Hopefully by this point in your training progression you have tested an evening meal which sits well with you and provides the nutrition that you will need for the long day ahead. It is a truism of racing that you never try anything new in a race – this applies equally to food, equipment, and pacing. The last thing you want to do is go to the popular restaurant in a new town and order the fried calamari because the waiter recommends it. Stay boring. I like spaghetti or a simple chicken-and-pesto pizza. Everyone talks about carbo-loading before a race, but make sure to get some protein in as well. Avoid the temptation to have a glass of wine or beer, as they can interfere with your sleep patterns.
If you will wear a Garmin or other type of race watch during the race, plug it in to charge overnight. Clip your fingernails and toenails. Peel the back off the small bike sticker from the race packet and stick it onto the front of your helmet. Lay your gear out in a way that will be easy to collect the next morning. If you are worried about sunburn during the race, many athletes have had success with applying several coats of sunscreen to their body the night before to let it soak into their skin overnight. This will provide a better base and protection than simply applying sunscreen the following morning.
I like to mix my drinks for the bike the night before a race so they can sit in the fridge and become chilled overnight. As mentioned in Chapter 8, I use Skratch and CarboPro in my bottles to provide sufficient caloric intake for best performance.
If you are doing a full Ironman, go ahead and prepare your special needs bags the night before the race. As explained earlier, these are two bags which you will give to the race workers before the race which they will take to the halfway points (approximately) of the bike and run so you can pick them up and “reload” if you need to. Common items to place in the bike special needs bag are a small bottle of sunscreen, Band-Aids, eye drops, Body glide, an extra tube and CO2 cartridge in case you’ve already had to use the one on your bike, extra energy gels, a bag of potato chips or cookies, a clean pair of socks, an bottle of Gatorade (put it in the freezer the night before), and Advil. The run special needs bag can be similar but sometimes focuses more on nutrition (sandwiches) and can include a long-sleeve shirt if you will be running after the day cools off. One great idea is to ask family and friends to write notes which you can place in your special needs bags and read them when you stop to pick them up; this can provide a big boost of energy and confidence just when you need it most. Race officials will tell you not to put anything in a special needs bag that you can’t lose. They usually try their best to get them all collected and returned to the finish line by the end of the race but they will not make any guarantees, so do not include anything valuable.
I assure you, it will be difficult to get sufficient sleep the night before a race. Taking a melatonin supplement can help your body relax and fall asleep. As always, try this before race day to make sure you don’t have any adverse reactions. I like to set at least two alarms – generally a clock radio along with my phone – for peace of mind.