With the early race season getting underway, what are your priorities for some of these races? Its been a while since you’ve worn your race kit, and used your race gear, so you may be a bit rusty going in to your first few races. Its a great idea to do a few low key events to get yourself back in to the practicalities of racing.
This will be a reminder of how it feels to get up early, and make sure you are adequately fuelled for the days event. Most early season events are on the shorter side, so its a gentle introduction, and there shouldn’t be dire consequences if you don’t get this right. However it is an opportunity to start practising your race morning routine. If there’s anything that didn’t go so well in the past, then now is a good time to change what you do. If you always leave certain jobs until the last minute, resolve to make time to get organised sooner. Remember what goes well and what doesn’t go so well so that you can learn and adapt next time.
It will probably have been a while since you have competed and felt those race morning nerves. Even if the race is not a priority for you, you will still produce adrenaline, and be in competition mode. You may think about your race tactics, and put these into practice. In my first race last year I realised that I backed off when it mattered, I took that in to my next race, and made sure that I pushed when I needed to.
Here is your opportunity to learn from the race. I ask my athletes to think about 3 things that went well, and 3 that they can improve on. Be thorough in your analysis, but don’t punish yourself, its your first race after all. Questions that I may ask are; did you feel fatigued going in to the race? How did you feel after? Did you push hard enough? Did you fuel properly? What were transitions like? How were your equipment choices? These are things that can be taken forward to the next event, and worked on in training. They all add up to better performance.
If you want to read what other coaches say there is a link to another article here
It’s a busy and sometimes stressful time of year. Everyone wants something done before Christmas, you may have more family/social commitments, and it can be tricky to balance everything. Keeping consistent in your training can be hard work, but if you know how to scale a workout down, then things can become more manageable.
First you need to know if your workout is a key session or not. If you are only doing 2 sessions in each triathlon discipline, then its safe to say that both sessions are key sessions. If you have more sessions then it may be worth checking which ones are key.
If you can only fit in key sessions then you may need to scale them down. This is how I would recommend doing it.
Scaling workouts to fit in with busy lives
Hopefully, you can keep the whole warm up in. It’s an important part of your session, which prepares your body and mind for training. If you are going to be working at threshold, then add some work building up to the level you will be working at. Don’t expect your body to just kick in to threshold work, you need to prepare a bit. If you need to do any activation work, to get your body used to the movement patterns, then now is the time. If you do have to shorten your warm up, then make sure it is still at least 10 minutes long, and if you skip the build work, then expect your first few intervals to be a bit off.
Lets say the main part of your session is intervals and you didn’t build to the interval intensity in the warm up then use the first few intervals to build up to that level. If you did warm up thoroughly, then complete as much of the main session as you can. This is the key bit of your workout. When your session is an endurance session e.g. all at one pace, then you may just need to cut the session short.
If you have time for a short 5 minute cool down, then great. If you don’t, then don’t worry about it, but avoid spending the rest of the day in one position. For example, seated at a desk. However if you do find yourself in this position then try to get up and move around every 20 minutes or so, and try to find time to stretch at some point in the day.
Below I have an example of how you could scale down the swim session shown, in order of priority.
Remove cool down
Shorten or remove build set
Shorten warm up
Shorten main set
This advice will help you to gain the most from your training sessions at this busy time. Enjoy the holiday season, and stay healthy!
FTP testing, how do you feel about it? Do you dread it? Or is it an opportunity for you to show how you have progressed? However you feel about it you may find that you are asked to do some types of tests, or time trials during the season.
There are a range of tests that I might ask athletes to do, and they each have their own value. As a triathlete I may ask you to do a cycling FTP (functional threshold power) test, or a swimming CSS test, or a running threshold test. Over the course of the season we can perform these tests at fairly regular intervals, and it can provide motivation, or affirmation that training is on target.
