This is a fantastic topical question as we start the racing season. In fact, as I write this I am preparing to travel to Nottingham for the first Outlaw event of the year and I’m sure I will witness many athletes who encounter just such a problem.
Struggles on the run can occur for two reasons: Missed opportunities in training, and incorrect race day strategy.
In training many athletes focus solely on their aerobic fitness, and yet in races they are very rarely challenged by this. Being out of breath and unable to maintain a pace does not happen very often in 70.3 distance events. More likely the back, hips, quads or hamstrings tighten up, the stride length shortens, and stride frequency drops. At some stage the athletes may even slow to a walk. Run volume might help to address this, but I also like athletes to spend time in the gym strengthening these muscles, and then working on mobility and stability. Having robust bodywork will enable the engine to keep working at optimal levels.
The second issue could be with an athlete who runs up to the race in good physical condition, having completed all the training outlined above but with a poor (or no) race strategy. They swim and ride just a bit too hard (even 5% is enough) and then run out of gas halfway through the run. Nutrition plays a part too, and not having a nutrition plan or forgetting about it in the excitement of the bike will compound this.
Finally, there is mental strength. For all athletes, there will be a point where they have to dig deep. Some athletes have the tools to deal with this and others are less prepared.
Here are my tips for keeping it all together on the run on race day:
- 1.Do 10% less swim, bike, run training and prepare your body with regular, frequent mobility, stability and strength work
- 2.Have a bombproof (and realistic) pacing strategy that allows you to manage your weaknesses and play to your strengths
- 3.In line with your pacing, prepare a nutrition strategy that will help you to maintain your goal pace
- 4.Work on your mental skills in every training session. Visualise your race and have a plan B if either your nutrition or pacing strategies starts to unravel.