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Performance GPS – Rock Your Next 70.3 With This Race Guide

The triathlon season is coming to a close, but a lot of you still have your A race on the horizon. For the last several months you have been putting a lot of your disposable time into training. You may have had to take time off work or time away from your family to get it all in. Your hotel is booked, the car is gassed up, and your body is primed and ready. But we all know the caveat to long course racing is the unpredictability that goes along with it. However, with the right race plan, you can make sure to control all the controllable variables and find your way to the finish line with minimal detours.

With that, here is a tried and true race guide to get you to the finish line of your next 70.3 with a smile on your face (pending you did the work leading up to the race). Not every detail is there for your specific ability level, but you can easily adapt this plan based on the recommended effort levels. I am sure there are some little details missing, so if you think of anything else, drop us a comment below to let everyone else know!

Friday – Travel

Double and triple check you have packed everything, and then make a list of the things you will have to buy when you get there, if any. Don’t hesitate to make extra stops on the way to stretch the legs. Make sure you are hydrating.

Friday Night

Get to bed early, you won’t be sleeping well Saturday night…just trust me. Eat a balanced meal. Lay off the high fat, high sugar stuff.

Saturday

Get in any training you need to early and take the rest of the day easy. Don’t get caught up walking around a ton at the expo and in the city. Make sure you get all your gear checked, organized, and checked in. Course recon is always a good idea. If you are racing a hilly course, ride the biggest climb to pick your gearing and feel it out. You can always ride the run course in the small ring as well to scope it out. Get your bike [and bags] to check-in if required. If not, hold onto that thing as long as you can…just in case.

Saturday Night

Don’t get caught up with “carboloading.” It doesn’t do you any good because your body can only store so much glycogen. Just eat normally, but nothing super greasy, fatty, or out of the ordinary for your diet. Stay away from eating too much meat, since it takes much longer to digest. Make sure you are hydrating! Try and stay off your feet and get to bed early. Make one last check of your morning gear, and set it all out so you don’t have to get it all together in the morning. The more things you can have done tonight, the better.

Sunday Morning

Need to get up with enough time to eat, use the bathroom 4-5 times, get to your bike to check it out, pump up the tires, put your food and fluids on your bike, set up transition, get body marked, do a quick active warm up, get into your wetsuit, and get ready to ROCK! If you can get in the water and do a short warm up that is more ideal than just going for it with no warm up at all.

Keep your transition area as uncluttered as possible. It will save you a lot of time. Don’t forget where your bike is. The brain gets loopy coming out of the water in oxygen debt.

For breakfast, stick it to your normal morning meal. I usually do a larger breakfast for long course, in the 600-800 calorie range. It works for me, but you need just enough to top off the glycogen stores. Make sure you get it in within 2 hours of the race start. Have another 100-200 calories an hour before. Make sure you are hydrating all morning with both water and sports drink. Go heavier on the sports drink. Can’t overdo electrolytes on race day.

Swim

Unless you are back of the pack, try and line up toward the front if possible. It’s always better to be swam over than to have to swim over people. Trust me on this. This is also the best way to find some good feet to follow and get a draft. Make sure you are sighting every 8-10 strokes. At the turns, only breath to the side the buoy is on if possible. It will speed up your turn significantly. The first little bit is always rough, but once you get some clean water, just settle in and focus on technique and sighting. Lots of racing to go!

When you exit the water, bypass the suit strippers. Get your suit halfway off while you run. Goggles and cap as well.

T1

Get in and get out! As soon as you get to your stuff, get that wetsuit off. The only thing you should have to do after that is put on your helmet, shades, and shoes. Socks are optional for 70.3, if you’ve trained without socks. DO NOT eat in transition unless you know you have an iron stomach.

