Athletes update, Kit and equipment

Key Race & Event Preparation

We are now right into the thick of it, the races many of us have been working towards for weeks and months are upon us.  Its an exciting, but also can be a challenging and stressful time.  So how do you get it right leading into Key races & events?

Many of you will be experienced with this, but still there may be some things to think about and consider on all aspects.  Some will be ‘Janet & John’ – but there will be some nuggets you have forgotten

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I am going to break this down into the following constituent parts:

  1. The event preparation
  2. Physical & mental preparation
  3. Kit
  4. Logistics
  5. THE RACE
  6. Afterward & What’s next

The event:

Whatever the event, wherever it is make sure you know everything there is to know about it

  1. Date / start time – sounds obvious but I know many (me included) who have missed race start times through inattention to this detail
  2. HQ location,
    1. What are the facilities like to park / change / warm up?
    2. How far to the start? Will I drive or run / ride there?
    3. How many competitors are there V event size – how close will I actually be able to get to park etc? And at my relative start time?
  3. The course – an obvious one! But get to know it – there are so many resources now from STRAVA segments of either you, or other people who have done it to best bike split, mywindsock etc etc.  There are no excuses to not being familiar with the course, key things:
    1. Gradients and locations of these
    2. Likely wind direction
    3. How good is the road surface
      1. ALL these will influence HOW you ride it, plus potentially kit to use
    4. Pre-preparation – If possible, ride / run / swim the course in advance – know what to expect. If not you can do one of two things,  (I can help with these)
      1. Use something like www.mapmyride.com to create a local course to you with similar elevation changes, corners etc – so you can simulate ride it.
      2. Use bestbikesplit.com to work out HOW (power plan) you would ride the event course – THEN translate these power segments into a training session using a Training Peaks session builder, or similar on zwift. This is time consuming BUT excellent to truly represent the demands of the event.

 

Physical & Mental preparation: Manage your ‘chimp’

In an earlier article I talked about the power of the ‘chimp’ in our mind, managing this is key for successful race and event preparation, read the article here The fragile brain & its effect on your physical abilities

The-Chimp-Model

The correct Physical & Mental preparation are inextricably linked for reasons I will explain below.

The more important the event in your season , if its an ‘A’ race then the more we have invested in it, mentally , physically, emotionally and financially.  Thus the impact of a good / bad race can be quite high.

We (yourself and maybe your coach) will have planned the physical side through a long process of specific training sessions targeted to this event.  Then we will have sorted a taper to get you into the event in the best ‘form’.  By this I mean the below

PMC AJ

This is my own Performance Management Chart coming into a 100m race on the date indicated.

I had structured my training with load to gradually build fitness (Blue CTL line) , then as I approach the race, the load (TSS of the sessions) reduces and I start to recover.  By race day my TSB (training stress balance) is positive.  Basically, this means the average load I had been doing is LESS than my fitness and I should feel fresh.  It worked.  I had the best 100m race I have had for a long time and set a new course PB and racing power number

To be honest the above is ‘easy’ to plan.  BUT what is not easy is controlling everything else around it.  By this I mean:

  1. Rest & recovery
  2. Work stress
  3. Eating

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For many, the key races may well be abroad as part of a holiday, inevitably the lead in at work will be busy & stressful, as may well be family life in packing and sorting for it.  This ‘life’ stress can both physically & mentally tire you.  I have known a few of you up late nights before a trip packing, sorting and stressing – this does not help the above TSB materialise on race day!

Feeling Great – The taper means we should start to feel good as we freshen up.  ITS SO EASY HERE TO GO TOO HARD!  In the sessions planned in the taper, as you feel great too many people push that few % too much, instead of sticking to the plan.  OR conversely if the other stresses above materialise, they still push on to complete the sessions.  My BIGGEST council here is all you can do on that last 5-7 days is ruin the race by one of the above – you will not improve it. So if tired, don’t train.  If feeling great – rein yourself in!

The Unknown: – For a lot of us the key events may well be ‘first’ big events and with this comes some trepidation and self doubt.

  • Can I really do it?
  • Have I done enough training?
  • I’m tired I am not sure I can do this.

This is where I come in. My role , as coach, is to not only set training sessions, analyse and feedback on the mechanics.  It is also to be that pragmatic, impartial listener to help manage and allay your fears or concerns.

If I truly think you just ‘can’t do it’ – I will tell you.  But if you have followed 70-80% of what we have set ,you will be in the ball park to achieve.

Managing the mental side ‘the chimp’ to use the phrase coined by Steve Peters (former GB mental coach) is the hardest.