However it doesn’t always work this way, as we are humans, with lives outside of triathlon. There are so many variables, that need to be controlled, if you were to have a completely accurate result. So they are used as a guideline. Your threshold can change from day to day depending on, what happened at work, what you ate for dinner, how much sleep you had, how much training you did the day before, the list goes on.
Testing will also come in the form of racing, or time trials as it is easy to see progress, or any areas that need work on. It also provides race simulation which helps athletes to get used to the mental ability to compete, it’s no use being able to do a great CSS test, but then unable to transform that into swimming in a group of triathletes in an open water swim start!
These progress markers provide me, as a coach, something to work with, so that you have specific goals to aim for in training sessions. You may not hit those goals all of the time, and if you were, I would be wondering if your test results were up to date. Bear in mind that these goals are a moving target, and what you may have been able to to one day, may feel impossible or easy the next.
When you have done any testing, it is essential to give feedback, especially when athletes are being coached from a distance. If I don’t see you performing the test then it is vital for me to know how you feel it went. Many people get demoralised or upset if they do not see improved test results, (I’ve been there myself) But remember that the best test, is achieving your goal on race day, and that is the ultimate aim.
How do you come to terms with a race that didn’t go as planned? Usually it’s fairly easy to put the race in the past, as you know there will be other races and opportunities to shine, but when the race is Kona it is a bit different, as I know I won’t be going back there any time soon. One way of dealing with a disappointing race is to go and do it again, and a lot of people will be doing just that, by getting fired up to race in Kona again, taking the lessons they have learned with them. As that is not an option for me, I have had to find a different approach.
So if you had a disappointing year this is what I recommend you do,
Now that I’ve unpacked my bike and seen some of the damage done to it, I am feeling grateful that I finished the race. That was the main goal, and I am lucky that I didn’t have a worse injury. After reading other peoples stories who DNF’d or had bad crashes. I feel that, although I was disappointed, I did the best I could on the day, mentally it was the toughest thing I have ever done.
Even if you DNF’d there is always something to take away, and being thankful for what you have achieved, or gained is a positive way of moving forward.
Spend time doing other things
If there are things that you have been putting off doing, then do them. I have spent a bit of time working on my website, and I need to make decisions about our barn conversion which I can now think more about.
Just need to hide the neighbours falling down shed!
Think about what you love doing. What has made you happy? What is it that you love about triathlon?
Thinking about what I love, I have realised that I love being outdoors, and being in new places. I enjoy different terrain which makes me feel close to nature.
Once you have spent a bit of time doing these things then you may have more of an idea about what it is that you want to focus on. Go into the season doing what you love, and you will be successful!
I wrote a post about tapering a few months ago, which addresses some of the things that may come up in the weeks leading up an event. If you want to take a look then it is here.
Its nearly Ironman Wales race day, and I know how a lot of you will be feeling… nervous, excited, and scared, to name a few emotions, and on top of that you need rest before the big day. The main thing you need to do is let go of these negative emotions. By this I mean acknowledge that you feel a certain way, try to work out why, and then let go.
Have a plan
I encourage my athletes to make a race plan, so that if any worry crops up before race day they know that they have planned for it and are prepared. A plan needs to be adaptable, as unexpected things happen. You can plan for these events to a certain extent but bear in mind that on race day something may happen that you haven’t planned for. Dealing with these events is what racing is all about as you learn about yourself and can develop as a person. So even if it goes wrong you will learn something!
If its a fear about the weather, or conditions then there is nothing you can do about it. Everyone is facing the same thing, you will get through whatever the race throws at you, if you have prepared properly. There is little point in worrying about things that are beyond your control just let go and accept.
Never mind about the weather!
Use the force!
If you are excited, then channel that energy into positive thoughts about the race. Any time you feel a surge of adrenaline then think of a key phrase or song that motivates you. One of my favourites is “I am the best that I can be”, as it doesn’t rely on a result or time to be achieved. You will be the best that you can be on race day whatever happens.
