Monday, July 8, 2013

Five Mistakes Age-Groupers Make On Race Day

Learning from race-day blunders is key to removing the chance of repetition. Sam Hume is one of Australia's best age-group triathletes and he's highlighted the five commonest mistakes he sees and how to avoid them.
1. Incorrect pacing
Getting one’s pacing right on race day is probably the most important issue for the age-group athlete that will make or break their day. Far too many age-groupers, and for that matter many professional athletes, push too hard in the swim and bike and end up running well below their potential simply because they run out of gas. While pre-race and race-day nutrition will allow you to maximise the amount of energy available, in reality, spreading your effort (and hence energy expenditure) evenly across the three disciplines is the surest way to get across the line in the quickest possible time.
Why then do many athletes tear off the start line or out of T1 like a bull at a gate? A rush of adrenaline, a perceived need to maximise the gains in one’s strongest leg or minimise the losses in one’s weakest leg, or an over-estimation of one’s ability are all possible explanations. See the box for some logical pacing concepts to ensure the correct mindset for race day.

2. Carrying too much gear on the bike
Don’t buy a super-light bike and then load it up with multiple water bottles, fancy tyre inflation devices or other nice, but not essential gear. If Macca strips the handlebar tape off his IM bike, why do age-groupers think it is all right to carry 1.2-to-1.8kg of fluid at the start of the bike? In most longer distance events, the aid stations come up more frequently than you could drink 600-millitres. Why carry more than one bottle? I know occasionally bottles are dropped or athletes want special mixtures not available at aid stations, and therefore want extra capacity, but you need to consider the relative costs and benefits. Look up the details of your upcoming race and find out what is served and when well ahead of time.
3. Using unfamiliar equipment
We all do it and we know we shouldn’t. Wetsuits, goggles, bikes, wheels, race  nutritional, shoes and Triathlon suits used on race day without being adequately tried first. The consequences? Necks, armpits, groins and feet rubbed red raw. Coming off your bike out of T1 or a sharp corner. Gastric distress or a massive bonk. Try it before you race with it. Enough said!
4. Overdoing the nutrition
Think of your gut as a filter that absorbs less the faster you go. For example, say you drink a standard sports drink while running. You cannot move much of the carbohydrate out of your upper gastrointestinal tract (e.g. gut) and into your blood stream if you are running flat out because your body preferentially diverts blood flow away from your gut to your working muscles. So you derive little benefit from the ingested carbohydrate until you slow down enough that your body sends some blood back to your gut.
Also, the more carbohydrate you put in your gut (think both volume and concentration) the more blood flow to the gut you need to absorb it. So if you run at a moderately hard pace, you may be able to absorb a sports drink (with its moderate amount of carbohydrate) but not a soft drink (with a high amount). Of course you could dilute the soft drink by also drinking some water, which is why we drink water after taking a gel.
Use this filter concept to work out what you should do on race day. Too many age group athletes take a ‘more is better’ approach, however, more calories ingested does not equal more energy entering the bloodstream if you cannot absorb it. Ingest less when you are temporarily working hard (hills, out of transition, headwinds) moderate carbohydrates when you are working steadily (flats) and more concentrated carbohydrates when working less hard (long descent, tailwinds, walking).
5. Warm-up
A few arm swings and a short swim is not enough of a warm up for anything less than an Ironman. Age-groupers should understand what is an appropriate warm-up for the distance they are racing. I wrote about this topic two issues ago and think it is poorly done by many age-groupers. A short run, arm swings and gentle stretching, a swim with some efforts and a good look at the start line, first buoy and swim finish are all critical. Some effort but potentially a big payoff and therefore well worth it.

article courtesy of triathlonmag.com.au