Race rehearsals are a great opportunity for you to practice everything heading into race day. Join coaches John Mayfield and Elizabeth James as they give tips for testing your gear, nutrition, hydration, and pacing during these preparatory sessions. John and Elizabeth also overview RaceX’s race-execution tools that you can use both in your rehearsals and during your race. Be ready for the starting line by making the most of your next race rehearsal!
TriDot Podcast .076:
Rock Your Next Race Rehearsal
Intro: This is the TriDot podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile, combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We’ll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let’s improve together.
Andrew Harley: New show today! And today will be invaluable in helping you make the most of a very, very important training session. We’re talking about race rehearsals! You only get two of these each Race Prep Phase and making the most of them will help you enter race day with a plan, ready to rock and roll.
Joining us for this conversation is Pro Triathlete and Coach Elizabeth James. Elizabeth is a USAT LII and Ironman U Certified Coach who quickly rose through the triathlon ranks using TriDot--from a beginner to top age-grouper to a professional triathlete. She is a Kona & Boston Marathon Qualifier who has coached triathletes with TriDot since 2014. Elizabeth, thanks for joining us!
Elizabeth James: I can’t wait to talk about race rehearsals! I know that our listeners can’t see it, but I’m wearing my sweatshirt that says, “Race Season is my Favorite Season.” And if we’re talking about race rehearsals, that means we’re approaching race day and race season!
Andrew: Next up is Coach John Mayfield. John is a USAT Level II and Ironman U certified Coach who leads TriDot’s athlete services, ambassador, and coaching programs. He has coached hundreds of athletes ranging from first timers to Kona Qualifiers and professional triathletes. John has been using TriDot since 2010 and coaching with TriDot since 2012. What’s up, John?
John Mayfield: Hey. Yeah, I don’t always get excited about topics, but for some reason, race rehearsals is one of those that I do. I don’t know why, it doesn’t really make sense. But, yeah, it’s one of those issues--or not issues, but topics--that I love to talk through. I love race rehearsals. As a coach, I love working with athletes through their race rehearsals. So, yeah, excited for today’s topic.
Andrew: I love when the race rehearsal is over and you go get a smoothie after. That’s my favorite part of the race rehearsal. I am Andrew the average triathlete, voice of the people and captain of the middle of the pack. As always, we’ll roll through our warm-up question, settle into our main set conversation, and then wind things down with our cool down. Lots of good stuff. Let’s get to it.
Warm up theme: Time to warm up! Let’s get moving.
Andrew: One of our TriDot Ambassadors, Kevin from Calgary, Albert, Canada, recently posted a fun picture of a toy t-rex attached to the back of his tri bike. He said, “This is Rex. Rex has been in over 30 triathlons, including Ironman Canada and the age group Worlds. He’s logged over 50,000 kilometers on the bike and he always gets lots of compliments when we’re out riding. Does anyone else train and race with a partner?” So, today as we talk about race rehearsals...Elizabeth, John, if you were going to attach a mascot or a partner to your bike to tag along with you on race day, what would it be and why? Our current example is a t-rex from Kevin from Calgary. Elizabeth, what would it be for you?
Elizabeth: I would say...my mascot would be a lion. So female lions are the hunters, and since I’m a slower swimmer, I’m always kind of hunting while I’m out on the bike, looking for opportunities to better my race position headed into the run. So I’m going to go with a lion as my mascot.
Andrew: Do you currently have a toy or a plush lion of sorts or would you…
Elizabeth: I definitely don’t. This was on the spot what am I going to say to answer Andrew’s warm-up question. Maybe a sticker of a lion?
Andrew: The lightest form of a lion mascot possible. The sticker version. The most aero.
Elizabeth: I’ll start looking for a lion sticker.
Andrew: We can get behind that. I can get with that. John Mayfield, what would you put on your bike?
John: That was a quality answer there. I wasn’t thinking of that. So Kevin’s story actually reminds me of--this is totally off topic and doesn’t answer the question--but his t-rex...years ago, prior to working for TriDot, I was a banker. I had a career in banking and this was like way back in one of my first banking jobs. I came back from lunch one day and on my...this was way back in the day before flat panel computer monitors. This was back when we had the massive tube thing. There was a toy dinosaur, kind of like the one he has on his bike on top of my monitor. It had a pen down in his mouth. I have no idea where it came from, but that dinosaur stayed with me for a couple years while I was at that bank and then I moved to another bank. I was there for 10 years and that little dinosaur was on my desk for my 10 years at that last bank. Currently that same dinosaur with the same pen stuck down in his throat (unfortunately, sad for him) is still on my desk.