Before the race you may be very nervous and stressed, you may find a relaxation CD, or some relaxing stretching could help you in the days before, if you can’t sleep . On the day I found deep breathing was useful. Last year as I was standing in a group of nervous athletes I told a couple of my friends to try to breathe in slowly then breathe out longer that the breath in (similar to birthing and yoga breathing) A few people turned around when we did it together, but I found it really helped to calm my nerves before I got in the water.
Enjoy the race. Remember how lucky you are to be able to race today, smiling relaxes your body and makes you feel good so I’m hoping to see some happy faces on Sunday!
Stick to the plan? I am a great believer in plans, but sometimes unexpected things crop up that are not part of the plan. I have had a few of these this year, and how you react to these unexpected “challenges” are what makes you you. We can learn a lot about ourselves by observing how we react in these situations. If the way we react is harming us in some way then hopefully we can change in order to develop and grow.
My year I have not had the best year this year. The plan was to have an easier year doing 2 half Ironman distance races with a view to doing Ironman Wales again in 2016. I planned my season around my A race The Wales Triathlon. I was feeling pretty good, I had accepted my DNF at The Titan, (you can read about that here) and improved my FTP by 10 watts this year, a goal I had set myself last year. A week ago I was in the sea with my boys and I jumped over a wave and landed on a stone that impacted in to the arch of my foot, it hurt quite a bit at the time but I thought it was ok, and stayed in the water. When I got out I could hardly walk up the beach. My mum drove me home, and I tried to convince myself that it was fine and it would be ok in a few days. I iced it and rested. The next day I went out on the bike, tried to run and couldn’t so rested again. On Sunday I did a brick session. I ran for 20 mins and felt fine, On Tuesday I tried to run again, no chance, and exactly a week later, my ankle was still swollen and foot hurting. Throughout the week I have had many different thoughts in my head. First feeling I needed to stick to my plan and watching my fitness on the decline as my taper did not go as planned. Then realising that I couldn’t run, so maybe I could just do the swim and cycle, and then feeling like not doing any of the race, but entering a race at the end of September, as I didn’t know if I could face starting a race knowing I wouldn’t be able to finish. I decided it was time to get my foot looked at!
I went in to A&E, the nurse examined it and confirmed my initial thoughts that it was just a bruise on the bottom of my foot that had caused soft tissue damage. This had been aggravated by me continuing to try and train. I told her I had a race the next day and had been training all year for it, and she said that if I did do it then to expect it to swell up again after. So I went away still in 2 minds.
After a lot of thought I decided that I wouldn’t race, my heart just wasn’t in it, I couldn’t run on my foot anyway, (too painful and would cause too much damage) so I would have been going in for just the swim and cycle. My husband has also had health issues the past few weeks and we are dealing with the stress and anxiety associated with that too, so I feel that the stress of not finishing another race may have been too much for me.
How I got my head round it
It is so hard to make decisions like this, especially when your whole season has been geared towards something that you had expectations of. I was really hoping to do well in this race, and my fitness is at a peak, so I have had to let go of that fitness, and my expectations from the race. I have had to accept the decision that I have made, and believe that it was the right one to make, there is always next year, and I have goals for that too.
I have entered The Snowman which is at the end of September so that at least I complete a triathlon this year, my fitness won’t be what it is now because I had planned to have the summer off training, so we have a few camping trips booked, and I won’t be able to train as much, but I’m looking forward to the race and I’ll be going up with Patrick for the weekend without the kids so we get to spend some time together too.
It is important to be adaptable and able to change your expectations.
Remember the positives from the season, if you are in Triathlon for the long term then you have still benefitted from any things that didn’t go exactly as planned, endurance builds up over years so the training that you have done in one year adds to the next years training.
Accept any obstacles that come your way, the sooner you do this the less energy you will waste fighting against an uncontrollable, accept what has happened, you can’t change it, and make a decision that you feel happy with, then stick to it.
Enjoy it, there is always another goal out there for you, and sometimes things are sent as a wake up call to check how much you really want your goal.
