Hello from Augusta! This is my first time in Augusta and the downtown streets are packed with triathletes. I am thinking it's not always this way but this weekend is the 2018 Ironman 70.3 Augusta event and the town is booming with multisport lovers.
To be honest, I really wish I was racing. I bounced back really quickly from IMWI and feeling fit, healthy and strong. While I only have two "fun" races left on my racing calendar, I have a feeling my FOMO from Augusta may lead me to look for one last triathlon race in 2018. We will see if I can find anything for Karel's racing calendar is keeping us busy over the next 7 weeks as he still has a lot of racing left. Speaking of Karel, it's his birthday today!! Today we are celebrating Karel's 42 years of life!
While IM Kona is Karel's big key race of the season in 3 weeks time, and he is then following it up with IMFL 3 weeks after, Karel is racing Augusta 70.3 tomorrow as a tune-up race as part of his Kona training. Racing in the final prep of his IM Kona training is not for the faint of heart as it requires a no-ego and courageous athlete who can keep things in perspective to execute a tune-up race properly just before the Ironman World Championship. Karel is a smart racer and never chases times for validation of his fitness so I know that no matter what happens tomorrow on race day, he's going to be race ready for IM Kona.
Speaking of tune-up races, many athletes will race before a more important race. Often, these tune-up races will occur a few weeks (3-5) or months (1-2) before a goal race. Most of time, athletes will race a shorter distance or the same distance as the big key race.
To execute a tune-up race properly, there are a few important strategies that athletes should apply to ensure that a tune-up race helps and does not sabotage the upcoming big race training or performance.
- Many athletes will use a tune-up race to test current fitness. It is important to recognize that fitness is not linear. In other words, if your goal race is the most important race of the season, don't get too attached to the results or metrics of your tune-up race. You don't need to PR or see improved watts, paces or times to feel "race ready." While a tune-up race can assess how effectively your training is or isn't going, your tune-up race should ultimately help you gain confidence for your more important race. Therefore, if your tune-up race occurs less than 4 weeks before a goal race, the preparations have been done and there's little time to change your training before your more important race. Thus, you need to race with a smart mindset that this tune-up race is seen more as training than as a validation of your fitness or race readiness. If a tune-up race occurs more than 5 weeks out from a goal race, there's more time to adjust training to continue to move in the right direction, if needed. As I mentioned above, don't get too attached to your tune-up race results. Many athletes have had a sub-par performance at a tune-up race only to excel at their upcoming key race because they were able to race smart, bounce back quickly and have trust in the final training preparations, while nailing the taper and nutrition for the upcoming race.
- Although you may not be able to drastically changed your training between two races (the first being your tune-up and the second being your key race), you can change your nutrition (pre-race, race morning and during the race), specifically if you found yourself with a nutrition-related issue in your tune-up race. Reach out to a Board Certified Sport RD, who specializes in your sport, for help.
- Because every race is different (ex. weather, course, terrain, etc.) there's little benefit in testing paces at your tune-up race to determine what paces you you should hold at your upcoming key race. Instead, check that ego at the door and race by feel. Feel what you want to feel at your more important race, even if that means racing below the intensity that you feel you should be racing at. While it's ok to take some risks with pacing, be mindful of how those efforts will impact your recovery, especially if you need to quickly get back into structured training.
- Tune-up races are great for going through the racing motions and emotions. Never in training can you experience the nerves, anxieties, worries and excitement that you will feel on race day. Tune-up races are perfect for practicing your race day routine (including the days leading up to the race) and what you will do before, during and after the race. This includes waking up early, dialing in your pre-race meal and pre-race warm-ups, racing in/with your race day clothing and equipment, going through pre-race rituals and dealing with racing stressors like traffic, bad weather, delays, waiting in line, feeling rushed, idol time and race-day adrenaline. You can also practice and test race day nutrition in race day conditions.
- Many athletes struggle to pace a race well in race day conditions, despite having great fitness going into a race. This can cause fear, worry and lack of confidence for the upcoming race. Many times, athletes underperform on race due to fear of messing up (or failure) whereas others overperform, blow-up and race below their potential. To develop confidence, be ok with holding yourself back and then building into an effort. Many times, this strategy becomes the perfect race strategy for you to nail your nutrition, pacing and form for a well-executed race.
Remember, racing is about putting your physical and mental abilities to good use on race day. To do so, you need to master your nerves, expectations, emotions, self-control, ego and self-belief. Many times, this is more mental than physical. Far too many athletes have the fitness to perform well at an important race but fail to understand how to use that fitness properly at a tune-up race. With your big key race in mind, do what you need to do at your tune-up race to gain confidence, familiarity and excitement for your upcoming big goal race.