Shifting from ITU to long-course racing? Here are the short steps you need to take
By Kaye Lopez
Long-course racing is a test of patience. Make a plan based on your performance in training and B-priority races as well as the course profile of the actual race. If your recon rides and runs start out easy, don’t be tempted to hang with the faster guys when they come past. Reign in your horses and stick to your pacing plan. If you’re feeling good, that probably means you’re going too fast. Slow and steady wins the race because it allows you to tap into your fat storage for fuel instead of your limited supply of carbs. Save those carbs when the end is near so you can tap into that last surge of energy for a strong finish.
Be On Time
The best time to top up on carbs, fluids, and electrolytes is on the bike. Stick to your tried-and-tested eating plan and set an alarm on your watch or smartphone if you have to. Your digestive system can tolerate more food while riding than when running so take advantage of the more or less three hours you spend on the bike to refuel properly. Continue refueling during the run leg according to what you practiced in training.
Divide the run leg into three or four parts and be sure to start at a relaxed pace. You should be able to speak in straight sentences if someone were to talk to you; you should be in control of your breathing during the first third or quarter of the run. There’s no need to make it tougher than it will eventually be later on.
Take advantage of each and every aid station on the run course especially on a hot day. Whether it’s water, sports drink, gel, or banana, you need to constantly replenish your nutrition and hydration needs. You’ll be losing a lot of electrolytes through sweat when racing in humid weather. As early as the day before the race, lightly salt your food and sip on sports drinks throughout the day. Include some salt sticks in your race-day nutrition and special needs bag so you have enough in your stash in case you need it.
If your legs start to feel heavy and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hold on to your pace, don’t lose hope. If you stuck to a realistic pacing plan, you may just be going low on fuel. Just ease off the pace a bit and take on some calories. As long as you didn’t go out too fast for too long, you can definitely find your legs again. While riding, if aches and pains start to creep in, especially on your neck, shoulders, back, butt, and crotch, get out of the saddle to stretch and shift your saddle position often. You can delay or lessen the onset of soreness if you remember to do this early in the ride, even before any pain sets in.