by Mike Coughlin
Like many kids growing up, I participated in Boy Scouts. I learned many valuable skills from that program, but if there was one take-away lesson I remembered, it was their famous tag line to “be prepared." The value of this simple statement is particularly noticeable during race week.
I am not talking about fitness here -- as we all know, there is nothing we can do about fitness in the final few days. For me, race week preparedness is about controlling the controllable to free ourselves up to best apply our fitness and mental skills on race day. The following are some of the things I do to prepare.
- Rest - I don’t get much sleep the night before a big race, so I arrange to be on site and under-scheduled several days before a big event, and I give myself permission to sleep as long as I want, which can be a lot!
- Tinker with my bike - This is another task I enjoy doing several days before the race, when there is still time to resolve issues. I’ll admit my bike gets neglected a bit during my biggest training, but boy is it ever pampered during race week. Confidence in my equipment carries through to confidence in my plan.
- Prepare my race nutrition plan - I have gone so far as to calibrate the feeling in my hand of squeezing an exact amount of concentrated sports drink into my aerodrink bottle for mixing with water. Knowing that my plan (and backup plan) has been meticulously prepared gives me great peace of mind.
- Study the weather - One of my best performances relative to my competition came on a day when the weather was unseasonably cold in the morning. I accepted the reality that it was going to be cold, took the time to pack (and put on) appropriate clothing, and was rewarded with the ability to pace appropriately and digest my calories when many others rode hard to stay warm and had their stomachs shut down.
- Mentally rehearse my event - Visualization is the real deal. Taking time to mentally rehearse my ideal day is a big part of race week. I also go over how I will handle setbacks, since the ideal day rarely comes.
They say that the hard work is done before race week. However, race week preparedness can go a long way to getting the most out of that hard work.
Mike is an Ontario-based, long-time triathlete and coach with experience at all distances, including a second place at the 2011 Ultraman World Championships as well as multiple ironman finishes. To learn more about Mike, you can visit his personal blog.