Bike

Spin the legs out the first 5 minutes in the small chain ring. Start drinking fluids immediately, since you just went a while without drinking (clean water anyways). Shoot for 1-2 bottles an hour on the bike. 1 is the absolute minimum. If it’s warm, you will need more. If it’s hot, you will need a lot more. Go heavier on the electrolyte drink than water. Make sure you are eating something every 30 minutes, BUT don’t take your first solid food until about 10-15 minutes into the bike. We want to let the HR settle in before we start taking in solids. We want to take in a minimum of 300-350 calories per hour on the bike if you don’t have a previous nutrition plan. If you can take in more, go for it, because it’s always harder to take in sufficient calories on the run. DO NOT FORGET TO EAT AND DRINK! If you have to set an alarm or something, do it. This can and will determine your overall performance.

Overall effort on the bike is an upper Z2 and Z3 [Z2 for full iron]. Try to avoid threshold (Z4) or higher spikes. You should at no point start getting a burn going unless you are on a climb and can’t avoid pushing. Try and stay in aero any time you are going 15 mph or faster. If you are going less than that, you can sit up. If you need to sit up to stretch, don’t sweat it.

DON’T FORGET TO EAT AND DRINK! Did I mention that already?

Stop eating within 15 minutes of getting off the bike. But continue to drink.

T2

In and out! Hang the bike, swap the shoes, and get out. You can carry your number and hat with you and put them on as you run. If you are carrying your nutrition, I’d advise you to put it in your pocket before you start the race. That way if you need extra on the bike, it’s there. Then you can just pull off the course on the run if you know you can handle what the course offers.

Run

DON’T GO OUT TOO HARD! Take it easy, in fact, you should be running about :30-1 minute slower than your goal pace out of T2. You will build up to goal pace over the first 1-2 miles. Don’t start eating until you get your HR settled in. After that first feeding (should be about 10-15 minutes in) you need to be eating at least once every 45 min. 150-200 calories per hour minimum. Stick to sports drink on the run as well. If you are eating gels, you can get some water in with those to wash them down. BIG TIP: If you have never used the sports drink they have on course, dilute it with water.  If you ever feel like you are hungry, you need to eat immediately! If you have to slow down a little bit to have lunch (that’s a joke), you are better off than trying to run hungry. If you start to feel cramps coming on, nip it in the bud. Take down extra electrolytes, or go for the chicken broth if its there. If you are just feeling fatigued, go for some coke. The simple sugars and caffeine will get you back in the game.

Don’t be afraid to walk through the aid stations. This gives you time to get in as much food and fluids as you need. It’s better to walk 30-60 seconds every mile or so than to walk the last 6 miles.

Once you get to the halfway point, do a self check and see if you can up the pace at all. Do the same every mile after 8. When it hurts, and it will, think about technique and how good it’s going to feel to finish. If you get really down, pretend each mile marker is the finish line and throw your arms up in victory at every mile. Sometimes you have to ninja the mind to get the body to cooperate.

Once you are within the last mile, it’s whatever you have left. And don’t forget to put your arms up at the finish line. Gotta get a good picture!

Bonus Tips:

Don’t get into your wetsuit too early. You can easily dehydrate yourself sitting around in that hot box. It’s also a pain to use the port-o-potty in those things!

Make sure you check your shifting the morning of the race. Put your bike in the small chain ring and an easy gear for the start of the bike leg. Let your legs spin out at a high cadence for the first 5 minutes or so to get the muscles firing. Then follow your race plan.

Don’t forget your flat kit!

Put a water resistant lube on the arms and legs of your wetsuit so you can get out of it quickly. TriSlide works great.

Checklist

  • Bike
  • Bike Shoes
  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses
  • Cycling Gear – for workouts
  • Running Gear – for workouts
  • Swim Trunks – for workouts
  • Racing Kit – For race day
  • Socks
  • Running Shoes
  • Hat
  • Bottles
  • Wetsuit
  • Flat Kit
  • Extra Tubes and CO2s
  • Garmin
  • Goggles (bring more than one pair if you got it)
  • Nutrition and Drink Mixes
  • Disc or Race Wheels (optional)
  • Bike Pump
  • Race Number Belt
  • Towel
  • Sunscreen
  • Your Inner Beast

 

If you would like to see how BPC can help you execute a solid race plan, don’t hesitate to contact us.