Advice here:

  1. Be pragmatic – stand back, outside yourself and answer the question unemotionally – if you can?
  2. Reach out to me, let me reassure you via stats and facts where we are and what has been done
  3. Remember when you are tired EVERYTHING feels harder. When you come into the event the ’bounce’ from feeling good will be great!
  4. DON’T get hung up in forums or other social media BS about the event – most are key board warriors and don’t listen!

Time Management – This is critical on the run into the event and so often over looked.  As said above there will be pre-holiday work and other demands.   Really try and manage these efficiently, realistically and timely.  If you don’t late nights, running around before an event will not aid the TSB plan!

Questions:

  1. Can you take that one extra day off before you go to square everything away and avoid last minute stress?
  2. What can be put off until after the event?
  3. Who else can help you prepare?
  4. How much in advance can you plan – It’s so obvious now, but how many people the night before think , “ oh bugger I’ve not booked airport parking…’ or the like?

 

KIT:

You should have this squared away by now and there are some rules of thumb:

  • DO NOT try anything new on race day. In my first World Champs race in California, I put a new chain on the night before.  Didn’t lock the lock pin properly and it failed on the start line.  I lost 10mins and had to chase like a nutter to get back in it!
  • DON’T do anything different, i.e.: don’t change tyre pressures or run different nutrition

Pre – event Preparation:

DO:

  1. In the event research , at this point, make the decisions on the kit be this:
    1. Gearing – how hilly will it be , what gearing will I need V what I have got?
    2. Wheels choice – is it full Disc and deep wheel combo or other
    3. Is it trail running shoes of flats ?
    4. What will the temperature be, what kit do I need – DON’T go getting cold hands / toes / ears – it will detract form the physical effort you need put in
  2. Nutrition – How much will you need? What will you use? Again don’t try anything new – easy to say , especially if you are off abroad to do a long distance event and provided will be their local nutrition choice.  A few pointers here
    1. Can you carry all the energy products you need and just fill up with water / bananas at feed stations?
    2. Can you get hold of and try some of the provided nutrition in advance?
    3. If it’s a very long event – have you tried your own choice of nutrition over this period of time.
      1. Sickly / sweet gels / drinks can be unpalatable after 6-8 hrs for many
      2. Consider some savoury options
    4. Think about a special needs feed bag with your choice of items in
  3. Tri Gear
    1. Have goggles and spare goggles – BUT not new goggles you have never swam in before – just be sure they don’t leak and fit well!
    2. Wetsuit – obviously have tried it on and swum in it before – BUT practice transitions – how quick can you get out of it and into bike gear?
      1. What can you wear under your wetsuit. You could wear trip-socks and tri kit – so speed does not need to be sacrificed.
    3. Trainers – NO NEW ONES! But make sure they are run in
      1. If not wearing socks talc them well to aid putting them on
    4. Fuel belt for the run? Get it sorted
  4. Bike
    1. Check the basics
      1. Gear cables
      2. Garmin – take a spare too PLUS remember charging cables!!
  • Brake cables
  1. Brake pads
  2. Charge the batteries (Di2 / etap!)
  3. Tyres – ideally replace for a big event
    1. Take spares and your pump!
  • Bearings – is everything running ok?
  • How worn is the chain – you can buy chain length indicators, but a simple way to check is to look at it on the big ring – see below? This is a worn and stretched chain where its not sitting on the teeth properly
    worn chain
  1. Nice to have’s.
    1. Update your bar tape
    2. Maybe go for a gold chain (as above!)
  2. Hydration solutions – are these sorted and tested – how many times have I seen people jettison bottles from rear mounted carriers as they haven’t tested it? Some quick advice here
    1. DON’T bother with the nice carbon cages – they are expensive, they just don’t hold bottles well and even on the frame they can jump out
    2. For TT / tri racing consider between the bars and behind the seat as ideal options – frame aero bottles and round bottles are third choice due to aero penalty

SPARES TO TAKE: (as a minimum)

  • Goggles
  • Swim hats
  • Garmin (computer)
  • Chargers (whatever you need)
  • Tyres
  • Inner tubes
  • Brake pads
  • Standard repair kit
  • All the relevant bolts and allen keys for bike building – CHECK if you need a torx spanner as many multi tools don’t have these on
  • Bike shoes (if you have some) but ensure cleat alignment is identically o what, ideally, you had bike fitted

The day before:

Double check everything!  Have a pre event test, in situ – so has the bike survived the flight ok?  When you have built it is everything working ok?

