I teach students that they should have a very good idea on race day their planned paces and exertion levels. There should be no real surprises. Each athlete should race THEIR fitness and not try to reach some higher plane they haven't yet achieved in training. If the athlete had setbacks in training but had hoped to attain a certain time on the next race, racing harder than recent tests indicate will probably not get that personal record (pr). More often than not, the higher pacing will cause the athlete to ultimately underperform. Racing "within one's self" will bring the best results.
Athletes should have frequent markers and tests leading up to their big race. I like to do a 500 yard/meter swim time trial every week and a 1 or 2k swim tt about every 8 weeks. A 20:00 wattage test is great every 2-3 months or so but a 5 minute test also comes in handy. A 5k run test is adequate for shorter racing but a 10 miler or half marathon is more telling for longer triathlons. Three 1 mile threshold repeats on the track serve well to assess run fitness, making sure the mile repeats stay within a few seconds of each other. These smaller, more frequent tests should show the athlete's upward progress and allow the athlete to feel what it's like to race hard.
One should do portions of their target race as race "rehearsals". Be prepared for this in advance. Go to the pool, with your bike in the car, your running shoes, along with all the supplies you will need for the session. Swim some portion or all of your intended race, bike anywhere from 1.5-5 hours, then run 30-45 minutes. This obviously depends on race distance. You should hit your race pace or just a bit above for portions of the rehearsal. Wear your race day clothing to include a wetsuit. See how your nutrition works out. Do this about 6-8 weeks out from your "A" race as this will give you an idea of the stress that will be involved on race day. Try to use the race course for your simulation. This rehearsal shows the athlete realistic nutrition and pacing for the "A" race.
On race day, be prepared to hit those paces. The triathlete's biggest mental struggle is maintaining those predetermined race paces when the body starts to rebel late in the bike and run. Get used to the idea that the end of the run is just going to feel hard!
"Again, racing for me was about energy management." - Frank Shorter
"The five S's of sports training are: Stamina, Speed, Strength, Skill and Spirit;
but the greatest of these is Spirit." - Ken Doherty
"When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on." -Theodore Roosevelt
"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” - Pre
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
I just read the latest issue of Triathlete Mag and they have a great article (Apr '08, p. 82) called "SPEED FOR SALE". During the triathlon bike leg, your goal is to go very fast with a low energy cost, right? Aerodynamics is about 75% of the equation here and 60% is YOU, the rider! They depict a chart of products and their relative value in training. Look at them as "bang for buck" and they are in order of importance:
Clothing - 100 ($80-100)
Tires - 80 ($80)
Aero Helmet - 46 ($100-300)
Training Tools - 18 (powermeter $800-3500, coaching $75/mo., hr monitor $75)
Positioning - 16 ($50-200)
Fork - 14 ($300-500)
Aerobars - 9 ($200-500)
Wheels (front and rear) - 7 ($1000-3000 per pair)
Frame and Fork - 7 ($2000-4000)
Frame - 6 ($2000-3500)
Ceramic Bearings - 5 ($150)
So, let's look at a pile of money you might have and figure out the best way to spend it. Buying last year's tribike, which has a forward seat post allowing you better positioning (flat back, lower frontal area, ability to tuck in arms) should run about $1500-2000. A skinsuit runs about $100 at the most and the race tires should be about $80 at the most. A good bike fit should be free but if you have to go elsewhere, that should be around $100. (I highly suggest getting a trained eye to fit you and definitely go with a certified bike fitter who does lots of them). An aero helmet at the cheapest runs $100.
If you really wish to improve, look at getting a coach and a powermeter. You could hire them for 6 months prior to your big race. Nothing smoothes out your pedaling and gives you self knowledge like a power device. It's more accurate than heart rate, gives instantaneous information, and helps the athlete control work load in headwinds/tailwinds and uphill/downhill. Also, the triathlete can map out improvement much more precisely.
All said and done, you're out $2300 for the bike, skinsuit, tires, and aero helmet. You can rent race wheels on race day. Another option is to buy disc wheel covers for your rear wheel over the internet for about $100. Then, you could buy a used Hed3 front wheel or Zipp404 for about $500-700.
Some will say "just train more" and I do believe that. However, there are ways to wisely spend your money to get major bang for your buck. In short, a $3500 bike and $1500 set of race wheels may not be the way to go up front. Maybe it's wiser to start with a tight-fitting skinsuit, aero helmet, race tires, and pay a professional bike fitter $100 to look at your position on your current bike (road or tri), all for about $380?