This is a very exciting time for a lot of athletes who are heading into their ‘A’ race of the season, the Australian Ironman at Port Macquarie. It is a time when months and in a lot of cases, years of hard work come to a bit of a head in terms of performance – otherwise known as ‘peaking’. This is sometimes over looked or misunderstood by the regular athlete, but is paramount to race day performance.
My athletes will tell you with a chuckle that I often use analogies to explain things to them. The analogy I have used in this case is that training and getting ready to race is like baking a cake….
What you need to bake the perfect cake (having a great race!)
- The Right ingredients for the cake (the right amounts of training, at the right times)
- You then need to combine the ingredients at the right time (timing of different phases of training)
- The cake needs to be cooked at the right temperature (volumes and intensities of training and scheduling of REST)
- The cake then needs to be taken out of the oven at the right time and the icing put on top when the cake is ready! (Tapering and race specific sessions)
- And cut and served! (Executing race day!)
Ironman race day requires all the ingredients of the race (cake) coming together at the right time. Endurance, pacing, nutrition, psychology, form, strength and responding to environmental aspects. All of which the athlete has control over. And all of which an athlete and an experienced and educated coach can tailor and mix in order to peak at the right time…. Not 4 or 6 weeks before, which is seen very often. This often results in the athlete arriving to race day lethargic, tired or sick, rather than jumping out of their skin and ready to race – a burnt cake or one that is cooked on the outside and runny in the middle!
In order to reach this peak, the last phase of training or the last part of cooking the cake – Race Specific Sessions are a key element. This really ‘tweaks’ the body to get it ready to race. These sessions are done to train the body to get it used to the rigours of what it will face on race day and always should mimic the race terrain as much as possible. These sessions don’t just replicate the volume/distance, but also encompasses; race like nutrition, race like heart rates, power outputs and pacing, race specific equipment and fine tuning the psychology to get it ready to what you will experience on race day.
With all my athletes, they have very specific parameters which they will follow on race day. These are parameters which have been tried and tested in races and race like sessions. For an Ironman race, or other long distance events, this means that you know exactly how hard or easy to race, the exact nutrition and hydration you need and how you mentally deal with being put in different circumstances. Meaning that you are not ‘guessing’ you way through the day, but know exactly how to execute the day! While these sessions are usually pretty tough, they are vital ingredients to success on race day and for me, the training prior to them basically leads up to the point where you can execute them proficiently and with confidence.
The icing of the cake and then eating it, is the fun part of the whole process. There is definitely an art to getting it right, from the race specific sessions, to the taper and then race day. Most importantly make sure you enjoy it, as this is why we do the sport and where the rewards of the carrot cake and cream cheese icing are found!
Train Smart, Race Fast