The information below is a handy guide for newer triathletes and is applicable to any triathlon up to IM 70.3.
The days leading up to the race you should be resting. Training activity is greatly curtailed to allow your body to rest and recharge. However, when you do train, keep the same intensity as before. The day before the race you can go for a light jog to burn off nervous energy, otherwise take it easy.
Eat a carbohydrate rich meal TWO NIGHTS before the race. In the days prior to the race, drink lots of water. Urine should be clear and copious (remember the two “C’s”). The day before the race, graze throughout the day, and avoid a heavy meal that night. Eat something fairly bland that you know your body can handle. No Thai “Jungle Curry” (please).
Here is an excellent race day checklist. Though mentioned in the checklist, it bears repeating that you should pack everything in a backpack in order to keep your hands free for body-marking, bike check-in, etc.
Seed yourself according to your swim ability. If this is your first tri, I would recommend starting in the back and counting to 10 after the gun goes off. Let everyone else fight it out.
GO EASY. Relax. While you probably have covered the distance in a pool, open water is a different experience. Have some respect for it and stay within yourself. Don’t go so hard that you are anaerobic. Don’t expend all of your energy in the swim. Remember that you still have to bike and run.
In T1 (tri lingo for the first transition), be smooth and relaxed. Change gear the same way you practiced it. PUT YOUR HELMET ON BEFORE YOU TOUCH THE BIKE. Leaving the transition area with your helmet unbuckled can get you disqualified, so best to be on the safe side.
Once on the bike, DRINK. You should have one bottle full of sports drink, and one bottle full of water with you during the ride, because you won’t get much while on the run. Alternate drinking the water and the sports drink. Oh yeah, it is usually best to dilute the sports drink. Fill up the bottle ¾ of the way with sports drink, and the rest with water. Full strength, the stuff has too high a concentration of carbohydrates and it doesn’t empty from the stomach as quickly. Nothing worse than hearing all of that fluid sloshing around in your stomach while running. DRINK EARLY AND DRINK OFTEN. If you have some energy gels with you, start taking those soon after starting the bike ride.
Triathlon is an individual sport so there is no drafting. You must stay about 30 yards behind the person in front of you or again, you can get disqualified. If in doubt, you are probably drafting. Pass on the left, and verbally let people know you are there. Thank the course workers and volunteers.
Again, don’t expend all your energy at the beginning portion of the ride, pace your effort. If you don’t have a computer on the bike, look for mile marks along the road. You can also ask a fellow cyclist too.
At the end of the bike, dismount where they tell you to and walk your bike through the transition area. Rack your bike, THEN TAKE OFF YOUR HELMET-NOT BEFORE. Put on your shoes, maybe a hat if you want one, and BE SURE TO GRAB YOUR RACE NUMBER. Grab a drink of water on your way out of the transition area, too. Your legs will feel like rubber for a half-mile or more. That feeling will go away-trust me. Until it does, keep plugging away. Get a drink at all the aid stations and thank the volunteers.
As you approach the finish line, make sure your race number is in front, straighten up for the pictures, smile, and congratulate yourself!