Preparing for a big race can often be more nerve-wracking than the race itself. The tension, the second-guessing what to eat, and the inevitable lack of sleep can all combine to make for an uncomfortable build-up to your next big event.
Thankfully, our brilliant and friendly athletes at Team PH have served up their best breakfast, sleep, and preparation tips to help you feel ready for race day…
Full English for breakfast?
2018 IRONMAN South America Champion Sarah Crowley: Before winning the 70.3 Asia Pacific Champs in Vietnam I ate my normal pre-race food, which is basically a high carbohydrate lunch and dinner, such as pasta or pizza. I had a bottle of PH 1500 after breakfast, which was my typical toast, honey, and banana combo!
Hamish Reilly, winner of the 2018 Leeds Castle Sprint Triathlon: On the morning of race day I tend to have a light meal with minimal dairy and fibre. I used to have porridge all the time as I found it worked awesomely, but recently my stomach has decided that’s a no-go before race day and I’ve had to move onto something else! I now usually have a toasted bagel filled with jam. I also have a small bowl of fresh fruit topped with natural yoghurt and seeds. That is the typical breakfast I would have for a morning race, although if the race starts later in the day then I may have some more food like scrambled eggs. To drink, I have a latte, fresh juice and a bottle of water to hand which I sip on right up to the start of the race.
2016 British Triathlon Age Group Champion, Brett Halliwell: I like to keep it simple with a bowl of porridge with strawberry jam and a banana, followed by a piece of toast. I have always gone for this breakfast on race morning as it is high in carbs and I find it easy to digest.
GB's Fastest Kona Age-Grouper, Charlie Pennington: I hate the pre-race stuff. I struggle with relaxing anyway and then really struggle to eat and drink on the morning of a race. I tend to look at the build-up as a whole, rather than think that the dinner the night before and breakfast on race day are especially key.
This means that I eat healthily all week leading up to a race and focus on keeping myself hydrated throughout using PH 1000 as my go-to drink.
Breakfast is usually granola, some bananas, and a Clif Bar. Any more than that and I won't digest it.
Professional Triathlete and Team PH captain, Brad Williams: I have always been an oatmeal person. Used to be Instant Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal, but switched over to Picky Bars Oatmeal when they launched that, specifically the ‘Can’t Beet Chocolate’ one :) Then I always wash that down with PH 1500 and again top up with PH 1500 before race start!
Ex-pro cyclist and Ironman triathlete, Bex Rimmington: I normally have quinoa with some nuts, seeds, berries and yoghurt. I'm not sure how I got into quinoa at breakfast to be honest, I think I read somewhere about it being a great endurance food source and after playing about with what worked I seemed to come up with this - which tastes great! I also start sipping on my PH 1500 drink to make sure it's finished in time before the start of racing.
Neil Eddy, who is the 2019 ITU Long Course World Champion, said: I’m a creature of habit really as I tend to go with the same things I eat most days of the year, which are overnight porridge oats, maybe with a few berries and honey mixed in.
How do you sleep the night before a race and what’s your best advice for getting some shut-eye?
Hamish Reilly: I think anyone who competes in any sport faces struggles with getting to sleep the night before an important race or competition. I’m no different, I find it very hard to get to sleep with the idea of a race the next day. All the thoughts of what could happen, what I’m going to do, who I’m competing against, all spin round my head, making the simple task of getting to sleep a bigger challenge than the race itself.
Over the years I’ve found a few things that help me to combat these nerves and help me get a good night’s sleep. The first thing I would say is to stop worrying about what could happen, just live in the moment and go with the flow. Stop worrying about what is to come and just enjoy where you are now, knowing you have already done the hard work and this is the easy bit.
Secondly, I have always used earplugs and an eye mask to help me get a good night’s sleep. I find it difficult when having to share a room with others, so I have found out that these two cheap items are a godsend if sharing a room with family or friends.
Lastly, within four hours of the time I’m going to sleep I avoid any sugary or caffeinated drinks completely. Having a drink like this before bed will spike your blood-glucose levels and make it even harder to sleep. Save these drinks for celebrating after the race!
I’ve found that having the PH 1500 is a great alternative, helping me to stop cramping during the race and adds flavour rather than drinking just water the night before.
Charlie Pennington: A pizza and a beer the night before a race are relatively standard for me! I'd rather eat and drink to be relaxed so that I get some sleep that night.
Brad Williams: It depends on what the travel to the race looked like and if I’m still battling jet lag or not. Typically, I am not concerned with sleep the night before a race as it is two nights out that I really focus on getting quality sleep.
I typically just “roll with the punches” when it comes to the night before. Usually most races are starting at sun up, so you are already going to be lacking the ideal amount of sleep you can get, so I just try to ensure that the night before it is at least quality sleep. That means leaving the phone away from the bed (always on silent), have white noise on and I typically like the room to be a bit cool as I sleep better.
Brett Halliwell: Luckily this isn't something I have trouble with and I tend to sleep pretty well! For me the night before the race I tend to go to bed a little later than normal, this is to make sure I am tired so I am able to get a good night’s sleep. I figure that I am not going to get eight hours of sleep and it's more important to get decent sleep in the week leading up to the race as that will have the biggest impact come race day.
Neil Eddy: Occasionally it might take a little time to get to sleep but I make sure I go to bed early. I always believe that as long as you've had enough sleep during the week leading up to the race, then one bad night of sleep shouldn’t effect race day.
Neil Eddy: No superstitions as such, but once I awake I like to get going and I definitely don’t like waiting around to get to the race site.
Bex Rimmington: I like to pack my kit bag quite meticulously so everything has its place but that's as about as exciting as it gets!
Hamish Reilly: I don’t have any particular superstitions before racing, but I always do the same warm up on the bike rollers. I have a routine dialled in that seems to get me race prepared. I have to do this warm up whilst listening to music, something with quite a high beat works well for me. Lastly, I always have the PH 1500 two hours before racing which helps me to avoid cramping on the run, I thoroughly recommend it.
Brett Halliwell: I always need to have pizza the night before a race. Luckily it is a food that is easy to get hold of in all countries.
Brad Williams: No, just try to keep the same routine so I don’t forget anything.
We hope this advice helps you eat, sleep, and prepare like the PH pros!