Congratulations, athlete! You’ve not only signed up for a race that involves three separate sports – you’ve managed to find one that’s nowhere near where you live, meaning that in addition to preparing to actually, like, race, you’ll also need to make travel arrangements, figure out how you’re getting all your stuff to your destination, and research this exotic location well enough to know what you’re really getting yourself into.

Triathletes: Making questionable life decisions since 1974. 

Between the time you hit that exciting Register Now! button and the moment you cross the finish line, you’re going to experience a few different stages. In order to help you prepare, we’ve assembled this very informative guide.

Stage 1: Intel gathering. You ask your friends and training buddies for their advice on this location. This is when you realize that nobody you know knows anything about anything at all, so you’ll expand your quest for information to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ (what? Somebody somewhere might use it), taking copious notes on what your second cousin George’s boyfriend’s old dog walker has to say about the best pasta place in the area – or, at least, what he remembers being the best option when he lived there in 1997. It’s fine. How much can change in 20 years?

Stage 2 List Making. You’re going to keep thinking of things you want to make sure to pack, not to mention all the things you need to do before you leave, and how can you possibly remember it all without making a list? Or maybe six? Have you considered a spreadsheet? Probably make it a Google doc so you can easily share it with all interested parties. (Note: There are no interested parties.)

Make a List

Stage 3: Stuff acquiring. Oh, you thought you had everything you needed to race a triathlon? Not one where you’re going! Something about traveling for a race makes you certain that you absolutely need all kinds of new gear. What if your water bottle doesn’t work in Arizona? And can you honestly fly all that way without new compression socks? Please. Besides, the more time you spend feeling excited about your new stuff, the less time you have to stress over the next step.

Stage 4: Bag packing. Maybe you’re one who does this a couple of weeks or even a month before you actually leave, or perhaps you leave it until closer to your departure date, but either way, it’s a process. You’ve got your list, you’re checking it twice (or thrice, or … what’s it called when you obsessively check like 10 times? Because that), and slowly but surely, you get your bag packed with exactly everything you need. Nothing more, nothing less. You’ve perfected the art of destination racing.

Stage 5: Dream having. Oh god, that dream where you showed up to race and your helmet was nowhere to be found and none were available for purchase in the entire town had to have been an omen.

Dog Having a Dream

Stage  6: Double Checking. And yes, of course you packed your helmet. And your shoes. And your goggles. You obsessively checked already. You’re good!

6.a Repeat stages 5 and 6 a time or twelve.

Stage 7: Stress eating. This packing, second guessing, double checking thing? It’s stressful. So is tapering. Have a cookie.

Stage 8: Suitcase stuffing. Okay, okay, you definitely packed your socks – but would it really hurt to have a duplicate pair in there? And what’s the harm in bringing a back-up sports bra, and are you sure you want to wear those shoes? Maybe you should just bring an extra pair, just in case. And what if it’s cold in Tennessee in July? Better grab that winter coat. Sit on the suitcase – it’ll all fit.

Stage 9: Actual traveling. Is it weird to feel this much relief once you’re actually on your way? Your training is complete, your bags are packed (and finalized, and checked), and all you need to do now is relax, enjoy the trip, and do that race.

Stage 10: Expo wandering. Well, sure, you packed a race belt – but is this one better? You’d better buy it. And is that a new flavor of sports gel? Can’t have too many, so you might as well stock on up.

Stage 11: Triathlon racing. Once you’ve got everything set up in transition (with the 25 pounds of extra stuff you couldn’t hit the road without safely back at your hotel), you can breathe. And hey, you’re in an exciting location with the opportunity to experience it in a way that many people never will – by bike and on foot! Try to take it all in, appreciating the course , the scenery, and simply the fact that you are there.

Because, in the end, triathlon isn’t really about the stuff pack (as long as, you know, you have the basics and are comfortable – and looking cute is a plus, of course). It’s about being there, experiencing this incredible athletic event with hundreds of other athletes. It’s about seeing what you can do, finding out whether you can push yourself just a little bit harder. It might be about crossing that finish line in time to earn a spot on the podium, or maybe it’s just about crossing that finish line in time to drink a frosty beverage in the beer tent at the end.

About the Author

Kristen is a busy (and very funny) woman. She's a writer, a certified triathlon coach, a pet lover and she runs Fit Bottomed Girls which is a site dedicated to empowering women to live a healthy lifestyle.

Kristen Seymour

p.s. Speaking of racing, if you or a friend have an A-race coming up, check out our Race Day Magic box. It comes with a talking unicorn...oops...we meant UniCoeurn, a race belt and a couple other motivational items.

Reginald Holden