A two hour bus trip from Hamburg airport to the GB Team hotel was the prefect time to put together my weekend’s race plan. Given I’ve recently written about race mentality, strategy and nutrition I think it’s worth showing the planning I go through in full.
It started on the bus using what would otherwise be dead time to put the plan in writing. A key objective in the last couple of days is getting tasks out the way and maximising how much I can relax tomorrow. The day before the race is the time to be as chilled and calm as possible.
Let’s get straight into the plan
The Day Before
- Get a swim and bike out of the way first thing. Focus is easy with a little bit of race pace thrown in.
- Big breakfast, but stick to typical paleo eating.
- Check bike over and last minute spin – nothing hard!
- Get through all the day’s events efficiently and get off your feet.
- Race day kit and bags all prepared and laid out for the morning
- Early light dinner again stick to what you know
- Relax and go to bed early as you can. Nothing more to do now.
Something to note is as there’s a race on the Saturday too we don’t get to rack until Sunday morning. It simplifies some of what needs doing the day before. The main objective is to ensure I’m getting everything that needs to be done out the way and can just chill out as much as possible.
This isn’t a time for real training, sight-seeing or shopping. This is a time to get off the feet, eat sensibly and mentally prepare for the coming day. Ideally by midday I’ll be done and can kick back and do what I like, but you never know. Whatever happens I’ll try to keep calm and on top of it.
I try to eat my biggest meal early in the day and gradually reduce portion size as the day goes on. It just gives everything a little more time to work through the system before the race. I’ll not be eating particularly high carbs or anything different to normal. The body’s digestive system works best with what it knows.
- Race kit on and ready to roll
- Breakfast 2.5 to 3 hours before race start (5:00am) focus on a good amount of protein/fat and a moderate amount of carbs.
- Get to transition early, rack and set-up efficiently, double check details and be done.
- Get in the portaloo queues! Don’t forget the immodium!
- Take a gel 1 hour before the swim start and a second gel 30 minutes before.
- Wetsuit on 30 minutes before race start, take time getting comfortable. Lube well!
- Simple warm-up if possible and it won’t impact starting position.
However relaxed I may feel or early I go to bed I don’t anticipate the greatest of sleeps the night before the race. This is fine. When the alarm goes I’m up and getting myself into race kit and ready to go. It’s about keeping ahead of the game again, no last minute rushing. As I’ve set everything out the day before I should literally just need to put it on and I’m done. Bags, nutrition and anything else I might need is ready to go.
Once again breakfast is about sticking to the things you know work for you. It’s not the time to experiment, at least not if the race is a priority for you. If you’re looking to test something out for your major goals well now is the time then! This time round I’ll stick to eggs, meat, cheese, processed breads and a little something sweet (honey or jam and yes I do combine with the meat!)
At transition I just want to get myself set-up and out of there. Again I want to be ahead of the game, ready to race with time to gather my thoughts and focus mentally.
- Position self forward and relatively central. Not front line, but one back.
- Go out at a solid, but maintainable pace.
- Look to settle onto some feet and hold a firm stroke throughout.
- Keep a mental focus on technique and what you’re doing – remain alert!
- Finish strongly and knowing you’ve worked the swim well.
Always a tough part to plan, especially when I’ve still not seen the lake we’re swimming in or the start area. I know I need to be bold in my positioning to give me a chance to grab faster feet and get a tow. This has worked in New Zealand and Lanzarote and whilst there might be a little more rough stuff it’s no worse than elsewhere. The key is not getting boxed in by slower swimmers there’s nothing to gain drafting off them.
I want the swim to be measured, not easy. A good draft helps deliver a faster swim without taxing me so much. If I’m not getting that draft then I need to be prepared to work a little more and be vigilant for packs. Mentally I try to keep my focus on technique, rhythm and the feel of my catch through the water. I also know that as an athlete I build into my sessions I will be going strongly in the second half of this swim.
- Wetsuit down to waist straight out of the water (remember to lube the arms up!)
- Solid pace throughout transitions, but keep calm and measured.
- Swim gear off, bike gear on. Keep momentum, but don’t rush yourself
- Grab your bike and go.
Some people are capable of flying through transitions. I’ll be honest it’s an area I struggle with to this day. As a child I was always the last kid to be changed after swimming! My main focus is always on being efficient, keeping momentum going, but not allowing myself to forget something. I’ll take being slightly slower if I don’t make mistakes!
- Expect your heart rate to be high at first, don’t worry. Go by feel.
- Moderate effort to begin, don’t push yet. Take on nutrition ASAP.
- Look to build effort over time, take hills easy at first, but build on them later. Work the climbs without going over threshold.
- Push the second lap harder, this is where you move through the field.
- Have confidence in your pacing strategy, all those who rushed ahead will come back to you.
- Keep nutrition simple and consistent, take regular swigs of gel.
- Finish with a strong last 10km to carry you into the run
Adrenaline will set me off with a high heart rate, but I’ve come to expect it. Rather than taking deliberate action to lower it I’ll focus on perceived effort and allow HR to gradually lower. As mentioned the other day I’ll start eating early, it’ll have been 90 minutes and 4km of swimming since I last fed. Fuelling begins early and is little and often keeping on top of this is key to maintaining performance.
During the first lap I’ll expect plenty of athletes to pass me with lots of pushing up hills and harder efforts. I’ll not be surprised just trust in experience and the plan. Come the second lap those hills will bite and they’ll come back to me. As the field fatigues and slows I’ll be getting stronger and pushing on. As always the aim is to be working my hardest by the end of the bike.
I’ve yet to experience the course though have seen the jagged profiles and GPS data. I’m not letting it worry me. Bail out gears are present if required and I know I can handle tough days. I’m not usually a fan of courses that constantly change pace and effort, but have to admit they’ve worked for me before. My endurance and strength helps me in the later stages when it gets tougher.
- Shoes off on the bike into transition.
- Solid pace throughout, but no rushing.
- Socks and shoes on (calf compression too if allowed)
- Get up and get moving!
Nothing special here, the rules from transition 1 still apply. I need to check the ITU rulings on compression calf guards to see whether they’re allowed. If they are I’ll hopefully be able to wear them under the wetsuit and not need to worry otherwise they go on as early as I can. I may even opt to wear them for the bike they can take the edge off rougher roads. This being Germany that shouldn’t be a big concern.
- Hold back to start you’ll be faster than you think anyway!
- Watch pace on your watch, monitor and adjust
- Keep on top of nutrition, gels every 20 minutes of so.
- Look to push pace from 15km mark.
- When it gets tough, recall your training, you know how hard you can go.
- Last 5km dig deep, build to the finish.
I’m always like a rocket out of transition! I might think otherwise, but with my legs warmed-up they go off faster than planned. I’ve just gone with it in the last few races and at least mentally suffered trying to maintain pace later. The plan here is to watch pacing closely and stick to a slightly reserved effort for the first 3 – 5km before settling in to my race pace.
Once out there again I’m looking to keep on top of nutrition and balance that off against intensity. It’s going to be a case of racing a fine line as I particularly want a good run. That means pushing things and testing my limits. You’ll notice I plan to try and push the pace from 15km out, so half the overall run!
It’ll be hard, but it’s what I need at this point of my season. I hope to come away with a solid result and some confidence heading towards Kona. If not that then I want to discover my weak points and areas to focus on in the final couple of months before Hawaii.
That’s the plan!