  1. Brakes
  2. tyre pressures
  3. gears – use every gear check the hanger hasn’t been bent in transit

LOGISTICS:

Think about it in 3 ways

  1. You & your travel companions
    1. Should be obvious! Book all necessary travel and accommodation – but don’t forget car parking / transits at each end, where are the pets going?
  2. Your kit
    1. If taking a bike be sure to book on in advance DO NOT TURN UP AT THE AIRPORT and just expect to get it on – especially if travelling to a key race many others will be to
  3. After the event
    1. It doesn’t end when you cross the line! What are you doing after, how will everything get home?

 

THE RACE

You have planned prepared, thought of every eventuality – now go do it.  Yep, sounds easy!  I guarantee you that things will NOT go to plan.  So the key is to be flexible.

Also be realistic (but stretching) on your race aspirations – If its your first IronMan – its unlikely you will win!  But you will set a PB!!

Go into the event with Plan ‘A’ in mind, But be clear on Plan B & C in case of whatever eventualities.

I can give you (below) numerous examples of when plans didn’t work – and how I coped (or didn’t!)

  1. 2015 National 100 m TT – my cassette came lose about 60miles in and jammed against the frame locking the wheel. I was beside myself! I had to hand tighten it every few miles until I could get to my support car and change a wheel.  THEN I hammered off (too hard) to try and make up time, and also flatted with two miles to go.  I missed a medal by 10 secs!
    1. LESSONS
      1. Kit check!
      2. Have my helpers nearer!
  • Don’t panic – If I’d ridden sensibly I’d probably have medalled instead of blowing up in the last 5 miles
  1. 2016 UMCA World 6hr champs – broken chain
    1. Here I did not panic, I fixed it, rode sensibly back into the race and actually won it by over 15mins – so adapting the plan worked
  2. 2017 National 12hr Champs – I had planned a detailed feed agenda with my helper. She lost me and I didn’t feed for 75miles (about 3 hrs).
    1. As soon as I realised she was lost I went into conservation mode, knocked down the intensity until I saw her and could feed. It was not worth blowing so early for this .  I ended up with Bronze and a huge PB.
  3. 2018 National 12 hr
    1. I made the error talked about in ‘physical and mental ‘ prep. I went in, with theoretically, good TSB and condition.  But I had been so busy that I was mentally fried.  The race was on a tough course (Bentley bypass, very bumpy) and I just couldn’t hack it and quit 4 hrs in (I was in 2nd I found out later!)
      1. This was a salutary lesson tome going into the 24hr that was 4 weeks later – I got that right!
  4. 2004 IronMan World champs – a few things here!
    1. I made the cardinal sin of trying new nutrition on the day – and it failed for me epically!
    2. In transit a wheel got damaged (spokes broken) I had no spares and had to buy a new wheel for the event.
    3. I wrote myself a ‘speed plan’ (the days before power) and relentlessly, foolishly, tried to stick to this when conditions (wind) was against me and blew spectacularly

I have had WAY more failures than successes, how you as an individual deal with these, both in a race and after is what will define you as an athlete.

ITS ALL OVER – What now?

Maybe you have heard, for the first time, those immortal words ‘YOU ARE AN IRONMAN’!  Maybe you won your National Title, or finished the sportive.  OR maybe it all went disastrously wrong.

Whatever happened, here are some key bits of advice:

  1. DON’T act in the emotion of the moment! Most of us remember Steve Redgrave’s immortal quote ‘If you see me near a boat again you have my permission to shoot me’… Where was he 4 years later?  Back again!
    1. Don’t throw the bike / running shoes away – who remembers Bjarne Riis throwing his bike over a hedge in a  TT in 1997?!  This video is just awesome!  Bjarne Riis TT bike throw video Youtube
    2. Conversely DON’T enter the next big race on that day!
  2. DO wait a few days, recover, get strong, look at the race pragmatically, on your own and with me
    1. What went well?
      1. Why did it go well?
    2. What went wrong and why?
    3. What can I do next time to avoid a repeat?
  3. Look in the mirror – Be really honest with yourself – did I do EVERYTHING I could to ensure the best possible outcome? If not then
    1. Firstly, why not when you have invested so much in this?
    2. Don’t blame others , look for rationale explanations and ways to overcome these?
  4. Use your coach, talk to him or her, question them and seek feedback, and let you both work out how we get it right next time – or improve on perfection!

    Personal cycling training plans for time crunched athletes
    Personal cycling training plans for time crunched athletes

Do all this and there is a good chance you hard work will pay off in your preparation for key races and events.

 

Any questions please shout!

Andy

 

 

 

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