Gearing up for Race Season
And just like that almost four months of the year have disappeared! Race season is fast approaching so I thought I would share some of my experiences, training, tips and tricks before the races kick off.
It’s been a long winter and for most of us we’ve been turning down the dial on the off-season and focussing on base training, making sure our endurance engines are in top nick. It’s been an incredibly boring, but extremely beneficial, journey for me since the new year – staying firmly in my zone 2 heart rate for 99% of my training. It’s frustrating and monotonous, not being able to do any speed or interval work, just lots of slow, ploddy volume. BUT, I do know how important it is and the largest gains are seen from creating a strong aerobic base. If you think about your training as a house, your slow and steady endurance work are the foundations. If those aren’t strong enough, you won’t be able to build much on top!
In the last month or so I’ve been in my build phase, introducing much more volume, a little interval work but nothing crazy. Because my main races are middle distance triathlons, I don’t need to worry too much about going super fast, I just need to make sure that I can maintain a decent pace for longer. Of course, if you were training for a sprint or Olympic distance race then now is your time to start bringing in the speed!
I mentioned in one of my previous posts that each year I put together a vision board of all the things I want to focus on and achieve. During my training, my main motivation is going through the list, visualising the finish lines, the times I want to put down and getting my head in the right place to crack on with everything ahead of me. It might just be one or two things, but it’s always good to have targets to work towards.
There is so much out there in terms of what you can do to make sure you are ready for your race. There is no single formula for this as it’s all dependant on an individual! It’s also really easy to get overwhelmed by how much information is on the table for you to sink your teeth into, so, I’m just going to list my own tips and tricks that I follow in the lead up to my races.
- BRICK TRAIN. You would be surprised at how many people turn up to their first triathlon having done no brick training. A brick session is two disciplines back-to-back, typically a run off the bike. Those first few minutes (and sometimes kilometres) can feel like absolute hell if you aren’t used to your two feet after a substantial amount of time on two wheels. You don’t need to do this after every ride but even just doing a 10-minute jog after a cycle session can do big things to how you feel after your second transition on race day.
- FUEL UP. Practice your nutrition. Again, it’s so different for everyone but in the weeks leading up to your race, start introducing the fuel you will be using on the big day. I tend to follow the Lucy Charles’ trick and break up Snickers bars on the bike. Ideally, you want to be taking something on every 20mins. You don’t want to get to a point where you feel hungry otherwise it’s too late and you’ll be on your way to ‘Bonksville’. Similarly, you don’t want to over-eat either otherwise your run might be in jeopardy…hence, practice!
My favourite fuel-ups:
- Snickers bars broken into 3-4 pieces
- Mini Soreen bars (lots of carbs!)
- Lucozade sports drink, I tend to put half in a water bottle and fill the rest with plain water as it’s too sweet for me on it’s own…
- Trek Peanut and Cocoa Bites – these are already broken up and great little sugar cubes!
- I don’t take energy gels very well but I know they work for a lot of people. I do have them on me as a back-up and ideally the High5 ones, as they are a little more liquid rather than gel.
STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS. I have many challenges and fears on race day. Even during training, I manage to get into my own head, thinking about past mishaps or worst case scenarios…For example, I don’t like the swim start. I don’t like the crowds in the water, the aggression of it all etc. So I practice. I try to do my open water swimming in busier periods and during my downtime, like when I’m stretching, I [calmly] visualise my worst experiences and think about how I could have dealt with them better, what are the potential problems and what are my options to overcome them? Making your strengths stronger only makes your weaknesses weaker, so if you even them out, you’ll have a much better balance of skills and resources to rely on during your race!
SKIP THE BEATS. Music is an athletes’ adrenaline. 99% of us train with headphones in, playlists on, anything to make the monotony of some of our sessions more tolerable. However, we don’t get that luxury on race day, and this can have quite a big effect psychologically when you’re used to having Stormzy blaring in your ears and suddenly your only form of entertainment is the [glorious] sound of your own two feet and [attractive] heavy breathing! So it’s not a bad shout to try to wean yourself off your workout tunes. I tend to do some of my runs without my headphones just to get used to the feeling of running with no music.
ENJOY IT. We train so hard, and so much and often forget that…we aren’t pro athletes! Don’t let your training schedule take the fun out your journey to race day and certainly don’t let it take the fun out of the day itself. If you’re taking on your very first race, my biggest piece of advice is to enjoy it. Mentally, if you push yourself too hard, you’ll end up having negative associations with your experience and be less inclined to do it again. You have the rest of your life to get on the podium, take the tape, qualify for age group etc. Just focus on that fact that the first time around, you’re already going to set a personal best! It’s so important to remind yourself why you got into your sport and why you love it and not let competition or pressure let you lose sight of that.
I’m not racing as much this year as I did last year, but I am currently in for the following:
- Grafman Middle Distance
- Dunwich Dynamo
- Holkham Half (middle distance relay)
- The Fix Splash 3k Swim
- Woburn Abbey Middle Distance / North Norfolk Olympic Distance
- Thinking about a couple of TT cycle races…
I’m so excited for Stolen Goat to launch their range of tri-suits, look out for them soon, the designs are awesome, just like the cycle kit!