Over the last few years, I have been fortunate enough to travel to a bunch of races within the US and internationally. Im a lucky and grateful guy. While this is fun, it can be a bit crazy and stressful at times but I have found comfort in following what has become my routine for planning and executing race prep in the days before the show. Hopefully this will be useful for a checklist or some ideas on what to do (or not do) when traveling to your next starting line.
Although I follow a similar protocol for Adventure Racing, a Mountain Bike race, etc, I am going to stick to triathlon for example. I really just change up the gear (absurd for adventure racing!) and some timing depending on the length of travel and length of the race. The main thing is that I have a protocol I can trust, execute and refine.
Race week for training often looks something like the outline below. The big key is that anything I feel like skipping I skip without question. “Tapering is the process of keeping fitness and not adding any” ~Chuckie V. The additional free time from not training is spent diving my mind into work, focusing on active recovery (blood flow, foam rolling, getting some PT, ART, Rolfing done or a massage). It is as important for the mind as it is for the body…but that is another post.
A typical race week for a 70.3 would look something like this
-Monday – Swim Masters but get out early, Medium ride with short amount of work
-Tuesday – Ez strength (core not heavy stuff) and short run
-Wednesday – Swim (Masters–get out early), Bike (<2hrs w/ work), short t-run –
going through the flow and programing the mind
-Thursday – active recovery ride or swim (rest if racing Sat or travel)
-Friday – Rest if racing Sunday or ez swim/ride if traveling – bike setup see below
Saturday – Short swim, bike, run (will move up to Friday if racing Sat). This is at the race venue and just going through the motions and getting the body moving. I usually feel flat after a rest day so this is just getting movement in. I like to ride the run course (see below) and collecting memories from a session with friends before the big party.
Sunday – SEND IT SUNDAY! Party Time. Enjoy the success of making it to the starting line and execute the plan.
if there is one part of the course I want to see it is the final miles of the run. This is where I want the most clarity and things tend to get fuzzy
I may change this up a lot depending on the training going into a race (how steep the taper is or if there is one at all). Race week, I can turn off my brain and turn on the confidence to just follow the script. If I am tired, I drop a session, if I want a better feel in the water I will swim everyday and just keep it short but I can trust the road into race day because I have been down it before.
One area I am finding increasing return from is SLEEP. There is no substitute for it as most people would agree but it becomes even more of a priority (and time should allow for it) as race week approaches. You already know that your body is getting stronger as you sleep but in this case more is more. If your looking for a few extra %%% in your pop, my bet is additional sleep will get you there with the least amount of energy. Along these lines, another change that works for me is cutting back on coffee/caffeine. The longer the race the more I (try) to taper or even cut out my caffeine intake. My three main reasons are:
1- I am cutting back my training so less caffeine means no extra pop in taper sessions and increased ability to save my racing for the race. As the fatigue fades and fitness sharpens it is easy (and fun!) to let it rip a bit during race week but dragging into race week workouts with no caffeine helps me keep focused on rest.
2- I am focusing on more sleep so less or no caffeine puts me into near coma status – early to bed and even a nap or two that would not happen otherwise.
3- I am restricting my caffeine (that I really, really like) so that when I do have it again it will be a physical and mental reward when I need the pop from it most. In a long race, I look forward to a mental treat after hours of giving it all I got. When I finally got caffeine into my bloodstream at mile 80 of Zion 100 after almost two weeks of no caffeine it hit me like a freight train…! yeeeeee!!!
The only thing more important than sleep, race week gear prep and training is nailing nutrition. My nutrition stays the same all week until Friday. Hopefully that means I am doing it right before then but if not I make no changes (drastic changes in diet are typically destructive anyways). On Friday, I keep the contents the same but increase the quantity. I really start feeding my face and I have never worried about gaining weight on race week (or at all in the last 5 years actually). As my old coach and friend Gordo once told me heading into my first ironman “by the time you get out of T2 you will be down to race weight”. I continue to eat a lot until the day before the race and then try to get an early meal that night. That is usually my last solid food and then I switch to Vitargo for an evening loading and again right before I go to bed. I usually mix up about 700-800 calories and just sip it away. For an Ironman or race longer than 6 hours, I will have a solid breakfast. Usually oatmeal mixed in with some fruit and superfoods (blueberries, goji berries, cacao nibs, macca, dates, chia seeds) and a coffee…or three. Then I have another bottle of Vitargo mixed up and a bottle of just water I take with me to sip on until I get in the water. For the 70.3’s I have raced in the last couple weeks, I just have a coffee and sip on the bottle of V Juice race morning. I have just started that with the last two races but I like it!
Simplicity for the stomach about to undergo stress. CHO + H2O
That is my standard lead in and I wrap that around the gear prep and course recon outlined in the travel tips. The hard work and most of the hard part is already in the bag. Race day is a celebration and victory over getting to the starting line healthy and happy. The race plan now takes center stage and hopefully I have accounted for everything so I can just show up and press play but either way the race itself is a protocol I can trust, execute and refine.
Hope it helps and hope to see you out there!