Don’t underestimate other factors in your life, you may feel that your stress at work or in your family has nothing to do with triathlon, but any stress impacts on your life and affects your ability to train and race.
A lot of athletes are tapering or will be tapering for an event round about now. This is arguably one of the most mentally challenging parts of your training so far. You may feel a variety of conflicting emotions. I will run through some of these below, and hopefully put any last minute anxieties to rest.
You may feel you have not done enough training
Look at your training plan, did you complete most of the sessions? Have you remained consistent? If the answer is yes then well done, you have no reason to be worried about what you have done. If you haven’t then it is beyond your control now. Let go of any fear you may have about not doing enough training, you did what you could do at the time, and that is enough to get you through your event. Don’t try and cram in extra workouts now, you will not gain fitness by training hard in the last few weeks before the event, your work here is done! You may have niggles/heavy legs
As race day approaches it is common to notice every twinge and become concerned. It is more than likely your mind is playing tricks on you. Your legs may feel heavy and tired, this is normal, and you are not alone. It can be down to your muscle tissue rebuilding so think of it as a good sign, and make sure you rest enough to allow your body to do what it needs to do (Recover) Stretch, and massage. Make sure you don’t massage too close to an event as sometimes it can move things around and cause problems to flare up. There is a stretching routine here which may help you to calm down and relax.
Trigger point therapy with a tennis ball!
You may have specific fears about the race
For example one of my worries at every race I go to is being late. I have never been late for a race, so this fear is unfounded. Make sure that you write a plan that covers all eventualities, e.g. what time you will wake up, what you will eat, what you will wear, any equipment that you need etc etc. This will set your mind at rest. Think about your specific fears, is there anything you can do about them? If you can do something to ease those fears then do it. Now is the time to put those fears to rest and have strategies in place to help you cope with race day nerves. I find myself writing lots of lists which helps me cope with my anxiety.
This is similar to thinking you have not done enough training. Just as there are many different ways of training and racing, there are also many different ways of tapering. Hopefully you have followed a plan that has been designed by someone who has knowledge of endurance sports and is aware of the science and research behind tapering. You may feel like you have tapered for too long or not enough. Put trust in your programme. If you believe that what you are doing is the right thing then you will benefit mentally as well as physically. If you spend your taper worrying if you have got it right you will waste a lot of energy. Let go of your worries it doesn’t matter what others are doing, it matters what you are doing. If you have followed a plan so far don’t deviate from it now or you will risk jeopardising your race. Stick to the plan.
You may feel grumpy and or depressed
You have built up your training to such a level that when you taper you may feel like there is something missing. There may be a gap in your life that you think needs filling. Don’t try to cram more stressful activities into your life now. Relax and enjoy the rest, eat healthily, and enjoy just being. Read in the sunshine or just chill out. Make the most of your spare time by mentally preparing for the race. Fill your head with positive imagery and words. You need to minimise any negative energy. You can do this by repeating a phrase that means something to you, for example “I am the best that I can be”, or by visualising parts of the race course and imagining yourself feeling strong, and enjoying yourself. Smile and remember how lucky you are to be able to do this! Race day
Remember, on race day everyone will be feeling nervous. Find a way of coping with your nerves, become aware of your breathing, listen to music, whatever gets you through. Once you start you will get in to your rhythm. You have practised for this day 100’s of times during training, and it will all come together. If you can do these things you will have a great race.
We have been away twice in the last month, and it is beginning to take its toll! Much as I love visiting friends and family it can also be tiring, and my immune system has taken a battering. During half term we went to visit family in Sheffield, I was looking forward to visiting Ponds Forge, and having a swim in the 50m pool, but there was a gala on so I had to sneak out early in the morning and go to the nearest pool at Graves leisure centre. I enjoyed it anyway, I used to work in the school next to the centre, so it was good to be in familiar surroundings. The next morning I managed a run, and bagged a QOM.
My brother in law is KOM, he does lots of fell running.
