Sometimes even the best athletes get a little complacent. When your day in and day out routine consists of swimming, biking and running, you can become overconfident and even forget your short term goals. This seems more prevalent when training for a longer distance triathlon. When you have a shorter distance or a “B” race, you may feel like it will be easy. However, those shorter triathlons are no joke and can beat you up more than longer races. Point of fact: recently, one of my athletes training for a half Ironman did not stay focused on his nutrition and hydration leading up to a sprint distance race. He cramped really bad on the swim and needless to say, his race did not reflect his training. He learned his lesson, but his experience is something we all should be mindful of going forward.
Whether you enter a race for fun, just to finish, or to be competitive, triathlon is something to be taken seriously. Of course there are those gifted athletes who can go into a race with little training. However, I prefer my athletes to train properly for the event they have registered for, so they can finish strong. When race week comes, I want every athlete to have a plan and be well prepared physically and mentally. The next step is for the athlete to follow through with that plan so they can execute and have a great race.
First, you must follow your tapering plan and trust the process. For some reason, the mind starts to doubt everything as race week approaches. You will not gain anything from doing extra training the week of a race, but you can lose everything. The key is to cut back the volume, but work on short bursts of speed to keep your neuromuscular system firing. Relaxing and putting your feet up can be difficult for the anxious athlete, but it will pay off.
Next is nutrition. This can be a deal breaker for many people. The day or two leading up to a race can be tricky depending on whether you are traveling to a race or you get caught up in pre-race activities. I always recommend that athletes eat something simple, low in fiber and nothing too heavy with oils or butter. I am also cautious to the overzealous carb loader that eats two plates of pasta the night before a race. There really is no need to eat that much food and you will likely regret it the next day.
Lastly, keep your head on straight. To do your best, you want to stay mentally focused. This means to not let the nerves get the best of you and not to go into the race so overly confident that you bite the dust. Triathlon is not an easy sport and you should be proud just to toe the line, but treat it with respect. Swimming in open water, biking on roads with cars and running in heat can all be dangerous, so stay focused and exercise caution when on the course. To say out loud that you are a triathlete, because you did the work and completed the race, makes taking all the risks worth it. So remember, whether it is an “A” race or a “B” race, or just to finish, stay focused on your goals, have fun, and ALWAYS smile for the camera!