guidelines from Jesse Kropelnecki who actually certified me as a triathlon coach several years ago. He’s also written a few books on nutrition for athletes.

Carb Loading

Sprint distance and under- no need to carb load.

Olympic distance- Eat a large breakfast the day before race day.

Half Ironman-Eat a large breakfast the day before race day and add grains at dinner two days before race day.

Ironman-Eat a large breakfast the day before race day, add grains at lunch and dinner two days before race day.

*A large meal is considered to have at least 125grams of carbs, 20 grams of protein, and less than 25 grams of fats.*

According to Jesse, carb loading should go as follows:


Begin carb loading 2 days before the event at lunch

2.7Xbody weight in pounds [~430 grams for 160lb athlete]

Day before the event

4.5Xbody weight in pounds [~720 grams for1 60lb athlete]

Half Ironman

Begin carb loading 2 days before the event at dinner

2.4Xbody weight in pounds[~380 grams for 160lb athlete]

Day before the event

4.5Xbody weight in pounds[~720 grams for 160lb athlete]


Begin carb loading the day before the event

4.5Xbody weight in pounds[~720 grams for 160lb athlete]

Have largest meal at breakfast the day before event and taper food throughout day. Last meal should be light and close to bed time.

Low fiber, low nutrient density foods the day before the event [bagels, sport drinks, pretzels]

Examples of acceptable carbs:

Pancakes, syrup, jelly, toast, bagels (white), pretzels, pasta, rice, power bar performance bars.

Avoid butter, cheese, mayonnaise, high fiber fruits, vegetables, and grains.

Here is a good example of what to eat Race morning!

3 cups of unsweetened apple sauce (low glycemic index and high in water concentration)

1 banana (low glycemic and contains potassium)

1 scoop of whey protein (has 3.8g of BCAA)

1 bottle of sports drink (24oz)

Gear and Equipment

It’s best to start creating your race day checklist several weeks prior to race week so that you have a well thought out plan for your gear, bike, clothing, etc. Start Monday of race week putting what goes in each bag together so that you are not scrambling the night before race day. Lay out all of your clothing and gear by sport and be sure you have everything organized and you’ve thought it through. Be sure to have your bike op-checked at the local bike shop so you have zero surprises on race day. Read the athlete guide from cover to cover and know when you have an athlete briefing scheduled. Scan the race course and familiarize yourself with transition areas (T1 and T2) and know where to come in and go out of transition. If folks are coming to watch, advise them where to park based on your athlete guide.

Race week is an exciting time and you have worked very hard to get here. Take a moment to take it all in. Walk around Ironman village with your family and enjoy the race atmosphere. Have an attitude of gratitude for being able give it your all on race day.

Have you thought about hiring a coach for your next iron distance event? Click the box below and let’s have a chat about your race goals!

Mary Timoney

Ironman University Certified Coach

USA Cycling Coach

ACSM Trainer


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
bottom of page