Race planning

The King of Kona talks about the perils of racing verses training and knowing when to rest and recover and when
to get back in the saddle…

I feel that if you don’t have the room in your training plan to taper for a race, then it’s not worth your time/effort/money to race while tired from training. Our Exclusive pro columnist gives an insight into his race planning

Everybody is different. I think the main difference in athletes is the amount of natural ability someone has versus the ability to work hard. I have more of the former and little of the latter, while Chrissie Wellington seems to have a tonne of both!

Having to choose between racing and training is a tough call. But if I am going to race, I will always taper accordingly. I feel that if you don’t have the room in your training plan to taper for a race, then it’s not worth your time/effort/money to race while tired from training. However, if you are able to train a great deal, then training through races might suit you.

There are B races and A races. B races are races that you use to lift you up to the next level. When racing, having rested, your body can go up to the next gear, going harder and faster with the adrenalin of competition than you could while tired in training. The result of this is much greater adaptability.

I raced three Olympic-distance races in the lead up to my first Ironman 70.3 in 2012 in Cairns. I rested as much as I needed to for each one to allow me to push hard and gain confidence and adaptability from race to race.

My training plan includes a rest week every fourth week. This works best for me – although I will rest more often when races are more frequent, once I am up to a good level of fitness and strength.

I’m also known to take an extra rest day here and there when I need or want one. I’m my own coach and I’m harsh but fair. I enjoy deciding not to train for a day and don’t let guilt and fatigue ruin me mentally. At the end of every rest week, I race or do a time trial. These are my B races. The perfect schedule would have a race every four weeks, increasing distance and intensity (competition/terrain) at each.

In the USA, in my lead up to IMLP, I raced IM 70.3 Syracuse and finished a disappointing fourth. I felt very flat on the bike due to travelling from Australia to New York only five days earlier. Lesson learnt. Two weeks after this, I raced New York 5150 and again was very flat on the bike to finish sixth. Five days before the race I ran 32.5km on a very hot day, then took the rest of the week off because I was buggered, with one full day in bed due to lightheadedness. I wouldn’t change that run, just the recovery. I should have done some easy rides and swims to help flush my legs that week.

But my A race of IMLP remained the target, so I’m glad I ran long that day even if it left my legs heavier than expected. I am always learning. My long run is always my favourite session of the week and I feel I get most value from it. It allows me over two hours to think of nothing but form and efficiency while enjoying some tunes and often an adventure through new places!

I’m trying something different in my taper for IMLP and riding nearly every day for two weeks. I often feel flat on the bike on race day so hopefully this will keep my legs reminded of what they need to do for 180km.