By Allen Gardner
Allen is in his second year as a professional triathlete and trains out of Boulder, Colo. Pharmaca sponsors Allen, 26, who competes in 12-14 triathlons around the country each year.
Race Day feels just like a test in school. You study and prepare, and in that moment you are asked to perform at your highest level of academic ability. All the studying in the past is what it is—you know what you know and it’s time to achieve. I go about racing in the same manner. All of my countless hours of training are tested in one day, one moment.
So here’s what happens on race day—from thoughts to food to race prep.
4:30am. Race time is at 6:30am, so that means waking up early. My thoughts turn to breakfast. The fuel I get from my breakfast is not what will be fueling me for the race—it’s more of a comfort food to relax the mind and body. The food I ate the days and night before is what will dictate how well I do from a fuel standpoint.
2 packets of brown sugar oatmeal
2 slices of toast
Large glass of milk (preferably chocolate)
5-5:15am. Arrive at race.
I plan to arrive around an hour and thirty minutes ahead of race time. This allows me to be relaxed when going through my transition bag, setting up transition, using the bathroom and mentally preparing myself. I do a few mental dry runs while looking at my transition to ensure everything is in the right place.
5:45am. Begin warm up. What goes into my warm up is dependent on what the conditions and officials allow us to do, so I have a set of pre-race warm ups for all circumstances. Ideally I like to swim intervals before the race, especially the longer distance races.
At some point during this 45-minute time frame I stop and do a mental check. I envision what I’d like to achieve during each stage of the race. I try to envision things that could go wrong and what the plan would be if they do. I make sure that my goals are set way before I begin the race, because once I’m at the starting line, everything is left behind.
6:30am. Race begins. Each race has its own variables, so I have to be prepared to race each race on its own, to be able to adjust and go with the flow in order to achieve my goals. My race strategy at this point is simple: Swim front pack, hit the bike hard and hang on the run.
Food is my biggest concern on the bike. Listed below is my typical intake while riding.
- 3 gel flasks (approx. 200 calories each)
- 1 energy bar (300 calories)
- 1 electrolyte drink
- 1 bottle of water
- 2 salt tablets
- Water at aid stations when available
If nutrition is done properly while I’m on my bike, I shouldn’t need too much else on my run. That being said, I’ll still need a gel flask and any available water at aid stations during the run.
Of course, my food/hydration choices can be affected by altitude, humidity, temperature and other weather conditions. But if everything is done properly, my race should be the performance that I had planned to achieve.
After the race. Recovery is just as important as the pre-race. Ideally I take a nap afterwards, or just relax. Later on in the evening I’ll go on a bike ride for an hour or so to open the legs up. The post-race ride keeps my legs from tightening up or getting stiff.
Dinner. I eat whatever I want—typically burgers, fries and ice cream! And as always, I don’t forget to enjoy and celebrate my achievement.
Photo of Allen Gardner by Sean Hagwell