The week leading up to a big race can be stressful even more stressful than the race itself. At this point in your training there is not much you can do physically to improve your times, but there is a lot you can do to hurt your times. Here are the top three things you should do during your triathlon race week, and three things you should never do the week before a big race:
- Always…train at race pace. When I say this, I am not telling you to do 5x1600m repeats at race pace, but I am saying that the week before the race is a perfect time to really nail down your pacing and how your pacing feels. While you should have been doing this throughout your training, now is the time to perfect it. Since you are not going to be able to check your watch every 100m during your swim (unless you stop at a kayak or buoy), being able to feel your pace is essential. The week before do 2-4 swims where you include about 5x200m at your perceived race pace with a good amount of rest. Check your times after each one. Ask yourself honestly whether you think you would be able to maintain that pace for the rest of the race distance, then come out of the water relatively fresh to tackle the bike. If the answer is “no,” then slow down. These are not sprints and you are not doing them to get a good workout in! They are there to help you get the feel for your effort and keep your body sharp and snappy even though training volume is reduced.
- Always….test out your race gear. You have all heard the expression: “Nothing new on race day.” While there are a few exceptions to the rule, goggles, wetsuit, and swimskins are not among them. Make sure your goggles are not leaking and your wetsuit still fits and does not start chafing after the first 500m.
- Always…pack. Especially if you are traveling to the race, do not procrastinate on getting your things in order. Since you most likely will have some extra time on your hands because you are not training as much (or shouldn’t be), use that time to check and clean your bike, do laundry, lay out everything that you need for the upcoming weekend. Leaving it for the night before will most likely lead to forgotten goggles, race wheels, or running shoes (I am personally guilty of all of these).
Now you should never do these:
- Never…make up training (also known as training out of fear): As I said before, there is not much you can do in a week to improve your race times. Doing extremely long swim distances or extended threshold work now will only leave you tired and fatigued before your race. Even if your preparation was not what you expected, now is not the time to try and overcompensate for it. Your fitness is what it is and you should be comfortable and confident in what you were able to do.
- Never…completely change your diet. Now is not the time to become a vegetarian, go Paleo, start including grains (or take them completely out), or begin a crash diet. Such radical changes in diet will stress your body out. Even if your weight is not your goal “race weight” trying to shed extra pounds in a week is not a good idea. It can wait till after the race.
- Never….skimp on sleep. Yes, you are nervous and yes, you have some extra energy, but do not sacrifice your sleep. To have an effective taper, you need your sleep to allow you body to absorb the training you have done. Without it, your training will be for not.
The taper week is tough, but do not sink your race because your emotions are going nuts.
Train (and taper) hard,
Coach Chris and Kev