Executing race week

Updated: Jul 26, 2019

We have over a dozen athletes with their goal race still coming up later this year and I felt now is a great time to talk about how to approach race week from training to nutrition to the mental game to logistics. During race week no gains can be made - but silly mistakes can set you back.

Athletes that have worked with Organic Coaching for years know how important race week training is. For any longer distance (Half Marathon - IRONMAN) the goal of the week is to shed the final fatigue and keep the system firing with a little intensity and very little volume. It’s that simple. Your body is ready and nothing will be gained doing more than planned. Nowhere have I ever seen so much of the opposite of this than at the IRONMAN World Championships - race week panic training by the fastest amateurs on the planet. Morning after morning I witness athletes doing way to hard of intensity for far to long of a duration on Ali’i Drive, nothing is gained and even more is lost.

Running down Ali'i Drive

Nutrition during race week should be very similar to your standard diet with a with a few minor adjustments - such as a slow carbohydrate build mid week (to top of energy stores) and cutting back on fiber (to have a near empty digestive system on race day). Many athletes travel to their goal event and may find themselves eating less familiar food close to something they have planned for all year. This increases the chances of gastrointestinal distress due to multiple factors. For athletes traveling far from home I suggest doing all in your power to stick to what you know. Driving to the race? Pack your staple foods. Flying to your goal event? Get a room with a kitchen/kitchenette where you can prepare your food. Eat what you know so you can perform how you know you can.

I have talked about visualization in the past and will bring it up again talking about race week. Thinking about being successful on race day will have a great positive impact on your race. During race week you are not doing a lot of training so take advantage of the extra time and visualize your race day execution. Think about how you will execute the day - from the moment you wake up to the final kilometers of your race. Racing a marathon? Visualize how you will nail your pacing, dodge the poor pacers and make the final 10k a PR effort. Racing an IRONMAN? Take yourself through the course part by part including the hurdles you may encounter. When training for my first Xtri - AlaskaMan (IRONMAN distance in extreme conditions - cold and rainy - and tough terrain) I knew there was a very good chance I could see a whale or at very least a sea otters while swimming and a bear on the run. I’ not going to down play this - it terrified me. I spent substantial time visualizing the chance of the encounters race week, this left me feeling much calmer on race day then if I did not visualize the possible experiences.

Finally there is the actual logistics of race week. This is as simple as know the course and the race schedule. Big races are often very well marked but it is still important to know the course. Depending on how early you are able to arrive, drive the course if possible. If the course is drivable note the surface condition and elevation change. It’s one thing to see it on a map and another to see it in person. A good example is the 2016 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships course I drove days before the race. There was a big decent into a 90 degree right hand turn. On race day I am descending at 40mph/65kph with everyone else and an athlete passes me like I am not moving, 90 seconds later he is literally slamming into hay bales IRONMAN had stacked up at the bottom of the descent. IRONMAN also talked about this during the race briefing - that was on the schedule. Know the schedule of events from sign up to racing to awards. You have worked hard to get here so don’t leave anything to chance, give yourself plenty of time to sign in, go to athlete briefings and get to where you need to be on race day. You worked hard for this, be early so you are not rushed.

On race week the work has been done, enjoy more time resting and getting ready for your big day!