As I sit here about to compete in my second Ironman in a month and having the 70.3 Worlds just a few weeks after that my mind naturally turns to race day execution. In other words how can I make the most out of the my training cycle. As racers you will do not better than you did while training but you could do a whole lot worse without proper execution.
During your triathlon training we coaches tend to be very specific with our assignments. Swim a particular number of reps at defined distances. Bike a certain amount of time at a predetermined watt or HR number. Run at particular exertion level for an amount of time or length. These numbers not only provide us benchmarks to track your condition as it progresses but it begins to engrain upon you, the athlete, the limitations of your current abilities. One of the major reasons we LOVE athlete feedback on the workouts is it helps you realize, and remember, where you currently are at physically.
Proper race day execution essentially comes down to the athlete knowing his condition and limitations then racing within him or herself. Without fail athletes who have haphazardly trained then haphazardly race and, more often than not, fail to reach their goals. Athletes who have systematically trained, and recorded, their efforts have a better handle on their current condition and therefore have more realistic goals and usually have successful races. It is important to note that life happens while we train. Kids have soccer tournaments, work gets busy or you maybe you get injured. But by constantly assessing where you are at, in tune with your coach, you can still get a decent level of orderly training completed.
Race day arrives.. your training is complete, taper done and now time to execute but we as coaches can’t run the race for you. You need to know yourself as an athlete and be prepared mentally and physically to match ability to result. Every distance race has its own tactic but essentially you need to be patient, hit your marks and push it at the end to be successful. If you have no real idea of your abilities then this will simply be impossible and failure will ensue.
Let me use some my Ironman race plan as an example. I plan to swim starting easy and then build to an 80% effort level. For my ride I will spin a high cadence early then settle into an effort averaging 75% of my FTP. Transitioning to the run, the first 6 miles I will manage my HR to remain similar to that while I was on the bike, hydrating and fueling. For miles 6 to 18 I will slowly build that HR to 155. From mile 18 to the finish I will be racing. It goes without saying that I feel I can sustain these efforts. I can feel confident during the low energy periods (that will DEFINITELY happen) all I need to do is just relax, stick to the my plan and I will come out the other side. But upon reviewing my plan how do I know what 80% effort is on the swim? HR of 155 on the run how will can I know I will be able to sustain that? 75% of FTP on the bike? These numbers were all established and engrained during training.
As an athlete you owe it to yourself to train, record and process your results so that when race day comes you don’t act like a Joe Sausagehead and ride yourself right out of the race!