I have discovered that its quite easy to get out first thing and do a workout if you are visiting people, they don’t even notice you are gone, especially if you have small children who wake up early! This is also who I blame for the run of colds that I’ve had, 2 days after returning from Sheffield I came down with a cold, and I am now suffering again after going away to visit friends in Cheddar at the weekend. I have come to the conclusion that disruptions to my sleeping, weaken my immune system, it could also be the 15 mile off road race that I did with Rachel on Sunday, called The Big Cheese, read more about it here.
There comes a point in your training when there is nothing more you can do to increase your fitness and you need to accept that you have done all that you can. Whatever happens on the day will happen, I got back off a long ride feeling pretty negative as my power and speed were low, but thinking about it rationally I had done a 10km (running) Time Trial the night before, and had been building for a while, only having a short recovery after the 100 mile TT, so not surprising really! There is a great post about tapering here which I found helpful and inspiring.
I have been looking at last years taper for Wimbleball and comparing it to my training this year, I had some feedback that my taper may have been a bit drastic, this was because I was ill after a race and then started tapering after I had recovered. This years will not be so drastic and I’ll be nice and ready to race!
This years Performance management chart
Last years Performance management chart. a sharp drop after Slateman
Time trials and tribulations (garmin data is here, full results here)
I went along to the 10km Time trial organised by Pembrokeshire Triathlon club on Tuesday evening, hoping to better my time from 6 years ago!! I can’t believe how long ago that was. My time in 2008 was 43.23. When I arrived Ian, the timekeeper, decided that I would be fastest and put me last. I was not so sure, but went along with it anyway! Ellie (the only other woman) went off 1 minute ahead of me and I tried to keep her in sight. It soon became apparent that she was flying, as I counted the time from her passing a lamppost, she was already more than a minute ahead within the first few miles. , it was a lovely evening, and nice to have a chat. I got a time of 41.14, so 2 minutes faster than last time. I should be happy with that, but maybe have been feeling a bit negative this week.
The long ride
I decided to ride the whole Ironman course the day after, and was pretty dissapointed in my speed. I may have been tired, and also lacking motivation doing the route on my own. I’m not sure that I really wanted to do it, because I knew that if I was slow it would make me depressed, but Patrick suggested it and I thought the pro’s would outweigh the con’s. Anyway I borrowed his go pro which was quite fun, although I have now spent hours editing the ******* thing.
A bit of geekiness
After I had recovered from the ride, digested my stats, done some more research, and generally got slightly obsessive about numbers, I spotted that my Intensity factor for the ride was based on my old FTP, so with a few calculations I realised that I will be able to go faster on race day, (of course some other factors will come into play too) but if the maths is right then I’m happy !!
Last year I rode the 50 mile national Time Trial Championship in Abergavenny, and at the end I swore I would never, ever do it again. About 6 months later, and after signing up for Ironman Wales I decided that it would be a good idea to do another long Time Trial as part of my training in the lead up to Ironman. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) the only long TT that I could do was the 100. I entered online, thinking I don’t actually have to do it. My mum agreed to support me, and we drove up the night before, after checking the weather we decided not to camp. I booked the Premier Inn in Pontypool. My mum was still optimistic about the weather, thinking that it would rain overnight and then be clear for the morning. I was not so optimistic after checking my phone. At least it didn’t look windy!
Rain, and more rain
At 5:30am the alarm went off, and I had a cup of tea, dressed and applied liberal amounts of Sudocrem and Hoo Ha glide to my posterior, (thanks girls for the tips!) Unfortuatley I forgot that I then had to sit in the car. The sudocrem had already seeped through, so I sat on my coat to protect my mums upholstery, ( must remember next time to apply cream at last minute!)
a magical combination
As we drove somberly towards the start in the torrential rain I had mixed feelings, I was really looking forward to doing the TT as I have never ridden 100miles before, but the weather was horrendous, and I could tell my mum was a bit worried, as she asked whether I would be riding along the dual carriageway, and if there would be cars on it. I was also worried that they would cancel, because as we got nearer to HQ there was not the usual hubbub of riders warming up and riding to the start.