Andrew: You don’t say? Who knew that John Mayfield would get sentimental about a toy dinosaur pen on his desk.
John: He’s been with me for years and years and years now. I guess maybe I should take him along.
Andrew: He deserves it.
John: I guess as a triathlete my bike is kind of my work space. So maybe that works. Not quite along the same lines as Elizabeth’s answer, but that’s my t-rex story.
Andrew: When I first saw Kevin’s post, I thought that’s super fun. That’s super cute. I would never do that. I was thinking practically, you know, I wouldn’t want something extra on the bike in the wind. I wouldn’t want something adding weight to the bike because of it, but when I started thinking about what I would put on the bike: 1) where he had the t-rex positioned it was right on the back of the bike. So it’s already behind your body and out of the wind.
Elizabeth: So still aero.
Andrew: Still aero. It’s not increasing the drag at all. So when I found what object I would do, I started buying in to this concept. So I...I’ve never talked about this on the podcast. I am a huge Pixar junkie. I love Pixar movies. I love Disney animation and their movies. In another life my dream job would be to be a producer, be a writer, be an animator at an animation studio making films. We, my wife and I, we’re in our 30s and we’re adults and we go on opening night any time there’s a new Pixar movie in theaters because I just nerd out on those. I have on my desk--kind of like you, John--in my workspace I have this little plastic Toy Story aliens. I have a little plastic Toy Story alien. It’s right here in front of me as we’re talking. It’s maybe two and a half inches tall, two inches wide. It’s not very big. So I was like if I position it where Kevin positioned his dinosaur it’s out of the wind. So now it comes down to weight. What weight am I adding to my bike? So I weighed my Toy Story alien. Here’s the results, guys: this little plastic Toy Story alien toy weighs 19 grams. So to cross reference that with other things I carry while I’m on my bike--the Science and Sport gels that I use, I have one in my back pocket per hour that I’m going to be on the bike. Those are 70 grams each. My Garmin unit--I have one of the smaller Garmin units. It’s the Garmin 130. It weighs 33 grams. My Pedro’s Tire Lover that is in my bike flat repair kit weighs 21 grams. And I don’t think twice about carrying any of those items with me on the bike. I could have three of these Toy Story plastic aliens on the bike with me and it would still weigh less than one of the gels I’m carrying on course.
Elizabeth: I love how you actually weighed all that.
Andrew: So am I actually going to put my Toy Story alien behind me on the bike for Ironman Texas, my next race? I’m not sure yet. But I’m quite confident that I could and have no ill benefit from doing so. That’s my pick. That’s what I would do if I were going to do this.
John: The next time we have Jesse Frank, the Win Tunnel Engineer on…
Andrew: We need to ask him!
John: We’ll see what the implication of adding a little alien to the back would be on aerodynamics.
Andrew: I think he would get behind that question. He would love to get in the Win Tunnel and study that, I’m sure.
John: And I did not know that about the Pixar stuff. So I learn something every time we podcast.
Andrew: Love those movies. Toy Story 4 forever. It’s great stuff. Hey, we’re going to throw this question out to you guys in social media land. Go find us on Facebook, the I am TriDot Facebook group. This question will be there. If you were taking a mascot or partner a little buddy out on course with you for your next triathlon race, what would that mascot be? Yep, can’t wait to hear your responses.
Main set theme: On to the main set. Going in 3…2…1…
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Andrew: A key training session leading up to that big A race is the race rehearsal. These sessions allow us to practice race day pacing, fueling, and equipment weeks before the big day arrives and we are out on course. You get one shot at race day. So having training sessions that allow you to head into race weekend with a race execution plan is invaluable. John, what is a race rehearsal and what makes this such a key session leading up to a race?
