As we approach fall, many triathletes have completed their “A” races for the season - or at least the first of them. Maybe you had a great day and are working to identify those minor tweaks to make your next race even better. Or maybe on race day you weren’t able to accomplish what you set out to achieve. In other words, ‘round about now you might be looking for redemption.
You might be tempted to just show up and hammer the next race, harnessing all your frustration from the day that didn’t go as planned. But unless you make some changes in your training and racing, “just hammer it” may not be an effective race strategy. Here are four ways you can improve your chance for redemption in as little as 6-8 weeks:
1. Identify Your Greatest Potential for Improvement
Specifically, I’m talking about finding the low hanging fruit of race time. Is there somewhere that you can shave off a few minutes by making a relatively minor change? If your transition times were long compared to those who finished around you, that’s a perfect place to start. Did you fade in the final miles of the bike or run? Spend a few weeks boosting your endurance. Want a slight bump in speed? Incorporate hills on the bike and run.
2. Review Your Training Habits
First, take an honest look at your training calendar and assess your training consistency. Is Training Peaks mostly green, or do you have a lot of “rainbow” weeks? If your calendar tends to be more of the latter, focus on increasing your consistency by just one or two workouts a week. It’s a manageable change but one that will yield noticeable results.
Next, look critically at how you’re executing your workouts. Are your easy days easy enough, and are your hard days hard enough, or is there little difference between the two? Set a goal of ensuring that a bystander on the pool deck or spying you along your biking and running routes could unquestionably spot the difference between hard and easy.
Lastly, examine how your weeks and days stack up: are you getting any/enough recovery? If you’re not seeing a day or two within each week with lighter intensity, and one week out of every three or four with a noticeable decrease in training volume, then the answer is no. Increased fitness cannot occur without recovery, so hit the couch. That’s an order!
3. Evaluate Your Race-Day Fueling
This piece can be particularly critical for long-course athletes. If you don’t have a rock solid, tried and true fueling plan that you can execute without thinking about it, now’s the time to create one. If you do, take a second look at it. If you often feel you’ve run out of gas by the end of the race, you may need to adjust your caloric intake. If the logistics of bringing twenty gels on your bike are bringing you down, explore liquid nutrition options. And if you don’t currently include protein (long-course only), sodium, and amino acids in your fueling, it’s time to add those in.
4. Fine Tune Your Race Plan
If your mental response to point #4 was “Race plan? What’s that?” I’ve just identified the number one change for your next race. A race plan doesn’t have to be long or complicated, but it does need to outline your intended effort levels and nutrition intake for the race.
Once you have a plan, you’ll want to confirm that your race targets are effort-based rather than pace-based and are appropriate for your fitness level and training experience. Another way of thinking about it is that your race targets should be based on what you’ve recently proven you can execute through training, and not the goal time that you’ve dreamed up but has no basis in reality.
The last piece of the puzzle, then, is to actually execute your race plan. Redemption will be found through improving the process, not by watching the clock. And an extra dose of grit couldn’t hurt. Best of luck!