Race Strategy: 5 Tips for Staying On An Even Keel
Countdown to IM Lake Placid: Blog #5 of 6
(2 days to go… ahhh!)
All the training is done, but the choices that you make during the event can really make or break your race. Remember that in a race as long as an ironman there is no such thing as a perfect day. It is not a matter of if something will go wrong, it is a matter of when. How you manage these obstacles will ultimately affect your race outcome.
Here are my 5 tips for race strategy:
Your fitness level dictates what pace you can sustain over 140.6 miles. Throughout all the training rides and runs you should have this effort level dialed in. Unfortunately, with the excitement of race day, the freshness in your legs from the taper, and the roar of the crowd, many people seem to forgo this pace and hammer away. I’d be willing to bet that 80% of the entire age group field rides the first 1/4 to half of the bike at too hard of an effort level, which always leads to a slow run split. Trust me, I know. If you can even split all the disciplines in the ironman, you will likely produce. Is this easy? Hell no. I’ve never been able to accomplish it, but I am going go easy on the bike, keep the effort level where it needs to be, and let people race on by.
Nutrition – type
Stick with what you have been training with and what works. Now isn’t the time to listen to your buddy who suggests some new product that will lop 1 min/mile off your run pace (plus it is just marketing bs anyways). If you have been training with sausage egg and cheese mcmuffins (you’re completely nuts) — stick with the same routine on race day. That said, coke on the run might as well be a cure-all and may have the power to boost your pace by 2 min/mile in the closing stages of the race (but a warning: once you start taking coke, don’t stop because the sugar/caffeine crash is equally dramatic).
Nutrition – amount
Additionally, far too many people take in far too many calories during this race. You should have an idea of how many calories you will take, but you must be willing to make adjustments on the fly. If you are starting to feel bloated, by all means back off the food/sugar. Your body doesn’t know what what calories/hour is, all it knows is that it’s having trouble processing the food in your system. On the flipside, if you are feeling great, now is probably a good time to take in a few more calories (rather than pick up the pace).
Guess what? At some point during the race you are going to feel like utter crap! The good news is that likely within 15 mins you will feel unstoppable. So it goes in long distance racing, your moods and attitudes will change along the lines of the old proverb regarding weather in New England: “Don’t like the weather? Just wait ten minutes.”
Undoubtedly you will feel the gamut of a emotion throughout the day, from feeling like the king of the world, to at the bottom of the deepest pit of despair, often flip-flopping in 5-minute increments. However, I find mood a great indicator for nutrition. Whenever I start to feel sorry for myself out there, it is not because my day is falling apart. Rather, it usually indicates I need a bit more sugar in the tank.
By all means soak up the energy of the crowd and let them propel you forward (especially at the end of the marathon). You earned the right to feel like a rock star just by showing up at the start line. Just don’t get too carried away with your pace and remember that it is a long, long day.
And to everyone racing Lake Placid on Sunday, best of luck and enjoy the scenery! You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful course.
P.S. Say hi if you see me.