How to Master the Recovery Week

First of all, if you have been training for any amount of time and are not familiar with what a recovery week is, I have to ask…how’s your training coming along?

Without giving the body time to rest, recover, and rebuild, the body will never adapt to the training stress you are putting it through. This is why we often times refer to a recovery week as an adaption week. If you never take time to fully recover, you will continuously either run at a lower performance level than you are capable of, or you will train yourself into a deficit that will force the body to take recovery by way of illness or injury. During our initial assessment of a new client’s past training regimen, we often find that a well planned recovery week was either non-existent, or not executed correctly. More times than not, we see big performance gains after the first scheduled recovery week. On more than one occasion, an athlete’s very first week with us has been a recovery week.

At the same time, there is a state of being too rested. We pretty much refer to this as detraining. To perform at a high level, you have to balance the stress of training (and don’t forget life stressors), with the right amount of recovery. For those that use TSS and the performance management charts within TrainingPeaks or WKO+, most people have their peak performances with a TSB (Training Stress Balance) between +10 and +20. This is not the case for everyone, however. Most younger athletes fall in the lower TSB values and older athletes might need to see a TSB of 25+ for a few days before they knock out a stellar performance.

With that, here are some tips on how to correctly execute a recovery week:

Plan them in advance – Most of the time, if you do not set them ahead of time you will forget about it. Before you know it, you have gone through 6 hard weeks of training with little to no real recovery. At some point, the quality of your workouts fall so much, you are wasting your valuable training time.

Stick to the plan – Regardless of how good you feel or if you missed a few workouts the weeks prior, DO NOT skip your recovery week. The only time we allow athletes to change a recovery week is if the week prior was basically an early recovery week due to life circumstances.

Cut your volume by 30-40% – The rule of thumb we use is that a recovery week should be about 30-40% of the duration of the largest training week in your last block. Again, doing too much or too little can derail your recovery week. Too much slows or negates your recovery. Too little can result in detraining, or at the very least, hurting the quality of the workouts once you get back to training normally. DON’T DO NOTHING!

Intelligent Intensity – Intensity can increase your training stress exponentially. Short bouts of exercise can be as hard on the body as super long duration activity. We generally treat a recovery week much like a race week. We assign just enough intensity to keep the body primed and preserve our top end fitness. All high intensity intervals should be short, and followed by lots of recovery. Keep a little intensity in every other or every 3rd day.

Rest week doesn’t have to mean 7 days – Yes, it fits into the training calendar very nicely. But, if you are a younger athlete, or you are a time crunched athlete doing minimal volume, a lot of people can recover in 4-5 days. If it fits better in your life to do 7 days, it doesn’t hurt to have those 2 extra days of low intensity exercise. We often times use the end of a recovery week for testing, which keeps the weekly volume and overall weekly workload down.

Ease up on the running! – Running is tougher on the body compared to most activities, so during a recovery week it is best to cut the number of runs you do that week. Take at least 1 extra day off from running, with a minimum of 2 runs during the week. As a side note, just because you are running less, doesn’t mean run a faster average pace. Faster pace means higher impact. Save the fast pace for a couple pickups during these runs, enjoy being active, and you can let your feet fly the next week.

Recover every 3rd or 4th week – Again, this is just a rule of thumb that holds true for most of our athletes who have normal family and work lives. As we get older, its harder for us to recover from training, so most athletes who are 45+ fair better with a recovery week every 3rd week instead of every 4th. Younger athletes, and those with flexible schedules can usually push the body for 3 weeks before needing a recovery week.

Take a day off – There are those that fair better training without a weekly rest day. Others have to have one in order to have more built in recovery. On a recovery week, you should have at least 1 full day off. If you already have 2 or more off days built into your schedule, just stick with those days.

Take the mental break – This might be the most important for those with hectic schedules. Take the week to be extremely flexible with your training. If you don’t feel like training on a given day…don’t. Just move that day to an assigned off day. Don’t let training be a source of mental stress this week. Cover the Garmin, or leave it at home! Spend some extra time with your family. Go on vacation. Whatever! As long as you don’t do nothing all week, you won’t lose fitness. In fact, you will ultimately gain fitness!

