Going to the line without a race strategy is a common and detrimental mistake. Don’t be an athlete who says “I’m just gonna wing it.” Instead, take the time to develop your game plan. For context, I’ll use one of my athletes who has done an excellent job developing his race strategy. Here’s how we did it and how it can help you build yours.
1. Define your objective. Is your goal to finish the race? Are you trying to win your age group? Are you trying to qualify for Worlds? This athlete’s goal is to win a sprint or Olympic distance triathlon overall. He’s close. He has the talent and work ethic to do it. But the way he executes his strategy is going to play a major role in the outcome.
2. Set a realistic goal. If you’ve been running 8:30/mile for your long runs, it wouldn’t be the best idea for you to set a goal of 6:30/mile off the bike. Know what you’re capable of and build the strategy around it. In this case, swimming is not this athlete’s best discipline. The run is. His strategy isn’t to be the first out of the water. Instead, it’s his goal to stay on the leaders’ heals and set himself up for a solid bike and run.
3. Prepare split points and fueling. You should know where you need to be at certain points on the course in order to achieve your objective. The checkpoints should adaptable throughout the race, but there should be a specific outline of time and course markers to keep the strategy in play. This athlete studies the courses and knows approximately where he should be at those points.
4. Prepare for all conditions. I’ve been at races where it was supposed to be 70* and it turned out to be 40*. Your race wardrobe should prepare you for every condition. This goes for your equipment as well. Last year we had a series of hot days that caused big swings in lake temperatures. A lot of races were not wet suit legal. Which means that you need open water practice with and without your wet suit.
5. Have a backup plan. We can all envision a perfect race, we all plan for it. But there needs to be a backup plan. This athlete has been plagued by GI issues. He has a specific mix of fuel to avoid it. What happens if he drops a bottle of fuel within the first 20 minutes of the ride? Although it’s not an ideal situation, he has practiced fueling with the products offered on course to minimize the loss.
Countless hours go into planning and training for every race. Why wouldn’t you go into the race with something just as specific? Evaluate these five elements and set yourself up for success on race day. Reach out to me or Coach Steve if you want help planning your strategy.
- Coach Amanda