Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How will I know if my race was good? Plus training this week!

Dear All
Well, we're now just 10 days away from the 2008 Busselton Half Ironman and at this point you will probably be having mixed feelings about the race. We spoke last week about 10 simple ways you can focus on keeping a positive mind and outlook during the race and in the final few days, but what about those 2 all-important words - goal setting? What do you expect to achieve from this race?
The group is nicely split between those who have already completed one or more Half Ironman events (including Busselton) and those who are doing it for their first time. For those new to this race distance the absolute most important goal is simply to finish and to have enjoyed the process of getting to that finish line. You should not put any other pressure on yourself other than that. Most people (to be fair), do just this at their first race. As such, its not at all unusual to find that their first outing at these longer races often turns out to be their fastest (especially over attempts 2 and 3 or until suitable experience is developed to race more efficiently). The common denominator here is nothing more than a relaxed approach and the desire to simply finish.
But what if you're on the other side of the fence? More importantly, what if you raced your first Half Ironman last year down in Busselton? Without doubt, the conditions down at the race last year were the best on record. I vividly remember back to 2003 when super-star triathlete Stephan Kolm rode a course record on the bike discipline to average just over 40km/h. Just 4 years later, over 50 of the competitors last year averaged over 40km/h!!! This was a staggering result and highlighted just how amazingly quick the race was for everyone last year. Personal Best times were smashed left, right and centre and even by those who didn't consider themselves that fit! The concern this year, is that those who have no prior experience of the event other than 2007's race, will look to gauge their improvements purely on whether they actually race faster than last year. If its a tough race in 10 days time (and it could quite easily be - just look at this morning's weather!), those who have this goal will be nothing less than devastated if they do not race quicker. Bare in mind that the average "life-span" of an adult age-group triathlete is just 2 to 3 years (according to membership records) and it's quite easy to see how many people become disillusioned and are lost to this great sport after such a scenario. Don't let this be you!
Here's my top tips for ensuring you set your goals accordingly on race day and pace yourself efficiently:
  1. Do not base your perception of success on finish time alone. It could quite easily be argued that those who raced in 2006 and then proceeded to race much quicker in 2007, actually had a better race in 2006 - just that the conditions weren't as good that year. Of the 3 disciplines most affected by the conditions, the bike is without doubt the one that you have to watch when comparing average speed etc. If you really must compare times, make them on the swim and run sections and be a little more subjective with your bike judgement.
  2. Because of the above, its very hard to set target times or paces as we simply do not know what the conditions will be like. If you have a goal of holding 35km/h on the bike but then after the first lap realise that despite being sat in the right intensity zone you are actually only averaging 32km/h, you're going to become despondent and potentially despair at your performance. This is not very positive, is it?! Nowadays, I will only ever set goals like this with athletes who are using a power-meter on the bike or footpod on the run - these two pieces of technology allow us to set appropriate wattage and pace zones for the athlete irrespective of the weather conditions. As such, this technology is a fantastic innovation and worthy of your future consideration.
  3. We have spent 15 weeks working to increase your awareness of what Half Ironman "pace" feels like through subjective measures like perceived exertion (i.e. 7 out of 10) and through objective measures like swim and run speed or average power on the bike (if you have that technology). Remember that heart rate is a good gauge of your intensity (especially if you don't own a power meter), but that your heart rate is only a response to the workload you are putting out. Heart rate can also be quite variable with things like heat, dehydration and even race anxiety and as such is really only another tool for addressing your relative intensity rather than the total solution. You have done multiple long brick sessions in the last few months and as such should have a pretty good grasp on what the intensity feels like to race...and remember, if you feel like you're going too hard - you probably are!
  4. Rather than looking at your actual finish time as an "outcome of performance" you may be better off looking at where you place in your respective age-group compared to years gone by. Again this can be flawed by the fact that you don't really know how well your competitors have prepared for this race but this may be a better gauge, especially if you pick a broader "sample group" of say 5 to 10 athletes in your age-group who you have competed against previously.
  5. In the days now leading up to the race, have a go at these relaxation and mental imagery tips to help get your midn in tune with your body.
  6. And, at the end of the day, if you're confident in yourself and your training (and you have every right to be), all you now need do is go out there and give 100% (or should that be 7 out of 10?! ;-)) and know that "all's you can do, is all's you can do!"
"It's the taper period and yet I feel like poo!"
The final thing to stress at this stage is that you're probably feeling physically quite indifferent at this stage in the game. Some people immediately feel great in the taper period - others can feel pretty crummy. If you are the latter, try not to panic and realise that your body is simply going through a process of adaptation. So long as you keep yourself healthy in these last 10 days, keep hydrated and plenty of sleep, you'll come good!

Training this week:
Thursday AM - swim as usual at CCGS at 6am and 2nd swim at Claremont at 9.30am. PM - run at McGilvray - some short "sharp" intervals to give you a boost!
Friday AM - Anzaz Day 1500m Handicap Swim. Meet at Cottesloe Beach at 7.30am for a 7.45am start. We'll be doing a handicap "race" down to North Cott and back as per previous years. Lots of fun and a big Anzac cookie to be won for the first across the line. Bring your mates - this will be fun! No charge.
Saturday AM - brick session. Meet at Cottesloe Beach at the slightly later time of 7.00am. We'll be doing a 500m swim + 30km bike (including chance to practice a bidon exchange - very important!) + 4km run.
Sunday PM - rest day but details of a special BBQ to follow in seperate email!
Paul Newsome
Swim Smooth & Kirby Swim
+ 61 (0) 431 540 980
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