Now that we are heading into the heart of racing season, I thought it might be a good time to pass along some general racing tips, observations and mental notes from a racing career littered with train wrecks.
The Ten Minute Rule
I’ve found that within the first 10 minutes of any race I pretty much know what kind of a day I’m going to have. Will it be a death march or will it be a victory lap? I can usually tell right at the start of a race.
It mostly has to do with power. Do I have it or do I not have it? When I have it, I know I’m going to push myself as hard as possible to the finish line. When I don’t have it, I’m almost positive I’m staring down a double barred death march.
For me power, or lack of it, is easiest felt on the bike.
Have you been on a long bike ride and bonked? You can almost tell to the very instant when you lose it. One minute you are riding along at 20 mph and all is fine and the next minute, perhaps after a short climb or sprint, you can barley push the bike past 12 mph and your legs feel like they just turned to stone.
Forget about getting out of your seat, climbing, or even sprinting. They might as well put a fork in your legs as they are officially cooked.
It’s that reserve of power that I search for in the first 10 minutes of my race. And either I have it, or I don’t. It’s that simple.
We all know that we’re never supposed to try anything new on race day. And yet, because of curiosity or circumstance, we all decide at the very last minute to give that new thing a go with terribly predictable results.
For instance your buddy might casually suggest (just before a race) that she just read in "All About Triathlon", the hottest new Tasmanian Tri magazine, that applying Oil of Olay face cream between your butt cheeks provides great lubrication and keeps your butt baby soft and fresh.
You tell her that she’s crazy and by the way, does she happen to have some? She does. You apply it and halfway through the race you notice that the heat and friction of butt cheek rubbing against butt cheek has turned the Oil of Olay into a frothy and fresh new type of shaving cream.
It’s just too bad that it is now brewing, growing and bubbling past your pants. And too bad as well that you don’t have a razor as you are sure you would get the closets butt shave or…and yes you can tell that it has now worked its way forward...wax of your life right about now.
I had something similar to this happen to a friend of mine during a half marathon. They gave us some sort of powdered power drink mix which he decided to add to his camel back water.
The constant shaking, mixing and jostling as he ran caused this stuff to turn into some sort of toxic gastric distress aide which caused him the biggest anal explosion this side of North of consuming a bad Mexican mystery burrito topped with the a huge glass of local H2O from the rusty faucet of the dirty kitchen sink.
I’ve pretty much given up on using any technology during a race. I only use my watch to time myself against the official clock but that’s about it. There are two reasons for this. One is the official reason, and the other is my real reason.
Here are both:
Official Reason: There is a real and very valid school of though that basically says endurance athletes have become too demanded on technology. Instead of listening to their bodies, they watch their Garmin, Polar, or Timex. They race based on what the watch says and not what the body feels.
This means that they are potentially limiting their race performance by holding back to a given heart rate or pace. The reasoning goes on to say that you should instinctively know what your body is telling you and race based on that info and not on you watch.
My Reason: I have a hard enough time just starting my watch at the start of a race. In fact I have often forgotten to start my watch as I’m waiting in the water for the starter’s gun.
The thought of strapping on a heart rate monitor and making sure that is talking with my watch, or getting my Garmin to find a satellite during a transition (I can’t wear it during the swim as it is not water proof), or making sure to zero my bike computer before the bike is just all too much.
All too often I find that my technology gets in the way of my race. I remember running the Los Vegas marathon with my new heart rate monitor. Except that my monitor kept picking up the signals from all the Polars on during the run.
I did not know this was possible at the time so I spent more time trying to figure out why heart rate kept jumping up and down like a rabbit on Red Bull and less time actually racing.
So for now I just listen to my body and hope that I remember to start my watch and put on my chip.