by Mike Coughlin
I love to strategize, and like many triathletes, I have dreamed up countless ways to out-think the competition on race day. However I know deep down that time spent strategizing is almost always better spent improving my fitness. Luckily, there is a way to do both at the same time: the race simulation.
Race simulations are workouts designed to practice specific elements found in a goal race. When preparing for longer triathlons, race simulations are often the longest workouts of the season, and are important for improving overall fitness. However, simulations can also be used to test different race strategies and determine what works and what doesn’t. The following are a few areas where race strategies can be practiced in training.
- Nutrition: What, when, and how much to eat and drink before and during a race can be quite difficult to determine, especially if the only time you get to practice is during the race itself. Race simulations, complete with the dreaded 4 a.m. wake-up call, can really accelerate the learning curve.
- Warm ups: This is more important for shorter events, but how you warm up can play an important role in whether you make that swim pack that you are shooting for without ruining the rest of your race.
- Pacing: Proper pacing can be a struggle for beginners, intermediates, and even many advanced athletes. Simulating the swim and bike demands of their goal races can help athletes develop realistic pacing strategies that provide the opportunity for a strong run (within 3-5% of their open run times for the same distance).
- Pace Changing: Once an athlete has achieved success at self-pacing an event by finishing with a strong run, it is natural to question whether pushing certain sections of the course harder might yield a faster time or a higher finishing position. By simulating a race environment in training, different pacing strategies can be evaluated, especially with intelligent use of lap courses and training devices such as the GPS and power meter.
Getting the best competitive result we can is the result of both fitness and strategy. Race simulations provide an excellent opportunity to develop both.
Mike is an Ontario-based, long-time triathlete and coach with experience at all distances, including Ultraman Canada and Hawaii. To learn more about Mike, you can visit his personal blog.