September 22, 2010

Go Local to Get Good

It’s 6:35 a.m. and I’m treading chilly water with one minute until the horn sounds the start of my wave… and the true launch to my racing season.  With nine weeks to go before Ironman Arizona, this morning’s hometown Olympic distance race is perfect to get some much needed race practice and an objective look at where I stand in race fitness.   All whining aside, especially when the alarm goes off at 3:45 a.m., low priority training races are an invaluable part of my training program.

Nothing prepares you for racing like racing.  If you can find a triathlon you can use as a practice race then do it.  If not, running races, organized rides, and open water swims can do the trick.  Here are a few key reasons why training races need to be part of your plan:

  1. Emotional fortitude:  The energy of the crowd at registration and starting line will crank your heart rate.  Just like a training ride, staying calm and focused on race day is simply easier the more we practice.  Experience matters.
  2. Crowd control:  Navigating through hundreds of people in open water, finding your gear in transition, grabbing nutrition at aid stations are all things that can only be done in a race situation.
  3. Test your fitness:  Racing gives you one of the best measures of your current fitness and a great way to make gains…it’s impossible not to push just a little harder with all those people around!
  4. Get organized:  There’s nothing like going through registration, pulling your gear together, and setting up in transition on race morning as a drill to being organized when the key race comes around.  Remember, today is all about training and this is a good time to learn about the gaps in your race day plan.

Since there’s no set time for incorporating training races into your plan, just keep in mind that you won’t need a full taper and keep the training race distance manageable since you’ll need time to recover.  The purpose of these events is to prepare for your key race – not to PR, not to kill it.  So check your ego at the registration table, rehearse your race plan, and enjoy the day.

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