I hope you all are happy with how your races have been going and are feeling good in this final 3rd of the season.
If you still have your “A” race ahead of you, then you can use your past races to evaluate your performances and tweak your goals and training from here on out.
Your Training Should Be Looking More Like Racing
As you approach your target race, your training should start to mirror your races: with quality time spent actually at race intensity, which helps you to be able to hit race efforts on the day, when it counts the most. One of the biggest mistakes an athlete can make is to train at intensities that don’t prepare you for the rigors of race day physically or mentally- often training above or below race specific intensities. Of course, the flip side of this is that the athlete trains at what they believe will be race day intensity, but then on the day of the race gets overexcited, overconfident, and falls prey to the greatest race day sin: racing way harder than s/he trained!
No matter how hard and long you trained for your event, if you race harder than your goal pace/ intensity then you are actually UNTRAINED for your race. The rigors targeted training prepare you mentally and physically for what you will encounter on race day, from how to eat and drink during the event, to how to mentally handle the tough parts, and of course, how to pace yourself for the duration. Each one of these elements is very specific, and if you change the intensity on race day then you seriously risk a DNF (did not finish) as your body and mind are not actually prepared for the event.
Follow the Plan
So, whether you are currently working with a coach or not, be sure that you have spent time at specific race intensities and then follow the plan on race day!
- Use your training and testing to inform what race day intensity should look like.
- Then PRACTICE at those intensities and see how you feel.
- KNOW what race effort feels like in the water (what is the rhythm of your sighting and breathing strokes).
- KNOW and stick to your race day targets on the bike in terms of power and /or heart rate and what your optimal cadence and gearing is.
- If it’s a hilly race you are training for and you live in the flatlands, then do some big gear work at your anticipated climbing cadences/watts and HR so you are READY for the event.
- As far as the run goes, you can use pace (if the target race will be on similar terrain and weather conditions) or HR and RPE if not.
- If you live in flatlands and are training for a hilly race, then use a treadmill to train the hills.
Hydration and Nutrition Needs
Make sure you have trained with your very specific hydration and nutrition needs AT race intensities and ideally in race day weather conditions, so you can see whether that works for you.
Simulate race day conditions in terms of mental skills also – do some group workouts where you post the results so you have the same kind of pressures as you do on race day; swim with a gang in the pool so you are used to contact and do your open water swims and go by RPE not the swim clock while sighting and drafting, think about how you will stay positive when it’s hot at mile-80 of the bike or mile-20 of the run on a long uphill and you are in one of those down periods during an Ironman. Try out various mental skills to see what works for you.
Take notes on all this and experiment in training so you can be as prepared as possible.
Racing always involves at least a little bit of discomfort and suffering (the more you care, the harder you try, the more pain is involved), this “unpleasantness” is simply your body letting you know you are achieving your goals. Your training taught you to handle it, to embrace it and to love it, and your racing will teach you it was worth it all.
Train smart, race hard, and have fun my friends.