As I am about a week out from my A race for the year, I was thinking about my race as I was riding my bike yesterday for the first of three workouts for the day. I came up with four things that are necessary for a good race on race day. Some of them are totally in my control, and some are not.
#1 (and by far the most important) A good training plan, and executing the plan
This is a minimum of 12 weeks (if you are already at the point of having good fitness). For me this has meant at my peak training, per week:
3+ hours in the pool or open water swimming
100+ miles on the bike, including a long ride of 50+ miles and a speed work/interval day
20+ miles running, again which includes a long run of 9-13 miles and a speed work day. For me speed work is either on the track usually doing 800m repeats with 400m recovery (6-10 of these) or a tempo run with 1 mile warmup, 3-5 miles at tempo pace and then 1 mile cool down.
I also do strength training 2-3 times per week and abs/core workout three times per week.
My time given to training is somewhere around 12 hours per week. Some weeks a little higher and some weeks a little lower.
#2 GOOD Race Day Attitude
Now that the training is done. Race day it is so important to be smart, get your race face on, and put yourself out there on the line. In triathlon, this takes some experience. You need to be able to really push on the bike and yet have some left for the run. You need to be able to trust in your training and go for it, but not push yourself past that fine line that will leave you walking the last 4 miles.
I feel like I have to keep telling myself as I prepare to race, "YOU ARE AN ATHLETE!" You need some attitude on race day. You gotta believe!!
You also need to be able to dig deep during the second half of the run and beat back the demons that keep telling you to slow down.
#3 RACE DAY NUTRITION PLAN
I don't know if everyone realizes how important it is on race day to have a nutrition plan, AND TO STICK TO IT as much as you can.
I would like to stress, once you get behind on your nutrition YOU CANNOT GET CAUGHT BACK UP. And it all goes downhill from there. Your training and race day attitude cannot fix a race where you do not have any energy left in the tank.
My plan (which is still in the making for Steelhead)
Wake up and have bagel with peanut butter and banana.
15 minutes before my swim wave, I have a GU.
Out of the water in T1, I have another GU.
On the bike, I have a "disposable" bottle in my first water cage filled with 2 scoops of Accelerade. Finish it before half way, ditch it at an aid station, drink my second prepared bottle of Accelerade by mile 45 or so, take a bottle of gatorade from an aid station to put in my now empty cage and drink it before the end of the bike leg. I also have sport jelly beans in a baggie in the bento box on my bike and eat 2-3 of these every so often.
In T2, I pee as I change my shoes. (If you don't do triathlons you may think that is gross, sorry) and I have a disposable bottle of Accelerade that I grab as I run out. I put ice in it, so that hopefully it is still cold.
On the run, I ditch the bottle as soon as I can get done drinking it. And I take water and gatorade from the aid stations. I usually will also eat the oranges they are usually handing out. And if it is hot, I am doing everything I can to keep cool. Pouring water of my head, sticking ice in my top, etc....
I am no expert at this, but I can say that when you are out on the bike you can get caught up in riding, and not 'feel like' drinking. BAD MISTAKE! You need to force yourself to take in nutrition on the bike even though you may feel like it is slowing you down or you don't feel hungry or thirsty.
#4 Outside conditions being in your favor
This is the one you have little control over and yet they can totally affect your race. These are the variables that most scare me because, as anyone who knows me knows, I like to have total control over things :)
(my biggest fear) bike malfunction-such as flat tire or other miscellaneous problem
choppy water - Steelhead swim is in Lake Michigan and could be very choppy. I feel like I am a strong swimmer but this could take a lot out of me
head wind - Yikes!! I hate it. I tend to think of the wind as a person when I ride and get very annoyed that the wind is slowing me down. I know that is totally irrational, but wind just plain sucks for me.
sucky roads - almost as bad or sometimes even worse than a head wind are roads that are bumpy or just rough. It is not comfortable for the seat, but it just sucks the speed right out of your wheels.
A section of road near my house was just paved this Summer. I am in HEAVEN when riding on this 'smooth as a baby's bottom' road!
body malfunction - I know this is a function of good training, and so therefore I have some control over it, BUT...I also fear being sick that day, a calf cramp, twisting my ankle, or any other way my body can play traitor to me.