Perfect Practice: Train to Race!
Written by USAT certified Coach Amanda McCracken
Vince Lomabardi once said, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” When applied to triathlon training, you might ask yourself, “Am I preparing myself to race my best? Am I doing workouts in practice that train my mind and body for race conditions?” The following, by category, are race simulation workouts you might consider using to get race ready.
So you have a goal time in mind for your swim split, right? Have you practiced that pace? Try the following workout to not only test the reality of your goal but also to remind your body what it will feel like.
• Warm-up thoroughly
• Determine race pace: If you want to do a 1000meter swim in 15 minutes, your pace/100m will be 90 seconds. The following will be done at the 90” pace. We call this “T-pace” for Time Trial or Threshold. The goal of the workout is to maintain an even pace even as the distances increase. If possible, try to make the last 4 x 100’s faster than the first set…as if you are coming “home” stronger than you went out.
• 4 x 100 at T-pace (10” rest), 2 x 200 (15”), 1 x 400 (20”), 2 x 200 (15”), 4 x 100 (10”)
• Cool down adequately
How many of us go to a race never having ridden the course?! RIDE THE COURSE! Get a feel for the curves and hills and pavement. Are there any pot holes or tight turns? Where are good places and bad places to pass? Practice accelerating from the starting/bike mount line. Practice attacking the hills (mentally and physically) and maneuvering safely during the downhills.
Try the following for a simple way to simulate race surges during a race on the bike:
• Choose a riding partner that is stronger than you on the bike
• After warming up for 20-30 minutes, begin a fartlek workout on the bike based on your partner’s choice of surging
• For 30 minutes, your partner will throw in random surges that force you to pick it up for 30 seconds to 1 minute at a time in order to keep up. The entire 30 minutes should be done at just below race pace.
One of the best ways to simulate running at the end of a triathlon is to practice running fast on tired legs.
• At the end of your long run, try to finish the last 10% of it at race pace or 20 seconds slower than your goal pace. For example, if your goal is to run your 10k in your next Olympic distance triathlon in 44 minutes, shoot to run your last 9 minutes of your 90 minute run around 7 minute pace.
The following is another race simulation workout that forces you to try to maintain a hard effort after pushing yourself at race pace.
• After adequately warming up and stretching, run one mile at hard effort, RPE 7-8/10, 5k race pace. Then run 2 x 800 or 4 x 400 at the same pace.
Swim to Bike (at open water site if possible): Great opportunity to check out your gear
• Set up transition area with appropriate equipment and race nutrition.
• Warm-up to cold water: Do gradual bobs and 5min of swimming.
• Swim 10min at close to race pace and exit water.
• Practice running through sand, stripping off wetsuit, and transitioning to bike.
• Mount bike and ride at RPE of 6-7/10 (or HR zone 3-4) for 15-20minutes before settling into a 60-90 minute ride in which you keep your heart rate in zone 3 and some zone 2.
Bike to Run:
• Bike 45’ at an easy to moderate pace.
• End at a track where you can conveniently leave your bike and where you’ve safely stashed shoes. Practice transitioning off the bike into your shoes.
• Do one mile just below goal race pace. So, if you want to run your Boulder Peak 10k in 50 minutes (~8min/mile pace), shoot for an 8:20 mile on the track
• Jump back on the bike and do a 2 mile loop at race pace.
• Return to the track and do an 800 at goal race pace
• Continue the 2 mile ride/800 meter run 3 more times
• Cool down on the bike 30 minutes.
Nutrition and the Mind:
• Nutrition: practice eating during your race simulations what you plan to eat during the race itself
• Make a checklist as you prepare for your “race simulation” (i.e. make sure to have a spare tire, extra goggles, tape, towels, tires pumped)
• Do the race simulation at the time of day you plan to race: you can practice appropriate nutrition that way too!
• Practice your mental talk! What are you telling yourself? Our words are like mental nutrition; don’t screw it up!