Race Week Do’s and Don’t- Shem Leong

Race Week Do’s and Don’t- Shem Leong

I hope your training has been going smoothly and you’re not planning on riding too hard or running too long weekend.

It’s been a real treat for me to watch you all get stuck into training the last couple of months and enjoying the process of getting fitter! Well – Here we are on the cusp of race week – 9 days more- Putrajaya  Ironman 70.3 – the buzz is definitely in the air and I hope you’re getting excited!

If you start to get more tired and sore and lethargic at the start of next week – Don’t panic. This is simply your brain telling your body to ease off in this final week as it winds down into “rest and repair” mode. Your job this week is to keep on “teasing “ your arms, legs, heart and lungs with just enough work in all the 5 systems; Speed, Tolerance, Neuromuscular, Endurance and Strength, so that they stay hungry for more, while giving them ample time to recover.

Here’s a check list that will help you have a successful day.

Pre- Race


  • Send your bike in for a service. Look for frayed cables, cracked sidewalls and cuts in the tyres, a worn chain (I just changed mine and it rides like a dream), squidgy brakes. Check that the spoke tensions are equal and that the shifting is accurate. Tighten all the screws in your cleats and all the ones holding your cockpit together.
  • Get some new goggles (nice to see where you’re going) and try them out at least once in the coming week.
  • Get a massage in the first half of the week.
  • Add salt to your food. Start stockpiling Sodium and Magnesium in your body. With this weather we’ve been having, you’re gonna lose a ton of it out there. I find Salt Stick Capsules or Hammer Endrolytes are a good option. Just take one per meal from Friday dinner and you’ll be fine.
  • Stay well- Like a finely tuned F1 super-car, the fitter you are the more susceptible you are to picking up bugs and nasty infections resulting in fevers, colds, gastric, diahohreah, in race week. Eat well, load up on Vitamin C and get that extra hour a night of sleep.
  • Work out in detail your nutrition plan for race day- It should be simple and easy to execute and workable with what you’re getting out there on the course. How much of what are you going to carry and where are you going to carry it? Do not deviate from how you have been fuelling your longer weekend training sessions.


  • Change the height/ position of your saddle!
  • Stuff your face for 3 days going into the race to “Carbo-Load”. A sensible diet in the week, with a full meal on Friday night or Saturday lunch will ensure that your glycogen (energy) stores are full and that you’ll have time to clear out any access. Remember that while the appetite will still be high, the demands on the body in race week are reduced.
  • Don’t go overboard with hydration using plain water. The access will flush out salts along with it. Go for moderate amounts of sports / electrolyte drink instead.

That is a lot to keep in mind during the final week. Truth is, getting to the start line of any long course triathlon is really half the battle. Once the horn goes off, it really should feel like a hard training day with lots of friends!

Race Day


  • Start the day with a simple breakfast that’s easy to digest. This is just to get the digestive juices flowing – NOT to continue the carbo loading – this should already be completed.
  • Have 2 glasses of water to hydrate the liver.
  • Bring a snack to munch on as you set up in transition. You might be there for upto 2 hrs before the horn goes off. So stay topped up nutritionally, sip at a sports drink and have a gel before the race for a mental and physical advantage.
  • Do line up in the appropriate place on at the start. If you’re not that strong a swimmer, it’s a better idea to line up towards the rear so that you can calmly take your bearings and look for a suitable draft before hitting the water. Place yourself too far forward and you’ll get a ton of people swimming over you (an experience similar to drowning). If you’re a strong swimmer – get to the front few rows, run into the water and go HARD for 50m or so.. Swim aggressive, fight for your bit of real estate and you be surprised how easily you’ve cleared a path out of the human washing machine.
  • Sight frequently- look where you’re going. Don’t rely on the blindly following the person in front of you- he might be charging towards the wrong buoy.
  • Find a draft in the water. It saves energy.
  • Go out easy on the bike and build into your ride. The 2 lap course makes for easy pacing. Moderate on the 1st one and let the effort build throughout the second lap. Newbies – always saving something for the last 30km on the bike – this is where it’ll come back and bite you if you’ve gone out too hard.
  • Eat on the bike. As a rule of thumb, aim for at least 250 calories an hour. Read the labels and know how many calories per gel/ per scoop of sports drink / energy bar. Remember you need to run a half marathon after you get off the bike. On your training rides, one gel an hour may get you comfortably to the end of the ride, but on race day, you’re eating for the run. You can never absorb as much calories as you burn while you’re on the go, so you’re eating to minimize the calorie deficient in order to keep from bonking later on. I take 2 salt caps per hour on the bike.
  • Get out of the saddle from the aero position once in a while to give your butt, back and legs some relief. The climbs are a good place to do this.
  • Be responsible. Ride Safe. There are others out there enjoying their big day. Don’t take unnecessary or stupid risks by squeezing into little spaces or getting caught in the position where you need to slam on the brakes. Yes, it’s a race, and we want to put out our best effort and yes we also want to finish the race!
  • Do call out if you’re passing but don’t swear in the same sentence.
  • Start the run easy with small, light steps. This will help you get used to the change from riding to running. Stay easy, and don’t try to force the pace. Your rhythm will come as you progress into the run. Run conservatively and only as fast as you can while holding your form – you’ll be grateful for this later on. As with the bike – keep something in tank for the last 7km (and then again for the last 3km) of the run – this is when it’ll count.
  • Keep eating on the run, keep taking salt. The weather recently has been hot and nasty, you’ll be losing a ton of salt.
  • Smile- It helps with the pain, seriously.
  • Stop early and stretch out properly if you get that crampy feeling. Don’t wait till it’s too late.
  • Always thank the volunteers and be nice to them. They’re out there for you.
  • Do push yourself in the closing stages of the race. Keep your eyes fixed on the runner in front of you and try to reel them in.


  • Don’t be afraid to sprint up to the next guy ahead to swap for a faster draft- could be worth it!
  • Don’t hit back when you get hit/ punched/ grabbed. It’s nothing personal. Open water is not the place to lose your temper- for safety reasons as much as for energy conservation ( think of your skyrocketing HR, as the adrenalin kicks in if you decide to retaliate- what a waste of energy). There are hundreds of other arms flailing about out there in the murky waters, it’s not anyone’s fault. Just stay calm and get out of each other’s way and hang in there. The field will soon thin out.
  • Don’t worry that your heart is absolutely pounding by the end of the swim leg. The sudden change from a supported horizontal position to a vertical position will make you think you’re having a heart attack. This is normal, take an easy jog easy to your bike and think about getting through T1 quickly.
  • Don’t chug half a bottle of water/ electrolytes/ sports drink in the transition. This will quickly end up sloshing about in your stomach. Don’t stuff your face with an energy bar/ slurp down a double caffeinated gel. There’s plenty of time to feed on the bike. Give yourself sometime to settle down on the bike before you start nibbling away.
  • Don’t try the “jumping onto the bike with the shoes clipped in” thing unless you have practised this. From experience, you could end up with a bloody toenail-less toe.
  • Don’t hammer it out of T1 even if you feel great. Your girlfriend/ wife/ kids will be impressed but your legs will be flooded with lactate right at the start.
  • Don’t be afraid to adopt a structured run/walk strategy (9 mins run/ 1 min walk). By imposing regular breaks, you’ll be able to run with better form for the duration of the half marathon.
  • Don’t throw your Powergel wrappers on the floor : )

That’s all from me, I wish you all the very best on race day and look forward to hearing your war stories : )


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