My race plans usually aren’t very complicated. I’m just a regular ol’ MOP’er. I don’t have the latest equipment or a coach. I don’t race very often, and I don’t live and breathe triathlon. It’s just fun for me, and I actually enjoy the training more than the racing. I’m not racing anyone but myself anyway…no realistic chance of placing in my age group.
But I loves me a PR.
So here are some of the things I’m thinking about for my upcoming race, and how I work on them in training.
The course has changed to an ‘M’ shaped swim. Sort of unconventional, and I’ve never done one. As usual, I’d I’d like to take it easy for the first “out” part. I plan for what I want to happen on race day in my training swims by overcompensating for an easy start, swimming the first 500 yards as “long” as I can. This means really reaching and gliding with each stroke; usually about 11 strokes for the 25 yard length, breathing every three strokes. I then do at least 500 with a little faster turnover, breathing every two strokes. Sometimes I’ll go another 500 at that pace. I know I can handle that, and I’d like to pick up the pace a little on the diagonal parts of the ‘M’ on race day. From there, I like to take it easy on the way back, almost a cool down, because I don’t want to transition with a jacked up heart rate and body/mind that isn’t as relaxed as possible.
Now, I know realistically that the adrenaline is going to be a factor at the start, and I also know myself well enough to know that it takes me a couple of hundred yards to settle into an open water swim. And if I find some good feet, I’m jumping on them and riding as long as I can. But the swim is negligible for my overall time, so I just deal with whatever happens there on race day. I won’t be worried if I swim a little faster than planned, and I won’t be worried if I swim a little slower than planned.
There are some rollers on this course, and winds could be a factor as well. I have a pretty old bike that never was the latest and greatest, and I don’t have multiple cassettes and wheel options to change based on terrain or what the wind is doing. I keep my strategy here simple. Fight the wind and fight the hills, and relax a little on the downhills and with the wind at my back. I practice this in training all the time. The rationale is pretty simple. When an object, in this case a fat guy on a bike, is going slow it doesn’t take as much energy to increase it’s speed by 1 mph as it does when the object is going fast. It’s tempting to ride harder when the wind is at your back because you can look down and see your mph jump on your computer, but physics says it’s a foolish thing to do. It sucks fighting to stay over 18 mph in a headwind, but it beats giving up and going 16.5.
I stay in aero all the time, or as much as possible. If any sitting up is going on it needs to be standing to power up a hill or, if seated, with wind at my back. Even then, only for a rest. Stay aero.
I like this course for my plan because the course is a loop that starts heading south, then heads back north. The biggest hill is at about mile 27, and there’s a good chance winds will be out of the south. That means I can put a bigger effort in at the beginning going generally uphill and into the wind, and get more of a rest at the end, going generally downhill with wind at my back. That will help with my plan to fight for a pre-determined average speed on the bike and (hopefully) get a chance to try my run strategy out.
I’m doing something here I’ve never done before. Maybe it will work, and maybe it won’t. Either way, it’s a better plan than “just survive”, even if that’s what I end up doing. I’m breaking this run down into 3 separate pieces: 2 five mile sections followed by a 5k. I have paces I’d like to run for each of them, but the hard part is going to be holding those paces. For the first 5, the challenge will be getting up to speed getting off the bike. There will need to be some split differences in these miles. I know from experience that it takes me about a mile to get my legs back from the bike.
For the second 5, the challenge is going to be getting to the right pace in the first mile and then holding it without speeding up. I’m not really concerned with what will happen if I slow down during this section. If I can’t hold the pace for the entire 5, there’s no way I’d be able to race the last 5k anyway, so I’ll be better off saving myself whatever gas I can to get through it. But I don’t want to go faster than my predetermined pace, so I can have as much as possible available for the 5k.
If I make it through the second 5 on pace, it’s a 5k race with whatever is left in the tank. Again, there’s a course advantage here. The course is three loops, and the first part of the loop is uphill. If I can make it to the top of that hill on pace in the last lap, what I’m left with is a mostly downhill 3 miles or so. That should help with the pace. Again, if I can’t keep on the pace schedule for the first 1o miles, then whatever happens happens.
To train for this, I’m going out and doing short runs and trying to hit those paces. For instance, I’ll do a one mile warm up, then try to do my first mile at the pace I plan on running the first 5 during the race. For the second mile, I’ll try to hit my planned pace for the second 5 during the race. And for the last mile, I go at the 5k pace I’d like to hit on race day. I’m actually doing my long run this weekend with the same strategy, but using 2 miles instead of one for each planned section.
It’s worth noting that this entire, detailed, thought-out plan is a product of two things: (1) Not listening to music when I run, so I have nothing to do but think about this and (2) Tapering right now, so I’m obsessed with thinking about this race. If you are using this plan as advice, keep in mind that it’s free advice, and it’s worth about what you paid for it…if that.
In a way, I’m looking forward to this all being over with so I can go back to worrying about what new features Google is pushing out this week. Or maybe I’ll keep up with the Kardashians for a day or two until I’m so repulsed that I want to train for something again.