If you're gunning for a great performance at a specific race, there are several things you can do to help set yourself up for success. Apply these six practices to your training and you'll be more ready than you've ever been for race day.
More: Training Principles
#1) Do your homework.
While you are still building your foundation fitness, begin doing some race-specific homework. Do this homework at least three months prior to your key events. Find out the following info:
- What time is the race start?
- What time of the day do you expect to be riding? How about running?
- What are typical temperatures on race day?
- What is the course profile for the bike and the run? Is it a flat course? Are there hills that are long? How long? What is the grade of each hill? Where do the hills come within the entire race?
- Can you train on the actual race course? Are online videos of the race course available?
#2) Do some of your training at the same time of the day that you'll be racing.
If you do all of your training late in the day and your race involves an early morning start, make an effort to do a few training sessions early in the morning. Embrace the idea of an early wake-up call. Before your workout, eat a meal that's similar to what you will eat on race day.
If your race involves late-day running and all of your normal workouts are early in the morning, make an effort to do some of your training later in the day. In short, aim to do some individual sport training sessions at the same time of the day that you'll be racing.
#3) Practice your nutrition.
Plan and practice your pre-race, during the race and post-race nutrition and hydration in more than one training session. Too often athletes make nutrition choices on race day that they never used in training. These choices can ruin an otherwise perfect event.
#4) Do key training sessions on terrain similar to the race course.
If possible, do some of your training on the actual race course. If that's not possible, simulate sections of the course for key training sessions.
For example, I have all athletes do some form of lactate training workouts in all of my training plans. An athlete that is racing on a primarily flat course will do most of these sessions on flat terrain. An athlete that has a 10-mile steady climb at a three-percent grade on the bike course will be doing some of their bike training sessions on three-percent grades. If the course has short, punchy hills that are less than two minutes long and with grades up to eight-percent, training sessions will mimic those hills.
If the athlete does not have access to local terrain that is similar to the course, they can use indoor trainers, bigger gears or riding into the wind to simulate hills.
The same example used for cycling can apply to the run. If the run is on a hilly course, make an attempt to do some of your training on hills similar to the race course. Likewise, apply course profile knowledge to brick sessions.