Well, it’s less than one week to the big dance in Kona and I thought it an appropriate time to look at ‘race week behaviours’.
It baffles me time and time again to witness the changes many folks make so close to the BIG day and especially an Ironman.
But firstly, maybe we should address the issue of IMPORTANCE we place on the event, since that just might be the reason for the many strange race week behaviours we see in the first place.
It’s common for many of us to race all season long over a variety distances with great success, then right before the event that seemingly is about to define our existence we feel a compulsion to re-invent the wheel, making wholesale changes left, right and centre. Such changes are almost limitless. Perhaps the ‘glorified training day’ principle/mindset might serve us better?
Nutritionally, I see athletes gorging themselves senseless from the Monday of race week as if their body has the ability to store every morsel of carbohydrate they ingest. There is no cutting back on energy intake to match the output, it’s just World Series Eating to the point that by race day they have gained weight, are storing excess water, and reduced their VO2 Max by a couple of percentage points. Not to mention the hormonal disturbance this causes. Over-hydration runs parallel to this. I see athletes walking around sipping plain water like it’s going out of fashion. Humans are not camels, and excess fluid intake is a sure fire way to dilute your electrolyte levels. Optimum hydration, yes…excess hydration, NO!
The pre-race kit bag offers it’s own set of dangers, encouraging us to include these nutritional ‘goodies’ in our race day nutritional plan even if we have never tried the product before, or to rush out and buy the latest piece of go-fast equipment to add to our race day arsenal.
In a training sense, many of us have a well defined training plan for race week yet the allure of ‘just one more’ key workout can prove too much for some as they witness athletes 50km from town just three days out from race day. Typically the said athlete will return back to their accommodation with a doubtful mind, change into training attire and head out for a senseless session themselves.
Taking an opposite approach, many athletes will, instead of dialing the training back to a level that allows for recovery while maintaining their hard earned fitness, go way too far and start ‘blowing off’ sessions from as far as two weeks out, telling themselves that ‘it’s too late now, the work is done’. Combine this with World Series Eating and you have a recipe for disaster!
In regards to equipment…personally I won’t even change my handle bar tape within a few weeks of the race yet some athletes will go so far as to change their crank length! Tires are a popular product to upgrade in race week but if yours are free of cuts, full of tread, and have served you well in the last couple of events then I would argue there are grounds for keeping them as is.
I like the concept of ‘racing on what I sweated on’. If I have been hitting my run workouts in a certain visor then I like to give it a wash then race in it as well. My run shoes will have a key workout or six in them and I will be racing in the swim googles I have used for the last month rather than a set I just picked up at the expo. I could go on here but you get the point. These tendencies give me confidence in my equipment come race day and more importantly give me confidence in knowing I have put the hard yards in on this equipment, that it has been with me through the training that counts. It matters little to me if my equipment looks slightly less than brand new, so long as it is in excellent condition and working order. It’s not a fancy dress parade out there.
Most often race weeks also double as our holidays from work and it’s easy to fall into the trap of going to bed a bit later because you can sleep in the next morning…only to find yourself waking at your regular time, anyway, compromising your regeneration and leaving you short on sleep come the race.
Perhaps the approach that makes the most sense in race week is the K.I.S.S. principle. Don’t be deviating to far from the norm, from what you have trialed succesfully all season in training and less important races, from what you are familiar with and that you know works.
Get the equipment sorted early (before race week) and use race week to concentrate on relaxation, following your training plan, and building your psychology through the recollection of the workouts that brought you into supreme condition. Reference these everyday to build the confidence. Mentally rehearse potential race day outcomes, both good and bad, and how you will deal with them. Care little about what other athletes are doing, instead have faith in yourself and your coach and use this confidence to power you to a successful outcome.
If you are anything like me you might also be quite nervous. Remember that our loved one’s care less about the outcome than that we come home in one piece and enjoy the day, it’s us that blows the race up to grandiose proportions and in the big picture we do this for FUN so do all you can to make the event enjoyable while testing your limits at the same time. Okay, that might sound contradictory!
But if you think about it.. what is FUN… fun can be pushing your limits, setting new bests, executing your race to the best you have on the day.
Reflect on how fortunate you are to be a race participant, to be so healthy, fit and passionate.