John: Race rehearsals are training sessions that are done typically within the TriDot training. They’re prescribed two weeks and four weeks out from race day. The intent of these sessions is to duplicate race day as best you can and then test everything so that we know we have a well-thought out, well vetted plan as we head into race day. All these other sessions prior, they’re all about training, gaining fitness. But, to a certain extent, we do a certain amount of testing even within those sessions. Like your nutrition. We want to dial in your nutrition, especially on those long sessions. But the race rehearsal is a little unique in that that is the focus of that session is to test everything so that you head into race day with a plan that you can be confident in. That you know that works. So primarily we’re going to be testing pacing. We’re going to refer to RaceX, even throughout here. Exactly what wattage, what heart rate are you riding in? What pace are you running? That’s critical to dial that in prior to race day. In addition to pacing, as I mentioned, nutrition is critical. What is your nutrition protocol? Every long session is a great opportunity to dial that in. Your race rehearsal is where you confirm that that protocol is going to work for you. So what is your nutrition? How much per hour? All of that. So really testing your nutrition. And then things like gear. What are you going to use on race day? Don’t let race day be the first time that you test that out. So what helmet are you going to wear? Are you switching from a road helmet to an aero helmet? How does it feel? Does it fit?
Andrew: How does it feel for a long time?
John: Exactly. Is it comfortable for 4 or 5 or 6 hours? What kit are you going to wear? Is the kit comfortable for all that time? Is there chaffing?
Andrew: Is the chamois in the kit comfortable for that amount of time?
John: Exactly! Where do you need to apply the lubrication? That sort of thing. Or do you need to scrap that and wear a different kit? Everything else. What are you going to put on your bike? Are you changing out your wheels? Do you have race wheels? We want to make sure the brakes don’t rub. Are the brakes wide enough to transition from your training wheels to your racing wheels? Anything like that.
Andrew: Is the Toy Story alien going to stay on or did you attach in a way where it’s going to fly off?
John: Exactly. So that’s the kind of questions you’re going to ask. What am I going to do on race day and is it going to work? You don’t want race day to the be the first time you’re testing all this. So that’s the intent and purpose of these race rehearsal sessions is to test everything so that you head into race day confident that your fitness is there, you have your pacing, your nutrition, your gear, all of that is spot on and you’re going to go in and knock out your race.
Elizabeth: As John mentioned, race rehearsals are these great opportunities to practice everything headed into race day. What I think sometimes gets overlooked as athletes are testing their gear, nutrition, pacing, is that there’s still a lot of great training benefit from these sessions, as well. Certainly, yes, we’re practicing, but these race rehearsal sessions are often some of the longest session durations headed into race day, as well. So it’s often your longest bike rides. There’s going to be both rehearsal and training benefit from it. So you get to practice everything, but then you’re still building fitness headed into race day.
Andrew: Athletes will quickly notice these sessions are bike and run only. Why is that the case if we’re trying to rehearse for a swim-bike-run race? And why is the bike portion of the race rehearsal significantly longer than the run portion?
Elizabeth: Great questions here. This is primarily because of logistics. I mean, goodness, the logistics of the swim can be especially difficult. Gosh, I mean, being honest, sometimes the logistics of just getting in a single swim sessions challenges me.
Andrew: Particularly open water.
Elizabeth: Right! Yeah. Open water, trying to find the availability. But, really, the logistics of doing a swim session prior to your race rehearsal bike and run aren’t always great. It’s not always feasible. So open water may or may not be available by the bike route that you’re going to do. So now we’re working with a really long day if you’re working on swimming somewhere and then transport yourself and all of your gear to a different location. It’s not as easily set up oftentimes, as it would be on race day for you, for that smooth transition from one sport to the next. We need to train the next day. So you’re working with a really long day there, and then we have the bike and the run because the next day you’re still going to be training. So while there may be some benefit to doing swim-bike-run, all three disciplines for the race rehearsal, it would also come at a cost. So we really need to consider what is the value? What is the most that we can get out of this training sessions and this rehearsal, while still not interrupting our build into race day, as well. So a lot of the reason that we’ll see just the bike and the run is from the logistics. The swim pacing and nutrition are different and almost somewhat separate. So you’re not going to have nutritional intake on the swim segment. The salt water that you swallow in the ocean swim doesn’t count. Hopefully, you know, that’s very minimal. But the bike pacing and the nutrition are critical because they really set up the run. So the bike rehearsal is going to be near or at the full duration of the bike to see how we can set ourselves up for the best run.
