Race morning can be a stressful time for athletes, so the more organised you are, the less you have to think about, and hopefully, the stress levels can be kept at a minimum. We caught up with professional triathlete, Sarah Piampiano at Ironman Austria a few weeks ago and were impressed by her pre-race preparation and organisation. On a scale of 1 to OCD, she’s right up there, but it works. Meanwhile, we’re struggling to remember where we left our diary, let alone make a list in one.

Text by Sarah Piampiano | Photos by Witsup


For me, before any race, but in particular before an iron-distance, having complete organization about pre-race process is very important. It helps things run smoothly on race morning and also helps me stay on task/not be late, etc


The Notebook

I have a notebook with the words “Live Your Dream” on the outside. I use it to form to-do lists, determine my daily schedule and goals, as well as use it for note taking for important calls and meetings.

Before any race I create a schedule for myself. I start with what my start time is and then work backwards to determine what time I need to wake up. Here’s my Ironman Austria race as my most recent example:

6:42am – Start

6:30am – Out of water and on dock

6:20am – In water for warm up

6:15am – Walk to start/ Eat bar/pre-race drink

6:05am – Put on wetsuit and drop off morning clothes bag

5:55am – Bathroom

5:35am – Pre-race Run

5:20am – Walk over from transition to swim start

5:05am – Transition

4:55am – Depart house

4:40am – Breakfast

3:55am – Rehab/ Activation exercises

3:35am – Wake up/put on clothes


This timing will vary from race to race depending on how much time I need in transition (typically more for a half and less for an iron-distance as everything is mostly checked in already), time from my homestay to the race start, where transition is relative to the race start, when we are allowed in the water to warm up etc.

DCIM100GOPROG0023141.Race morning schedule


Since I broke my leg last year I’ve worked with my team of coaches and physios to develop an activation and rehab routine that I do every day before I begin training. On race morning the routine is a bit longer than normal, but is focused on waking up my neuromuscular system, improving movement and mobility, and activating key muscle groups like my core/obliques/lats/glutes and hamstrings.


Pre-race run

I typically run every morning when I wake up just for 15 minutes – it’s not a ‘training run’, it’s just to get the body loose and to wake my body up – kind of a like a natural form of coffee! Race morning it is no different, however, similar to my rehab routine, my warm up is extended. I typically do about 10-15 minutes of very slow jogging, gradually increasing my pace, and then do 10 minutes of extended pick ups, ranging from 1-2 minutes. These pick ups will be from slow to very fast as well as building into race pace or above race pace.

The idea is to get my body ready for the intensity that is about to come. How I structure the run also depends on the weather conditions and how loose my body is feeling. In very hot weather races, I run a bit less because I am concerned about core temperature management. In cool weather races warming up for longer is important to bring my core temperature up.


Breakfast timing

Everyone is different in when they like to eat breakfast. I find if I eat it right when I wake up, there is such a gap between eating and when the race begins I get too hungry.  Instead, I eat just before I leave for the race. For an iron-distance, my race morning breakfast is three eggs, a bowl of fruit and two big tablespoons of almond butter. I then eat half a bar and have an energy drink about 30 minutes before the start.

About The Author

Stef Hanson. Chief.

Chief and founder of WITSUP

Serious about what I do, but don’t take myself too seriously

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