Early on in your training preparation you can be pretty laissez-faire and non-specific in what you do training-wise.Your swims can have a good component of body surfing in and out of the surf rather than lap after lap in a pool. There’s no reason you can’t get out on the mountain bike and go off road when cycling and there’s nothing wrong with hiking, cross country skiing, etc., thrown into the mix to supplement your run training.
However, at a certain point, the notion of ‘specificity’ (being
highly specific in what you do) becomes more and more important. This
was really hammered home to me 20 odd years ago in Hawaii. I remember
being out on the bike course, about 35 miles out of town and catching
initial race leader, Kiwi Rick Wells, on the bike.
Wells was a freak of a swimmer, a machine on the bike and a
serviceable runner. He actually won the then Olympic Distance World
Championships staged in Perth and prior to coming to Kona he’d just won
the famous Nice Triathlon on the Cote d’Azur in France over
4km/120km/30km – so he had the miles in his legs and knew how to put it
together over longer distances on race day.
Problem was he’d just had a full summer training and racing in France
and while he was race-hardened and fit, the vast majority of the riding
he’d done in training and racing had been completed on a standard road
bike with a set of clip-on aero bars to accommodate some of the brutally
hilly mountainous courses served up in France. Kona, on the other hand,
which has a bit of up and down, is, in comparison, a relatively flat
course where you sit for hours on end in a TT position and thump a big
Wells simply wasn’t used to doing this. He’d tweaked his bike
position just before arriving in Hawaii and wasn’t prepared for the
rigours of sitting and grinding. After leading out of the water and
setting off on the bike at breakneck speed, 30 miles into the race his
back tightened and by the time I caught him he was going backwards at a
rate of knots, and in a world of pain. He was finally forced to withdraw
from the event.
A really worthy contender, in peak condition, at the top of his game,
pretty much unbeatable anywhere else in the world, reduced to a
blithering mess by a basic preparatory, rookie mistake.
So here’s my guide on taking some of the guesswork out of your final
preparation – putting the icing on the cake if you like, which I hope
helps those of you heading to an event in the next couple of months.
what you intend to do during the race at race pace. Complete a
full-blown race simulation five-to-seven weeks out from the competition.
If you can, train over the course or at least find somewhere similar.
If we use the Ironman as an example, select a distance of about
two-thirds of that of the Ironman: swim 2.5 kilometres, bike 120
kilometres and run 28 kilometres. Go through about a half to two-thirds
of a taper sequence, do a full carbo-load procedure, do the training
session at your proposed Ironman race pace and feed yourself in the
manner you intend to do on race day using the same foods/drinks.
Weigh yourself pre-session, record your nutritional intake
throughout the session and weigh yourself again post-session. From this
you can work out your sweat rate and do your best to match it on race
day. If at the same level of effort you find your pace dropping off
dramatically in the later stages of the session you know you need to up
the CHO intake.
If once you’ve completed the session and you find you’ve lost a
significant amount of weight from your ‘normal’ body weight (not your
pre-session commencement weight as you’ll ideally be a few kilos over
your normal weight), then you know you’re going to have to be even more
aggressive with your fluid intake. By a significant amount, I mean
one-to-two per cent lower than your normal body weight. Doing the above
will give you some degree of certainty (or not) that you’re on the right
path come race day.
Aside from using all of the equipment you intend to use on race day while doing the suggested simulation, start using your intended equipment in training.
Do they fog, do they
leak? Do they give you a headache after being worn for extended periods
of time? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, get it sorted
weeks out from competition. Don’t turn up to the expo the day before and
see the latest pair of swish goggles Pete Jacobs is wearing and buy
them there and then to be worn the next day.
Is it the right size?
Does it chafe? Is it easy to get on and off? Is it a long-sleeve suit
that fatigues your arms after a long swim?
Start doing some of your training in your wetsuit so that you can get
used to the change in body position and turning over the rubber in the
arms. Identify the chafing spots and apply a lubricant, and also
practise getting the suit off – quickly.
Position is obvious, as
mentioned in my ramblings about Rick Wells. Train with the course in
mind. For example, as I write this article, I am in my preparation for
Ironman Melbourne. The bike course is very flat and fast. Orbea were
kind enough to provide me with an Ordu TT bike to use for the race. Up
‘til now I’ve been training on a road bike, but I’ve changed across
exclusively to the TT bike and had the position set by former AIS
cycling/triathlon biomechanist Brian McLean (PhD). Brian was a bit
aggressive with his positioning (too low in the front) for my level of
flexibility. I’ve backed this position off a tad, but over the coming
couple of weeks I’ll slowly try to lower my handlebars to achieve a more
aero-position, as initially set by Brian. As the course is largely
non-technical, the vast amount of my training will be confined to the
indoor trainers. Here we can download the course profile and ‘ride the
course’ in indoor safety 1600 kilometres away from the actual location
and still get some highly specific training from a position and gearing
perspective done. In contrast, later in the year when I take a group
across to Italy to race in Ironman Italy 70.3,
the bike course is far more technical and bike handling skills will
become more crucial so (a) the bike being used will change, and (b) a
lot more time will be spent practising descents, cornering and the like.
What are you going to
wear? While for some this might be a fashion statement, for those
serious about racing it is functionally very important. For an
Ironman-distance event comfort is a consideration, so you want something
you’re going to be comfortable in for eight-to-17 hours. The only way
to ascertain this is to do some longer sessions in your chosen apparel.
If you’re not comfortable after a three hour ride and 1.5 hour run,
chances are you’ll be less comfortable after a six-hour ride and a
four-hour run and you don’t want to be experiencing that for the first
time on race day. Your body is an amazing system; back in the day I can
remember a large portion of the men’s field (myself included) racing
Ironman-distance events in little more than a pair of budgie smugglers
(no padding) and a singlet – your butt does adapt to it over time but
you’ve got to get used to it in training. Modern tri-suits
often have provision for you to carry gels and the like just in case
you miss a feed, but they have the downside of covering a lot of skin,
making your sweating mechanism less effective which, in a really hot
environment, could be a deal breaker if you’re not prepared for it.
5. Footwear Bike and Run
the course of a long ride some athletes develop hot or numb feet and/or
sore knees. There could be a number of reasons for this, but the most
common are (i) velcro straps being fastened too tightly, which, when
combined with swelling feet, creates havoc, and (ii) incorrect cleat
positioning. The best way to ascertain this – you guessed it – is long
rides at race pace beforehand. If it doesn’t feel right in training you
can rest assured it is going to feel worse on race day. With running shoes,
if you intend to race in racing flats be sure to do some of your
faster, quality training sessions in this type of shoe. Racing flats are
lighter, less stable and have less cushioning, opening the wearer up to
a number of potential acute injuries on race day if the body isn’t
accustomed to wearing such shoes. Also, remember you’re going to be
coming off a 180-kilometre bike ride, blood is going to have been sent
in bucket loads for five plus hours to your legs and feet. It ‘pools’
there, your feet will have swollen, so your racing flats should probably
be half a size bigger than what you’d normally choose for a straight
running race. Otherwise you run the increased risk of losing toenails,
6. Odds and sods
Helmets, heart rate
monitors/GPS systems, sunglasses – well, you get the idea. You don’t
want to be fumbling around with them for the first time on race day, so
be sure to have trained extensively with this equipment before toeing
the starting line.
Remember to live, work, train and race by what famed Surf Iron Man
Guy Leech calls his ‘Five Ps’: Prior Preparation Prevents Poor
Performance. A mantra we can apply to various facets of our lives.
article courtesy of R.Cedaro