We arrived at 6:30, (the first rider was off at 7:09am) I joined the huddle of freaks, sheltering outside HQ who had decided that come rain or shine they were riding 100 miles today. The organiser had not arrived yet so there was some speculation as to whether it was cancelled. Suddenly the doors were opened and signing on sheets signed. I committed my signature to paper and organised myself, giving my 2 bottles to my mum and explaining where and when to wait. I went out to the car and slung my bag over my shoulder and felt a sharp pain across my back. Now my mind really started playing up, and as I rode to the start my power meter started dropping out, and I could hear a clicking on my front derailler. I was starting to wonder if the gods were trying to tell me something, but I moved my garmin to my handlebars, and realised that the clicking was only the cable knocking against the crank arm, and my back was fine in the TT position.
I set off behind Tanis Hand (ex Tenby Aces, and the only other woman to ride) The route is 3 laps of the dual carriageway up to Monmouth and back to Abergavenny. At the first turnaround I saw Tanis and she looked a way ahead of me so I just stuck to my plan. When I got out on the second lap I did a quick bit of maths and realised that I was going to be at the lay-by that I told my mum to wait at about 15 minutes before I told her to get there. Happily I spotted her car as I approached ( she likes to be early thankfully) and I stopped to fill up my aero bottle and grab the other bottle from her. I said I was feeling good and got on my way. The photographer was at the next lay-by as globules of snot, spit, and rain dribbled down my chin. I couldn’t really muster a smile!
Next I saw Jill Coleman who cheered me on, I was averaging 20.8mph so was feeling amazing as I was aiming for 19-20mph. I sang a lovely rendition of Chesney Hawkes I am the one and only (where did that come from?!!) as I was overtaken by one of many men, and I had one of several manic laughing fits as I realised that, yes, I really was doing this, and doing a good time. I had done 50 miles in 2h20 which was faster than I did the 50 mile TT in last year. The rest of the second and third lap was a blur of feeling sorry for lonely, and sodden supporters holding out drinks bottles, marshals waving frantically and pointing, and looking forward to the tunnel near Monmouth for a couple of minutes shelter.
On the second and third lap I started to pass a few people, including Tanis, and Jill told me that I was on the team now, as Paul had to pull out. About 20 miles from the end I started to watch my power dropping, and had to talk to myself a few times to keep focussed, the last few miles seemed the longest ever. I shouted my number out to the clapping timekeepers and with comedic timing the rain stopped and the sun started to come out.
When I got back to HQ my mum told me that there was only 1 other woman who completed the race, so I jokingly said “I may be Welsh Champion then”, to which she replied “you are!” This seemed pretty funny to me and I got inside where Jill, Paul, Dan and Rob told me that we’d won the team prize too. 3 cups of tea later I had warmed up and was presented with my Championship cap, and we had a team photo.
The winning team
A word from the organiser
Garmin data here, full results here, more photo’s of bedraggled competitors here
If you are not interested in data look away now 😉
Out of 71 riders 26 started 7 DNF, and 39 DNS
My aim was to keep above 150 watts, and below 180, I had set some alerts on the garmin, but couldn’t really hear them. I also had an auto lap set for 25 miles, but again didn’t hear the first lap. My power did go down at the end, but in comparison to last years 50 mile TT it was not so extreme, so I was happy with my pacing. I could probably have held back more in the beginning, as my average power for each lap shows.
Below is a comparison between last years 50 and this years 100, you can see how I started way too hard in the 50, and suffered about halfway through! This year I had also prepared myself psychologically and knew what to expect.
100 mile TT 2014
Couldn’t take it!
So overall, I was amazed with my result, I rode about 15-30 minutes quicker than I thought I would, so with some great performances under my belt I feel ready for Ironman Wales!
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