Karel and I will be racing our first race of the season in 2 weeks at the Clermont Olympic Distance triathlon on day 4 of our training camp alongside 20 of our campers and several other Trimarni coaching athletes.
Three weeks later, Karel will be racing Haines City 70.3 (which is a key Trimarni race) and then we will both race Challenge Knoxville (half IM) in mid May with Challenge Williamsburg (half IM) 4 weeks later in June.
When an athlete gets to the 8-week or less countdown until a race, this is often the time when an athlete can feel as if she/he isn’t prepared enough and can start deviating from the training plan.
Although consistency in a training plan can help you develop the necessary fitness needed to perform well at a race, feeling “ready” is more than just checking off workouts as they come in your training plan or making up missed workouts to get it all done.
A well designed training plan needs a specific progression and structure for all workouts to elicit beneficial physical performance gains. If workouts have been modified or skipped for any reason, there’s no need to dwell on the past and want to “fix” what you couldn’t make happen, when it was designed to happen. A smart athlete knows how to let it go.
However, year after year, this would often backfire because not only was I never able to reach my full potential come race day, I was never allowing myself to be honest with myself and race with my current level of fitness.
Thankfully, I finally became a smarter athlete.
There were many occasions in the past few years where “time ran out” before a race and with 4, 6 or even 8 weeks left, I had to be smart with my current level of fitness and that meant being honest with myself (ego), my training and race strategy. For the new me, I always want to be able to stand at a start line, healthy, strong and in a good place mentally and physically. If I really want to perform well at a race and reach my full potential in a season, there's no benefit of squeezing-in accomplishing (or struggling to get done) any one, two or three “key” long workouts to feel "ready" …. especially when no one is watching and no finisher line or medal is involved.
Between St. Croix 70.3 and Ironman Austria last year (May and June 2014), we moved to Greenville, SC (first week of May), I traveled to California for a RD summit at Clif Bar Headquarters (2 days after we moved to Greenville), my dad passed away (3 days before my birthday, the end of May) and Karel and I had 5 weeks to become “race ready” for our first international race (end of June).
My longest run in 8 months was 13 miles and it also happened to be my longest run before Ironman Austria. This wasn’t because I was lazy or because I was injured but instead, life happened and to be honest, time just ran out with my available time to progress with my training. There were many missed/modified/skipped workouts all due to life. I couldn't change the past and didn’t want to skip steps, so between St. Croix and IM Austria, I kept gradually increasing my run fitness training until I reached my longest run which happened to be only 13 miles. A week later, we went to Europe and it was time to taper for Ironman Austria (my 8th IM and 10 weeks before IMWI).
Karel’s longest run was 16 miles.
The old Marni would have tried to squeeze in one more long run of at least 16 miles just to feel “ready”, even if my last longest run was only 11 or 12 miles. The old me probably would have felt like I was going to have a bad race because I didn't train enough. Despite feeling underprepared, I knew I wasn't out of shape. This time around, I was smart enough to recognize that I can’t skip steps when it comes to my development. No matter what happens in life, I always have to accept the necessary steps of development and I cannot skip steps, even if that means going into a race “underprepared.”
Well - not only did I have a huge PR at Ironman Austria of 10:17 with only 5 weeks of key Ironman training but I ran my fastest marathon off the bike in an Ironman in 3:39.09 (and I felt amazing too!).
Karel ran his fastest ever marathon of 3:11 (9th fastest in his AG of 439 starters).
Your body is no different than anything else that needs time to develop.
And thanks to being smart and not skipping steps, I kept the process going all through the summer. My body accepted the training stress for IMWI very nicely and Karel and I both qualified for the 2015 Ironman World Championship by us both placing 3rd in our age group.
To ensure a positive racing experience and more so, have good health with a strong body in your last block of training before your taper, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
-You can only race only with your current level of fitness on race day – check your ego at the door and race smart.
-Minimize the risks that you take on race day so that you can finish the race with minimal setbacks.
-Don't confuse your concerns/worries about not feeling prepared with not wanting to race. Even if you don't feel prepared, you need to figure out a way to get the most out of your racing experience.
-Fitness is just one part of the “race ready” equation. Many times, an athlete that races smart with good skills, good pacing and good nutrition will win over the fit and “prepared” athlete who takes too many risks and races with too large of an ego.
-Always appreciate the good moments in a race. If you see someone else having a great day/moment, be happy for him/her rather than convincing yourself that you are having a bad day.