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Late Season Racing & Training (Peaking)

Posted By: KP
Date: Monday, 24 September 2007, at 10:30 a.m.

One of the toughest things to do well in endurance racing & training is to peak for a late season AAA race. I see a couple of striking reasons for this.

1) the season is long. Most athletes who are focused on racing near personal best times or reaching specific goals (Kona slots, 70.3 Championship slots) invest significant time and effort in the first half of their season. It takes remarkable patience for motivated folks to realize the need for scheduled, built in recovery in early season. As well, it can be challenging to schedule a mid season break in an effort to lose all lingering fatigue before that late season push. There is a need to manufacture a late season peak while acknowledging how fragile health can be when we have lifetime best fitness. The difference between peaking early and/or being overcooked and arriving at your AAA race ready to PR can be as little as one week done too hard; maybe even one key workout where an athlete lays down lifetime best numbers.

When things are going _very_ well, it is often a good time to roll back efforts. Not many guys and gals are prepared to guard their fitness in this way. If we were to take a poll of endurance triathletes and ask them when their best ride and run of the year took place, how many of them would answer at their AAA race? Not many. (Jennifer, Toby and Rooter could answer "at my late season AAA race")

2) lets assume an athlete has navigated potential hazards on the way to peaking at his/her late season AAA race. Athlete arrives on fire. Objective and subjective markers lend credence to the quest for a lifetime best performance. What’s left? The biggie: execution. Some fall prey to goal inflation. Others experience the event excitement combined with peaking fitness and decide they are prepared to use a new paradigm. Resist the voice that tells you it’s okay not to eat or drink this hour. Stop yourself from riding prolonged HIM efforts in IM. Avoid the scenario where you think post race about traveling back in time to ‘change one thing’ that now seems so painfully obvious.

As well, using data markers from home (say SoCal) in Kona can lead to melt down. Flexibility is key. When I enter an IM, I have a plan. It is detailed. Within the first 60min on the bike I know whether that plan needs to be altered slightly. Perhaps I need to lower power expectations 5 watts due to weather, excessively high HRs or a lack of ‘pop’ in my legs. Perhaps my nutritional plan needs tinkering and the 26.2 mile run to come demands I slow for a bit. Consciously stay fluid, monitoring PE, HRs and power. Put your supercomputer to work. The ability to adjust by the perception of unfolding events must be learned in training. It’s not all power, it’s not all HRs and it’s not all PE. Experienced racers know they are facing hazards in each race; so when something ‘happens’ they are prepared to make changes. Stay committed through the dark parts of your race. As long as you are not lost – all is not lost. Giving in is a failure of the mind. In the event that true breakdown occurs, you must become resigned to your fate and make a new plan. True breakdown can cost you 30min or it can cost you 3hrs, depending on how you react to it. Your race will not be judged until it is complete.

Right now – as you approach your late season races -- what signs might suggest that you are in need of a few easy days (perhaps off days) instead of the attempt at cramming fitness? What happens to us when we carry excessive lingering fatigue toward race? The first things to get blunted over time are motivation and quality of sleep. The things we normally like to do seem almost uninteresting. As well, nutritional challenges suddenly present themselves. You might get tired of using your HR monitor or meticullously guarding your health. Give yourself a chance to do well by avoiding self sabotage. If you are feeling uneasy about your ability to remain objective, ask questions of a trusted advisor. Consider what is counterintuitive; you may need to take additional rest.

coach KP

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