Hopefully with these tips, you can start planning and executing your recovery weeks with great precision. Remember, if you never recover, you never adapt. If you never adapt, you never improve.

Trust Your Training

 

To find out more about how BPC can help you better balance your training stress to produce great results, give us a shout!  Performance is our business. We are here to help!

Athlete Race Report: Bennett Isabella – Marathon to Machu Picchu

Thanks to BPC athlete Bennett Isabella for the great race report. And an amazing performance! 

Peru race report, Marathon to Machu Picchu

Readers Digest Version

Time started: 4:00AM

Miles traveled: 27 miles

Time lost in the dark: 26 minutes

Thorns still stuck in my arm at the end of the race: 4

Total elevation change: 20,000ft

Offical time: 7:07:42, 1st place, new course record, wishing I had not got lost and went sub 7…

 

Generally our travels revolve around a race.  Last week in Peru I ran the marathon and Jess ran the 30K. This was along the ancient Inca trail and it was one of the most beautiful races I have ever done.

This marathon is bid as “The World’s Toughest Marathon,” and after doing it I have to agree.  These are terrible running adventures to go on because you are with a group of people who have done all sorts of other races in the world and your bucket list keeps growing as a result.  After the race a few people who had done the North pole marathon, the Mt Everest marathon, the Great Wall marathon, etc., said this was definitely the hardest they have done.  The Inca people did not believe in switch backs. If there was a mountain in front of them, no matter how steep, they just went straight up it. There were thousands of giant stone steps on this course and the path was paved with big rocks that had been placed into the dirt making each step a choice on where you wanted (or did not want) to land and each downhill a stairway that if you fell were guaranteed at minimum a fractured something.

We stayed in camp the night before at the base of some Inca Ruins just a few kilometers inside of Machu Picchu National park.  We woke up at 2:00AM so we had time to eat, and get ready and hike a couple kilometers to the start line.  The marathon starts at 4:00AM because the gate to get into the area of Machu Picchu closes at 3:30PM. With an average race time of 10-11 hours, all the time is needed.

Two days previously I went on a run/hike trying to get up to the Glaciers I could see off the balcony of the hotel where we were staying. We almost made it before we had to turn around so we were not stuck on the mountain after dark.  That days accent was 4088 feet within 8.9 miles. Normally not recommended 2 days before a difficult marathon but it may have been a once in a life time opportunity so we had to take it.   It left my hamstrings pretty tight but overall I felt okay.

At 4:00AM it is completely pitch black, with absolutely no lights except the ones we had.  I had my Black Diamond head lamp with 90 lumens showing me the way and I started off feeling strong.  I went right to the front keeping a conservative pace but putting a little distance between me and the next person.  The race starts out on a dirt path with little streams every couple hundred feet to jump over, and the beginning is all up hill.  I felt good and kept my pace going as I was coming up toward what I thought must be the top of the first climb.  It was still dark when I crossed over a little wooden bridge and saw a path going straight and one going to the left with no signal to which was the correct one.  I thought the one going straight looked more used so I took it…going the wrong way.  In the dark with only a few feet of light in front of you its very hard to make a decision with such limited data.  The first indication that I might have chosen wrong was when I noticed a bunch of Yellow Eyes staring at me.  I had run into a cow pasture.  In most races this would be a big indication of something wrong but I had passed some donkeys, dogs, and cows on the path already so I went around them and the path turned very narrow.  I ended up running through a bunch of thorn bushes, got turned around, and ended up at the bottom side of a cliff next to a stream.  I decided to try and make it back to where I had come from and eventually wound my way back to the cow pasture.   At this point I found another racer. After a few minutes we found the correct trail. In my state of complete frustration, I took off fast and furious after losing over 20 minutes of time and bleeding in multiple locations.

