Well I have had absolutely the polar opposite lead-up to tomorrow’s race, in comparison to the lead-up to the Bribie Island Triathlon (my only other tri!)
I started my new job on Monday and although I had been warned that my first week would be insanely busy, I was not really prepared for the impact it had on my sleep, my eating, even how much water I have been drinking. My ‘taper‘ was more of ‘an abrupt stop to all physical movement’ which was also not what I had planned.
So I am trying not to freak out about how badly set up I am for The Straddie Salute. Instead, I am concentrating on the things I will be able to control from this moment of arriving on the island – yes I am here! We had a great trip over and the weather looks absolutely perfect; the Triathlon Gods are shining down upon me. It is a relief to have not missed the ferry and despite the recurring nightmares, I was pleased to see our accommodation had not burned down last night.
My focus for today is to eat all the carbs I can find in the local restaurants. God help the other triathletes who might be feeling peckish. I am hopefully in control of this final rest up and going to bed at a reasonable time (sleep is not under my control)
Oh, and the race day plan. I am in control of that, and I am trying to put all of my spare thoughts into it.
So what is there to plan about race day? Surely you just show up and do the things you have trained for!
Yes, there is that. But as a regular reader of this blog, you know how I like to over-complicate most things. So bear with me.
If everything goes to plan at the Straddie Salute, I should need just over 2 hours to complete the race. That’s not a terrifying amount of time, but it’s a bit longer than my average training sessions. And I know that the 8km run, which takes place on beach, boardwalk and stairs, will be extra tough. So for me personally, in this race, I expect to hit some kind of a line in the run.
What do I mean by a line? I guess it is a bit like the wall that marathon runners speak of. It’s a point, a line in the sand, a crossover – between feeling pumped and positive, going about the job I have trained for, into feeling drained, defeated, hurt, tired and negative. The line is where the mental challenge will kick in and attempt to override my physical abilities.
Why am I so convinced there will be a line? Because I’ve been there before – I even had a taste of it in the baby triathlon at Bribie. And I guess if there isn’t a line then I am not pushing hard enough. If I don’t reach a point in the run where my head starts telling me I have got nothing left, then I have held back too much. Because 2 hours of good effort should feel bad.
I expect to hit the line because an 8km run on beach and stairs and other unknowns at midday in Queensland should bring on all sorts of feelings of defeat, even if that was all I had signed up for. After doing a swim and bike as well, this run could feel quite epic.
I know that I will be able to trust in my training, to have faith that my body will be able to take me to the finish line. I know I am strong enough, not just to finish but to fight for the finish when the going gets tough.
But I don’t want to go into this with my head in a land of fairies, thinking everything will be fine. Two hours of pushing myself to my limits requires a plan. So a plan is what I have come up with.
The plan is split into two sections – before the line and after the line. In the unlikely event that there is no line, I will continue with the first part of the plan until the finish line.
So, before the line. The plan before the line encompasses the swim, T1 (transition one) the bike and T2.
First things first, I intend to swim steadily with minimal kicking and zero concern as to where I finish in the pack. This does not mean I plan to come last – it just means that I can’t freak out and upset myself when I inevitably realise I am towards the back of the pack. Swimming is not my strength in this sport, and mentally I have to accept that on race day. Race day is not the day to get faster. Race day is not the day to try and train.
My swim will be about mental focus, clarity and the burning off of my initial adrenaline, settling into a sustainable race pace and getting rid of the nerves. It will be all about channeling the Grimsey sessions I’ve completed and tackling the task at hand without undue panic.
Transition one will be my chance to take on significant liquids. I am not very good at drinking on the bike, so I must take advantage of T1 and get at least 300ml into me. I know that at Bribie I was so excited to get on the bike and try to make up some of the distance I’d lost in the swim, that I neglected to take on any water. This simply can’t be allowed to happen before a 20km ride and an 8km run.
The bike leg is what I have practiced hard over the last month and a half. I read that to get faster and stronger in my run, I must improve my bike leg. Seems weird, but the theory is that if you are bike fit, you wont feel drained after completing the bike leg. Basically, you use the bike leg to create the ideal conditions for a successful run. My legs need to feel as fresh as possible when I get off the bike, so I have trained hard on hills and doing intervals on the bike trainer to ensure my legs are strong.
In saying that, I hesitate to say that I’ll take it easy on the bike, because it’s only 20km and as I say, I’ve trained really hard on the bike. I don’t know the course but I hope that 20km will take around 45 minutes to complete. I plan to race on the little ring on my bike (preventing me from using low gears, which means my legs will be spinning on the flats) so that I can’t tire my legs out too much. The course is out and back to I should know by half way whether I can pick the pace up a little bit. What I must remember is that even saving 3 minutes on the bike by pushing harder can easily be lost when I get off to run and find that I have to walk instead, so if in doubt I must not push harder than I am used to.
I must try to take in a gel on the bike.
T2 is all about a quick transition and a few sips of water. I can’t run with too much liquid inside me, so all of my drinking should have been done on the bike.
Then the run. I expect that the first 1.5km will feel bad, but only because of the change in movements. I know I can overcome that mentally and if I can run a little slower for the first 4km I will be happy to do that, with the intention of picking up the pace in the second 4km. It’s not as easy as it sounds because the adrenaline will drive me to want to run as fast as I think I can.
The plan is to stay relaxed and grateful for the opportunity to be out there, controlling the things I can (such as maintaining good form and enjoying my surroundings) for as long as possible.
I don’t know when I will experience ‘the line’. But the entire first section of my plan is about ensuring that I am happy, relaxed and feeling good for as long as possible before I hit it. I know one thing, which I feel strongly about: I do not want to walk the run. I do not want to slow down in the run. I want a good run, I want a good finish. I have trained well and I can execute a good run. So I have to be sensible and do what I can to make sure I am ready when it gets tough.
Section 2 – after the line.
The line is decision time. Do I have what it takes to continue? I hope that with the strategy for section one, when I get to that question I will be able to say yes. Then I engage my mental fortitude. I have a number of things in my arsenal that I will be ready to think about to drive me on – certain people, some of my future goals such as Noosa, the things I did to get to this point, and beer. At the finish line, there is beer.
When I hit the line, I won’t be surprised and hopefully that will help me to talk myself through it. I will try to imagine Shane waiting for me at the finish. I will sing my favourite songs (in my head) and picture the fist pump I have been working on for my triumphant finish.
So the plan is set! I will go over it another 483 times this afternoon and modify as needed. But hopefully the basics are there to ensure success. In 24 hours, we will know…