Race strategy is something that I have had in the past but not something I focused on. My typical race strategy would have been get through the swim, maintain heart rate on the bike and then run and try to negative split the run. As with most race strategies that are not detailed this meant absolutely nothing because as soon as I was in the water I would fire off the line as if my hair was on fire. With that I would typically lose steam within the first 400 meters and then have to just get through the swim as best I could and then regroup after seeing a disappointing time on my watch. Not a great way to race. Allow me to say that this race strategy has been for 70.3 distance races or less because an Ironman is just a different animal altogether but I’m sure Maria is reading this and saying: no sir you will have a race strategy for Ironman Texas.
When you register for a race do you go into it thinking about race strategy? Maybe strategy comes into play as you see how your training is going? How about having a fall back in case the initial strategy falls apart on you? These are some of the questions that I ask myself before hitting register as well as in the weeks leading up to the race. My race strategy, I have always thought, should not just include that specific race but also how it plays into the grand scheme of things. For example, if I am running a 15K but the ‘A’ for the year is Ironman Texas then giving everything I have to that race doesn’t make sense if it is within one month of IMTX but race strategy would be different if that race is in January. Clearly there are different scenarios under which you would operate and having a clear ‘A’ goal is going to benefit you in determining how that race strategy is going to be developed and executed. This is where, for me, it is imperative that I have a coach. Left to my own devices I would register for every race and run every one of them as hard as I could i.e. 2012 where I finally burnt out by the time Ironman Arizona came around.
Working with Maria and John means that the previous race strategy is out the window and a very detailed strategy is in place. During our time together we have been in contact with each other on an almost daily basis whether it be through our bi-weekly conference calls, Facebook, Twitter or email. I have essentially turned anything relating to triathlon over to them. This means that just about everyday from December 10th until May 18th has been tailored around Ironman Texas and that includes race strategy for 70.3 San Juan this weekend. When Maria, John and I first met we discussed my goals and the conclusion was that IMTX 2013 was the A race and that everything we did was going to focus on that day. Racing San Juan was in the cards but it would be with the mindset that if the race did not go as planned in terms of time that if I executed the race strategy that I would not hurt my ability to get to my goal time of 11:15 or less in May.
Over the past 3 months I have chronicled my experiences with each training session as well as my metrics (weight, body fat%, water %, muscle mass) and this is to help them determine what was happening to me as I was going through their prescribed sessions. I also have been far more detailed in how my body feels during the training, how much sleep, how my home life is going and just about anything else you can think of. This all culminated in putting pen to paper for a race strategy for this Sunday.
I have a goal for this race but it really doesn’t matter. I want to race as hard as I can yet focusing on the strategy and heart rate zones. This includes where my heart rate should be on the uphills as well as the downhills of the bike and run. We discussed where I should be setting up in the water for the swim and how to approach those first 200-300 meters and then adjusting for the rest of the swim. I am a detailed person so knowing, and having, all of this information is making me happy. If I follow the numbers then I will execute the race strategy perfectly and should finish within a time of ………..
Here is my race strategy for Sunday:
Swim Race Strategy:
Set up on the outside of the swim, which means to the left, and at the front. When the gun goes off swim the first 200-300 meters at a mod-hard to hard pace. Having done set after set after set of different paces and knowing what that mod-hard should feel like I do not need to guess what I am doing in those first few moments.
After those first 200-300 meters, which will be easy to know because it will be somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd buoy I will ‘drop’ my speed down to a steady state. At this point I will start to angle toward the first turn buoy which will be a right hand turn. Staying steady around the second turn buoy all the way to the finish will provide me with an expected swim time of 35 minutes. If I swim this race in 35 minutes I will have gained 6 minutes of my time from last year.
Bike Race Strategy:
I have always tried to race the bike section conservatively because I have wanted to keep my legs fresh for the run but that is mostly because I have been scared about my fitness and whether or not I could have the run I wanted. With the plan that I have laid out I do not have to worry about the run. Why? I do not need to worry about the run because I am on the bike. Part of the race strategy is to race in the moment and not worry about what is coming up and certainly forget about what just past.
On the bike my first 3-5 miles are to be raced in my Z2 heart rate zone and then inch up to be between 148bpm and 150bpm. This is about 10-15bpm faster than what I raced last year at and I finished in 2:46 last year. The key though is not just the average rate but also not to exceed 155bpm on the uphills. This will keep in in a steady state that will allow me to race without blowing up. Of course I have to remember that the 155 will not show up while going up the hill but will show up within 30 seconds of the finished climb.
I do not have a time goal for this section of the race but if I am able to execute the race strategy of 148bpm and 150bpm then I should finish within 2:40 and 2:45 but of course heat and humidity will be a factor. That being noted I am charged with getting two bottles of liquids into my system for every hour so we are looking at 6 bottles. Since I will only carry two bottles, with concentrated calories, then I will have to grab bottles off the course which I have never done in a 70.3 but I am ready and I know this will help me stay hydrated and get to the run in the best shape I can be to race the 13.1 miles.
Run Race Strategy:
As I mentioned earlier all previous 70.3 races were to run and try to negative split the race. This is very difficult to do because you have wear and tear from the swim and bike on them and temperatures change over the course of two hours. Taking note of where my training runs have been and what we want to see happen in terms of recovery so that I can get back to IMTX training our race strategy is being split into 4 parts.
The reason we have 4 parts is that San Juan is a double out and back so you have 4 ‘separate’ legs of the run. The first leg I will be running in the 148-150bpm range followed by legs 2 and 3 in the 155bpm range. Finally the run home will be in the 165 range. With uphills I will hit 155 in leg 1, 165 in legs 2 & 3 and 170 in leg 4. Following this should set me up for a finish in the 1:50 range which is 7 minutes faster than last year.
Do You Incorporate Race Strategy Into Your Yearly Training Plan?