Ask any experienced athlete when they get the most nervous and they have two answers: before they leave the house and before the gun goes off. Both are perfectly normal but one has the potential to really mess up your day. Speaking from years of experience, if you are a mess trying to get out of the house before a race, you will be a mess AT the race. The following are basic tips to help you have a better pre-race morning.

1. Establish a routine--The bigger the race the more important this becomes. When I race an IM, I literally have an itinerary for the entire weekend to keep me focused. For smaller races, this likely isn't needed but is strongly encouraged. I am usually a bigger mess before a sprint than an IM. Plan the morning ahead of time. Know what time you are getting up, set out your race clothes, make a note regarding your breakfast and pack your transition bag. If you complete all this the night before then the morning isn't filled with making decisions. The fewer decisions you have to make, the easier it is to get out the door.

2. Print out Directions--Sounds simple enough. When you are traveling to a race, you should prepare to make at least 1 wrong turn. Often it is 5:30 in the morning, dark and your are traveling down an unmarked rural road. Print out the directions the night before and put them in your car. Again, minimize the stress and reduce the decision making.

3. Plan to arrive when transition opens--Inevitably, something will go wrong. The hour drive will take you 90 minutes. You will make a wrong turn. You will need to get gas. If transition opens at 6:00 plan to be there at 6:00. That way when you arrive at 6:30, you still have plenty of time.

4. Visit the facilities early--This is one of the biggest issues race morning--the bathroom line. I suggest going as early as you can. Come back to transition. Don't wait until transition is about to close because that is when everyone else needs to go. And if you need to pee, just wait until you get in the water. Everyone else is doing it.

5. Review Transition--Walk through transition a few times. Make a mental (or physical) note of where you enter, the flow and exit. Your time in transition isn't social hour. Get set up, review the layout and get out. You don't want to find yourself chatting with friends while you are setting out the most important equipment of the day. Chat once you leave the area.

6. Bring an extra pair of shoes--Once you setup transition, you are barefoot for the rest of the morning. Bring an extra pair of shoes, preferably running shoes so that you can do an easy jog. At the very least, bring a pair of flip flops. I can recall two races where I cut the bottom of my foot prior to the start of the race. That isn't a pleasant feeling for over a hour.

Keep the morning as simple as possible. You are likely to not be thinking straight. If you are able to minimize the decision making, then the process will flow smoothly