I got to the next check point where I had a good down hill for a few miles to make up ground.  By this point it was getting light and I could let my legs loose.  It was uneventful for a while until we started the accent up to “Dead Woman’s Pass.”  This accent went up tons of uneven stone stairs.  About half way up I passed everyone that was in front of me and was in first position.  As I got closer and closer to the top it was extremely hard to keep going and a couple times I bent over on all fours on the steps and had to stop so I did not throw up as we got up to 13,799 feet.

After getting over the top you can see the trail going just as steep down for a very long time.  I could not really catch my breath so I started to descend as best I could with only half breaths.  At the bottom of this trail, the worst part is you immediately start the next climb which is even steeper and may be even more difficult than the first.

 

About half way up I started climbing with one of the local porters.  He was a younger guy and he was fast.  He had a 25 kg pack on his back, and he was wearing sandals. He was flying.  I just tried to keep up with him, even though being near him made me feel like a complete wussy because I had only a couple handhelds and a small camelback along with trail shoes.   I could tell he liked the challenge of keeping ahead of me so we ran for an hour and a half together.  I could not believe how smooth he was going down those dizzying rock descents in sandals, never missing a beat. Once we got to the aid station at Phuyupatamarca he stopped to rest and pointed me onto the last portion which was mostly down hill.

Along the trail there are 6 large archeological sites, a couple that you run right through. Quite amazing scenery.  After running all these stones and stairs I got good at picking my spots and could see them a few steps ahead of time.   The trail for the last few miles is a little easier with some patches of dirt to run on which felt ohhh so good by that point.  There is one last stair case that is straight up which I took on like a monkey using my hands to pull me up to the Sun Gate from which you get to run mostly down hill to Machu Picchu.

It was an amazing finish. As it opened up you saw only the amazing ruins in the Andes Mountains of Machu Picchu.

My official finishing time was 7:07:42, good for first place and a new course record even while getting lost.  I was pretty dang happy about that.  The best time previous was 7:13.  If I had not gotten lost I would have been under 7 making it look really cool, but hey that’s part of adventure racing.

Start Walking To Go Longer, Faster

There is an ongoing debate on the usefulness and legitimacy of using run/walk intervals in one’s training and racing. It seems like some people think that if you have to walk, you didn’t really complete the distance. Jeff Galloway would give you a haymaker if he heard you talk like that.

If my memory serves me right, I thought the objective was to get from point A to point B in the least amount of time possible. I believe most amateurs are more than capable of doing their best scratch marathon or shorter distance race without walking, but ultra marathons and marathons within an Iron distance triathlon are another story. This becomes less of a battle of fitness, and more of a battle of fatigue resistance, impact reduction, and smart nutrition. Oh, and some mental toughness. But that’s a whole other topic.

But the pros don’t walk! You are only mildly correct. Depending on the distance and difficulty of the course, many pros run/walk in their training. But, just as a reminder, here are the reasons why they are pros:

1. They have a natural ability to perform at a high aerobic level
2. They have an affinity for vast amounts of pain and suffering
3. They have much more time to train and RECOVER from training
4. The are fast enough that they are only on their feet 50-60% of the time that an average amateur is
5. They have fewer outside stressors that affect their ability to train and RECOVER

We constantly get people coming to us training for ultra distance events. Many of them have in the past hit the duration milestones, nailed their pacing during training, and then fell apart on race day. There are a ton of things that can go wrong in an ultra distance event, but the 2 major killers are poor fueling and fatigue.

The fact is, very few people will do the mileage of an ultra event before race day. One, because its not safe. Two, because most people don’t have the time to train that much. And three, it would take weeks to recover from such a workload.

By utilizing a run/walk schedule, you can help fight ultra performance enemy number one and two! The impact on the muscles during each and every ground contact causes tiny tears that are a major source of muscle fatigue. By taking periodic walk breaks, your body gets short recovery periods, much like not pedaling on a bike. At the same time, walking with long strides actively stretches out the working muscles and helps preserve their elasticity, thus helping reduce damage. In our own athletes, we have noticed much smaller regression rates in pacing for those utilizing run/walk for runs over 90 minutes.

