Recently I raced the St George 70.3 and it was terrific to get back to a real, live event after eighteen months. I have been at this a really long time and I feel like while I still have not had a perfect race, this one as close to perfectly executed as I have ever had. I shared some insights on my day with all of my athletes because these are things that they either have heard me say or will hear me say repeatedly as they close in on their own events and so I want to illustrate why these things are so important with my personal real life example.

First and foremost, consistency in training. I went in to this event supremely confident in my fitness. I have been very diligent about hitting all of my workouts and am very consistent in making sure that the QUALITY of my workouts is always VERY high. One of the ways that I do this is by riding on the trainer a LOT. For me with a very time crunched schedule, the trainer lets me compress bike workouts in to a shorter time period without having to deal with stop signs, traffic lights or sketchy drivers. I am a big believer in the power of trainer workouts and while I definitely think road time is invaluable for bike handling and getting comfortable with riding in the wind etc, if you do half or more of your workouts on the trainer you can do pretty amazing things. Everyone has their own limitations of training related to their own life responsibilities but if you can make training consistency a big part of your training in general it will really pay off.

Second, don’t waste a second of your invaluable time or energy sweating over things that are simply out of your control. One of my favorite pastimes has become following race specific Facebook groups in the weeks before an event and watching people melt down over pretty much anything and everything that they have zero ability to control. Will the swim be canceled? Will it be hot? Will it be windy? Will so and so be there? Will they let me do X in transition? Why don’t they have Y at the aid stations? and on and on it goes. You manage yourself and your ability to adapt to situations that arise on race day. Those who stress over all of these other things get themselves in a hole before they even show up. Here’s an inside secret: ALL of those things that people freak out over are exactly the same for everybody else on race day. So spending any time worrying about how it is going to impact you specifically is a particularly bizarre way of viewing the world. When I go to a race, I am completely neutral to all of those things that I cannot control and instead focus exclusively on the things that I can. For example-if the swim is canceled how will I adapt my race plan to make the most of my day? If it is hot how will I ensure that I race to my maximum ability? etc.. You do you and let everyone else expend all of the mental energy on silliness and you will feel infinitely better about things.

Third, dial in your nutrition in training so that it isn’t a mystery on race day. Training your nutrition is just as important as everything else you train. Practice with different kinds of nutrition so that you know exactly what works and then you won’t be surprised on race day.

Fourth, plan your race and race your plan. I knew going in to this race exactly what I was going to do for every segment of this race. As a result I was supremely confident and at ease right up until the moment I stepped in to the water. The proof is in my results:

  • Swim: The plan was to ease in to the swim given the cold water. Find a comfortable pace and focus on technique the entire time. When fatigue sets in, double down on technique focus and think cadence. On race morning I did exactly this, I eased in to the swim, focused on technique and moved through the first 900m quickly. I exited the water about a minute slower than I had hoped but faster than I had feared.
  • Bike: My goal was to keep my NP at 80%. This is a really hilly course so while I usually want my VI to be <1.03 I knew that wasn’t likely today. I would accept < 1.10. I made sure to not go over my FTP on any of the steep pitches and pushed hard on the descents. In the end my NP was 81% and VI 1.07 a perfect example of racing the plan and I firmly believe this set me up for the run execution that came next. 
    • For the less initiated, VI or variability index is NP/avg power and is an indication of how much surging is done on hills. Ideally you do not surge anywhere and your NP=avg so VI =1 but this is really hard on a course with any variable terrain. For non-hilly courses, VI < 1.05 is very good. For hilly courses, < 1.1 Surging saps your legs and leaves you fatigued for the run.
  • Run: I knew this run course was super hard and not ideal for me but I had broken it up in to sections in my mind and ran it exactly per my plan. First three miles entirely by RPE. At the top of the climb at the beginning of mile 4, lock in HIM race pace. Fly down hills and then at mile 9, get up the hill on the way back as best possible before crushing the three miles downhill to the finish. I had hoped to get under 1:45 for this course and in the end was just over 1:40 so mission accomplished.

What to take away from all of this?

  1. Success on race day is less about the performance on the day of the event and much more about the quality of prep and planning leading in to it. 
  2. Nutrition can be hard to master but training your nutrition will prepare you to manage it well on race day
  3. Segmenting courses, especially challenging ones, makes them much more manageable both mentally and physically
  4. Prepare mentally for eventualities that you can control (flat tires, dropping a water bottle, how you will handle different weather possibilities etc) and BLOCK OUT EVERYTHING ELSE. Because the rest is just noise.