So what is in a Race Plan and why is it important to have one?
Preparing for a race is not just about the training plan leading into it, or in fact the hours of training and thinking about it in the months before. It is important whether you do this just for yourself or to then let a coach read over, write yourself a race plan. Some of the key items you should be thinking about are listed below but this is not a complete list and you might think of other things or want to design it so it works best for you, but the key is to have a plan. Oh and don’t copy someone else’s this needs to be specific to you. It also doesn’t just need to be for the race day and if you can write it out way in advance you can use it to help you in so many ways as you prepare. So let’s get started on what to think about….
1) A Fuelling Strategy.
This should start the week before the race and carry all the way through to post race, depending on the type and duration of the race you are going to do. Write down what are you going to eat and drink in the days leading up to the event, try and do this for each meal in detail so you are pre prepared, then continue with the fuelling race plan, including hydration, nutrition, carbs, fats, sodium and caffeine. How much of each and what works best based on your training sessions and testing in the run-up to your A race. List the frequency you will eat and drink and if possible list what products you will be using and what will be provided on the race course. Detail all this info on your race plan, it will make packing that much easier and then you can relax knowing that you have all that is required for your big day.
2) Performance Goals.
These are more specific goals to set for each race discipline, for example, a goal swim time, average power output on the bike leg or running under 40mins. Note these for reference and check in with them on a regular basis to see how you are doing against the targets, they will also keep you on track, you then need more granular ‘process’ goals to help you get there. This like the whole plan is very individual to you but things to think about:
Swim pace total time
Bike speed / power and or HRT total time
Run pace / HRT total time
Plus also set a time for both transitions within your overall race target time.
3). Process Goals.
Process goals are the most specific of the three types of goals and are key within a race plan, they are set in order to help you focus on the small steps you need to take to reach your performance goals. They’re typically more technique-based but should also include timing points. Some examples to think about are:- aiming to keep your elbow high during front-crawl recovery, maintaining an aero position over 50% of bike course or keeping a run cadence of 160spm (strides per minute).
Within all your goals, adopt a “SMARTER” structure:
Specific – Make goals precise
Measurable – Ensure they are quantifiable (e.g. use a bike computer)
Accepted – Share them with people in your life, your family and your coach
Realistic – Make them challenging but achievable
Time phased – Date your goals
Exciting – They must motivate you
Recorded – Keep a record of goals and improvements
This handy acronym should guide your plans and keep you on track; while alongside this goal structure, there are some guidelines which are also proven effective in triathlon gains, and will help you on race day.
We like to ask our athletes to identify 3 examples for each discipline. Here are some examples for you for to consider for the swim and bike sections.
Make sure you get your heart rate up before you start the swim, use a bank side warm up and practise this as there is not many events you get the chance to do a swim warm up.
Keep your elbow high during front-crawl recovery.
Start at the front with the first turn can/buoy on your left
Sight every four to six strokes
Set your power to Normalised power and understand it
Check distance against plan every 30 mins
Focus on being smooth with your cadence
Maintain 90 revolutions per minute
Relax the upper body
The process goals will help you hit your target speed and pace on the bike. The same goes for the run: focus on cadence, watch your heart rate, pick off runners one at a time, be relaxed with the shoulders, do not let your shoulders come up around your ears. Having performance and process goals helps keep you on target and to be focused on the race. Each target or goal can help you chip away at the overall goal and keep you in control rather than the race controlling you. These processes should be part of your training build up to help race day go the best it can.
4) Building Mental Toughness for your event.
The ability to keep going under hard circumstances is often called mental toughness. There is solid scientific evidence that mental toughness is trainable—that is, we can learn to tolerate greater discomfort in physical exertion. Developing mental toughness is an important means to improve in the sport of triathlon because the more discomfort you can tolerate, the longer you can swim, bike and run at desired speeds before giving in to exhaustion. To help with this process we need to think and plan what we are going to say to yourself as you get on the swim start line, as we pass athletes on the bike course, or when fellow athletes pass us, when we enter and run out of T1 and T2, and throughout the run.
Setting a mantra ahead of time will help you focus on the targets and keep you focused on the end goal and ultimately lead to your race day success.
Often over looked but just as important as swim, bike and run, write out the order of all the things you are going to do, practice it and then practice it again. What are you going to do as you head out of the water, this is about your process goals.
So why formulate a race plan. The process of writing things down helps clear your mind. Once you write everything down, you’ll notice a sense of relief, as if a weight was lifted off your shoulders. Even if you haven’t done anything on your list just yet, there is a short period of transformation in which your brain goes from utter chaos to the first stages of organisation.
Use this moment to take a deep breath and assure yourself that you are in control, that you’re well on your way to prioritisation and then action. It also helps and allows you time to run all the actions throw your mind in a logical way. For me its normally not being able to remember my race number so I always write my race number on the back of my hand and on the top of my feet using a sharpie, seems crazy but then we are all different, thats what makes us unique.
So when you are ready start to write your race plan, using a pen and paper, a spreadsheet or any other method that works for you but one thing is for sure the sooner you start doing it the better the outcome on race day and the more time you have to implement and action it in the lead up.
We’d love to hear from you if you are interested in a training camp, want to discuss options for a camp later this year or have any questions on which type of camp would be most suitable for you. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org