How to Nail Your Pre-Race Preparations

This is an excerpt from the new Triathlon 2.0: Data-Driven Performance Training (Human Kinetics, 2016), written by former elite triathlete Jim Vance.

Process + execution = results
Team slogan for Formula Endurance, the nation's first USA Triathlon High Performance Team and USA Swimming team

The time has finally arrived, and you're ready to race! You've followed the plan of setting up the training year from general preparation to specific, and you're dialing in your taper to the proper training stress balance (TSB) to make your race day fitness shine through. Now you just need to make sure you have the proper plan and execute it on race day. You can't just go into the race hoping it goes well. You've worked too hard for that, and as New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani once said, "Hope is not a strategy."

There are six keys to achieving high-performance goals. Whether you're an Olympian or a 60-plus age grouper trying to qualify for the World Championships or win them, high performance has six parts. The first three are preparation, preparation, and preparation. Get it wrong, and it doesn't matter how good a racer you are, you will likely not achieve the high goals you have set.

The next three are execution, execution, and execution. If your preparation has been perfect, it won't mean much if you're making poor pacing, nutrition, and equipment decisions on race day. All fitness does is give us a larger margin of error to work with, but the higher the goals, the more fit the competition is, so you either have to be exceptionally fitter than the rest or execute extremely well. I hope with this book you can and will do both.

When the event is extremely hot, pacing becomes a huge factor in the performance of athletes. Those who pace intelligently will likely do better than those who don't, if fitness levels are comparable or sometimes without even being comparable. We all know of incredible athletes who have had to walk the marathon of an IRONMAN. Fitness is not a license to be careless on race day.

This chapter is all about planning your execution, while the others have been more about preparation. But make no mistake, perfect preparation means practicing specific execution. When you toe the start line, your preparation should have you confident that the execution plan can and will happen because it has been rehearsed for many weeks.

If your specific preparation has been excellent, meaning you've been mimicking race day intensity, pacing, and course demands as close as possible, then the pre-race preparations will be easy, since you've basically been doing them for about 10 to 16 weeks now. This includes training on a similar course, in similar conditions, and using the equipment and nutrition items you plan to use on race day. If the race is a local event for you, then you've likely been doing all this on the actual race course, which is a huge advantage.

When planning for a race, it's always good to get your plan in writing, so you can be specific and find the areas that could be miscalculated, underestimated or overestimated, or not considered and then review them over and over. Also, a postrace analysis is an incredibly useful tool to go back and review the plan, comparing it directly with what happened. This allows you to see where your planning was spot-on and where you missed in your projections. This will be especially helpful when you read chapter 14, Postrace Analysis.

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