The other performance enemy is poor nutrition. By taking short walk breaks we can better plan and time our nutrition. The walk break is a reminder to eat/drink. When we are constantly running, it is very easy to forget to eat and drink…and it is very easy to get behind on our nutrition. Choosing specific walk intervals to eat and/or drink on ensures you are getting all the necessary nutrition you need to keep your fuel, water, and electrolyte stores topped off.

At the same time, when our heart rate increases, digestion tends to shut down. This means that the food we are putting in is just going to sit there. In the realm of poor nutrition I am grouping in GI issues because stomach problems are usually a result of poor nutrition timing, meaning eating when the effort is too high. Over long duration, our heart rate will increase for the same perceived exertion due to the phenomena known as cardiac drift. One of the reasons many people go exclusively to coke toward the end of an ultra distance race is because their heart rate is elevated regardless of their exertion level, and their body will only tolerate simple sugars. Anything that takes more effort to digest will just sit there and likely cause GI distress. As you walk, you can easily take in nutrition, and more of it. As your heart rate drops, your body will more easily digest the foods you are taking in, which means you won’t fall behind and suffer the dreaded bonk.

But doesn’t walking mean I am going really slow? What is worse? Running half the race and then walking the rest because you are fatigued and/or bonking, or taking walk breaks and maybe sacrificing 30 seconds per mile on your overall pace. Given the unpredictability of ultra distance events, along with the sacrifice and work put into training for one, I would rather take the safer bet.

Thanks to my high school algebra teacher, I can still do equations. Mrs. Pinion would be so proud. She would also say “math never contradicts itself, it only reinforces,” which I find useful because I am about to do just that.

Using the equation:

Combined Pace = (Run Int +Walk Int)/((Run Int/Run Pace)+(Walk Int/Walk Pace))

We can see that some very respectable paces are possible. Keep in mind the distances we are discussing here.  Most people can walk a 15 min/mile pace, but it obviously depends on the course. The example highlighted in red was done to show an athlete how feasible it was for him to break a certain 100 mile course record.

Run Interval Walk Interval Run Pace Walk Pace Combined Pace
00:07:30 00:00:30 00:07:30 00:15:00 0:07:44
00:07:00 00:01:00 00:08:00 00:15:00 0:08:29
00:08:00 00:01:00 00:09:30 00:15:00 0:09:54
00:07:00 00:01:00 00:09:30 00:15:00 0:09:57
00:08:00 00:00:30 00:08:00 00:15:00 0:08:13
00:10:00 00:01:25 00:07:00 00:15:00 0:07:29
00:10:00 00:01:34 00:09:30 00:15:00 0:09:59
00:10:00 00:11:25 00:08:45 00:20:00 0:12:29
00:07:00 00:01:00 00:07:30 00:15:00 0:08:00

 

Now lets compare this to running half of an iron distance marathon, and then walking the other half. Say your goal pace is an 8:30 mile. If you run half the marathon at that pace and then crash and walk the rest. Or lets say you crash and get yourself back together so you only walk about 2-4 miles of the marathon. More equations were involved but I will spare you this one.

Run Distance Walk Distance Run Pace Walk Pace Combined Pace
13.1 13.1 00:08:30 00:15:00 0:11:45
20 6.2 00:08:30 00:15:00 0:10:02
22 4.2 00:08:30 00:15:00 0:09:32
24 2.2 00:08:30 00:15:00 0:09:02

 

So would you rather sacrifice 30 seconds per mile and take your walk break every 7-10 minutes, or hope you don’t have to walk more than 2.2 miles of the run? In our experience, the ones that don’t end up being forced to walk usually qualify for Kona and have run a sub 3:30 off the bike. But in case you are wondering, there are those who have qualified for Kona using run/walk.

Still not convinced? Try the calculator below for yourself. Please excuse our primitive calculator. Although I can handle mathematical equations, I am not a computer programmer. Just in case you don’t know, you can multiply your minutes by 60 to get the number of seconds and vice versa. (i.e. 10 min = 600 s)

For more info on how a run/walk schedule could get you to the finish line faster, give us a shout.