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Survival of the smartest!

30 June - 2016 - by

Your result at a 70.3 will not only be determined by your fitness and form (in other words your race readiness according to training peaks), in fact race execution is the most important aspect of the 70.3 distance. You need to race smart to cross the finish line in the fastest possible time.

You can’t control race day conditions – there may be wind, a choppy sea, huge waves, humidity, sweltering heat or pouring rain. You, and every other athlete in the field, have to deal with the conditions on the day as they are. Don’t allow these factors to dominate your thinking, instead focus on the two most important aspects of race day PACE and NUTRITION – both of which are fully within your control.

Our data from 70.3 EL and IMSA show that racing smart leads to faster times. The statistics show us that Wingman athletes outperform their peers on race day – not because they are faster from the get go, but because they race smart and finish strong. So, how should you be planning your race to ace it?

Smart Swim Strategies: Find someone to drag you to your bike
Your swimming goal should simply be to feel great after completing the swim and to be excited to ride your bike.

There will be a self-seeding rolling start which means you get to seed yourself according to your expected swim finish time. There will be race officials holding boards up displaying finish times. Seed yourself 5-10 minutes faster than you think you will finish in order to swim with faster swimmers which will lead to better drafts and no slow swimmers in front of you.

Consider the swim as merely a warm-up, unless you are trying to podium or qualify for the World Championship. I generally recommend a 6/10 effort all the way – stay aerobic at all times. Never swim a pace that you cannot sustain for 1900 meters and never venture into anaerobic territory.

The swim is all about getting behind the waves, finding a good draft, getting into rhythm, and concentrating on your sighting. A fast swim time can lead to a slower run – save your energy for later in the day when you need it most.

Best Bike Tip: Hold back to set up your run
Not many athletes are aware that your HR will be the highest of the day in T1, when your body makes the transition from swimmer to rider – that point in the race where you are excited from nailing the swim and you hear people shouting your name. Use the first 10 minutes on the bike to get your HR lower. Taking in nutrition while your HR is sky rocketing can cause GI stress later on the run – so only start eating when you HR has gone down to Zone 2-3.

Your goal on the bike should be to fuel and hydrate well and to stay in Zone 3 at all times. In a 70.3 race you ideal HR should be between 75-85% of your threshold (take note – your threshold not your Max HR). Aim for a cadence of at least 90 RPM, and NEVER put the hammer down – you will pay dearly for this on the run.

The 45-75 km stretch is the most crucial in terms of nutrition. Great time to fuel now. It is easy to lose concentration here, but keep the focus on your pace and nutrition and hydration plan. Avoid solid foods in the last 25km – finish your bike bottles here.

Put ego aside, and resist the temptation to chase other riders – if you manage this feat, you will see them walking the last 10km of the run when you are flying.

Rad Run Tip: Make your last 5km is your fastest 5km of the race
Your goal on the run should be to build your race and finish strong. Most athletes are dreading the start of the run due to hammering the bike. The few athletes who did bike smart, usually proceed to ruin their race by starting the run way too fast. Fast will feel slow because your sense of pace is buggered – you have just biked on the freeway so 4:30m/km run pace feels slow – but it isn’t.

To race smart, break your run down into five segments:
1st 5km: Make sure this is your slowest 5km of the day. Watch your pace all the time. Just turn the legs.
2nd 5km: Build on your first 5km, increase the pace slightly and find your rhythm
3rd 5km: Start turning the screws tighter – but keep focus
4th 5km: This is a tough stretch because you need to turn on the heat even further, but this period usually comes with a dark patch you need to get through. Fight the urge to falter, bring your toughest mental tenacity to this part of the course … your end is now in sight
1.1 km of glory: If you have race smartly up to this point, you will have a bit of gas left to try and smash you 1km PB and finish like you are in a mad dash for the title! The sweetest victory of your 1km glory dash is watching the limping athletes who passed you on the bike struggle to the finish line.

Smart race parting thoughts
If you only remember one thing – don’t go out too hard and fade later in the race. Finish strong. If you ride too hard you WILL blow up on the run – it is proven every weekend at 70.3 races around the world.
The three most important areas of your focus should be:
Pace your race – race at sustainable and consistent pace from start to finish – don’t surge and drop.
Race YOUR race – don’t engage other athletes, especially early on the bike. You may feel like a tortoise for holding back, but you know what happens to the hare.
Ace your race – your dream time is best achieved through smart racing. Maintain your focus on the strategy, not the seconds!