Triathletes on the podium after and Ironman race
September 30, 2022

Will Murray


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During the week or two before your big race, you may be tempted to do some things to enhance your race performance. You have extra time on your hands due to reduced training time during your taper period, and you may be pacing to and fro like a caged tiger. You may be thinking about some of the workouts that you missed during your training period, and a little nagging voice wonders if maybe you could make up those workouts now, close to race day. Our physiology and neurology give clues about things you can do in the week or two before your race. You can relax your body. Your training plan provided the stimulus for your body to get faster and fitter, and that design also specifies your exact taper to let all that work absorb, resulting in increased fitness. More work now will not add anything but may interfere with the designed recovery, actually impeding your fitness gains. Some extra running sprints or bike intervals cannot make you faster now. But relaxing and recovering will help you accumulate the gains from all your training. Stay off your feet as much as possible. Go through registration and the expo efficiently and get out of there. Put your feet up whenever you can. You can get plenty of sleep. Sleep is among the most powerful forms of relaxation. Get to bed early in the nights before the race, especially the two nights before the night before the race. Sometimes it is challenging to get a good night’s sleep the night before the race, understandably, so the two nights before that one is key. You can relax your mind. Early in the week, take care of all your chores. Assemble your race gear and pack early. Give your bike a look over check the nuts and bolts, see that your tires are not worn and are free of cuts and sidewall blemishes, clean the drivetrain, and check the brake pads. If you take care of the details early, should any last-minute issues arise you will have plenty of time and attention to accommodate them as calmly and serenely. You can go over your race plan. Study the race map and profile. Walk through the flow of transitions. Imagine in your mind’s eye how the race will go by making imaginary movies of your well-executed race. Run this imaginary movie just before dropping off to sleep in the evenings before your race so that your brain already knows what do to when race day comes. For specific instructions see this article on USAT’s website

You can trust your training. All the work you put in will be there for you. Thinking about the workouts you missed doesn’t help instill confidence but remembering all the work that you did complete will bolster your resolve and let you race with resolve. In the days before the race with a little surplus time on your hands, you could easily get yourself into some trouble—sneaking in an extra strength workout, going for an “easy” ride with your pals, trying to make up for past missing workouts. But really, any extra-credit workouts during taper are just tearing you down and messing with your recovery. Instead, replace the temptation to do extra training with those things that will really help you. Then you can race unfettered and serene and free.

Mental Skills Performance Coach Will Murray often hears triathletes saying that the sport is at least 50% mental and 50% physical, but he has come to notice that athletes spend very little (if any) time doing mental training. Fortunately, it’s easy and fast to train-up your mind to help you achieve your triathlon goals. He’s been lucky enough to bring mental conditioning techniques to first-time athletes and Olympians, kids and seniors, triathletes who want to finish the race, and those who are gunning to win.

Will is a USAT Certified Coach, holds a practitioner’s certificate and more than 100 hours of advanced training in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a certified administrator of the Reconsolidation of Traumatic Memories Protocol. Will is co-author, with Craig Howie, of The Four Pillars of Triathlon:  Vital Mental Skills for Endurance Athletes and Uncle: The Definitive Guide for Becoming the World’s Best Aunt or Uncle.

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