Andrew: Yeah, I’ve heard our founder/CEO Jeff Booher say before that the swim is almost the prelude to the rest of the race. It’s just the box you tick off and then from there it’s really all about the bike. So that’s where we practice that almost full distance on the bike to really get the feel for what that’s going to be like and what running off it is going to be like, as well.
John: There’s a couple reasons why we do at or near the full bike. As we mentioned, the bike is critical. Not to understate the swim and the run, but really the bike segment sets up the bike and the run. If you mess up the bike, you mess up the whole race. What we see very common is our athletes that over-bike and then end up walking...you don’t have a run at that point. There is no run--it’s a walk. It’s a really long walk.
John: If you mess up the bike, you mess up the bike and the run. If you mess up the run, you’ve just messed up the run. So we really want to make sure we get the bike segment right. As Elizabeth mentioned, the swim is largely separate from that. Another reason, as she mentioned, is we need to do training the next day and the day after. We can do the full distance on the bike and still train thereafter, just because the bike is not as taxing. The training stress is not as high as it were if you were doing the full distance on the run. So you can go and do the full distance on the bike, test everything, and then have that 40 to 60 minute run off the bike, which is still going to be sufficient to test your pacing, the nutrition, the gear, but you’re not going to have that huge NTS score of doing a full marathon off the bike. That would sideline you for several days if you did the full distance on the bike, full distance on the run. That’s really going to impede your ability to train thereafter. And those training sessions within 4 to 5 weeks within race day are really critical. Within that 40 to 60 minute run off the bike, you’re going to know at the end of that how the rest of the run is going to go. If you’re dying 40 minutes in then you made mistakes that need to be worked on. If at 40 to 60 minutes you’re feeling good and feel like you could keep running for a lot longer then that’s when you know you’ve done things right.
Andrew: So what about athletes that view a 70.3 as a race rehearsal for an Ironman? They say, “I’ve got an Ironman coming up so I’m going to put a 70.3 on the schedule one month, two months, three months out.” Or maybe an athlete doing a 70.3 and they put an Olympic on the schedule a few weeks out. Can these serve as a race rehearsal, as well? Or is that totally something different that shouldn’t be considered a race rehearsal?
John: This is something I view as a common mistake. It’s one of those things that is almost intuitive or suggested, I would say, simply because...oftentimes when we talk Ironman distance races we are talking about Ironman races. Ironman loves to host a 70.3 three to five weeks prior to a full. So you would think going and doing that half distance race would be a great set-up for the Ironman race. In reality, I would say that’s a mistake. You also mentioned doing one two-three-four months out. That’s going to be different. That actually is a great opportunity to do a half when your training load is similar to what you would experience in that race distance. So when your long session on the bike is somewhere around 56 miles, that’s a great opportunity to go race a 70.3 and utilize that training and fitness to double up.
Andrew: But it doesn’t make it a race rehearsal?
John: Right. I think of a race rehearsal as a dress rehearsal for a play. When a cast is doing a dress rehearsal for a play, they don’t do just the first act. It doesn’t do them any good to rehearse the first act and leave off the second. And that’s really where Ironman becomes very different. Racing for 112 miles is very different than racing 56. Running a marathon is very different than running a half marathon off the bike. So if that’s all you’re doing, if that’s all you’re experiencing, you’re not truly setting yourself up. You’re not really rehearsing for what you’re going to expect. So if your nutrition protocol works for a half, that’s a great start. That doesn’t necessarily mean that same protocol is going to continue for work for really better than twice that duration.
Andrew: That’s very true.
John: It’s a great experience. It’s great to go see the venue. There’s value in that. But these race rehearsals are very important in that we want to truly duplicate those race conditions as best we can. So we really do need to ride 112 miles or 56 miles in these race rehearsals to truly test everything. Same thing like you mentioned, a kit that’s comfortable for 56 miles may or may not be comfortable for 112. You don’t want to find that out on race day. The other implication of doing a half in those last couple weeks is typically we’re going to taper into that race. Then you race a 70.3, you’re going to be a couple days down recovering from that race. When we’re 3 to 5 weeks out from Ironman, as I mentioned before, every single training session becomes very important. Those are critical sessions. Those sessions are either going to be missed or diminished by that 70.3 So chances are you’re going to back off a little bit. Maybe it’s not a full taper. But you’re going to at least back off for at least 3 to 5 days headed into that 70.3. And then again, at least 3 to 5 days of recovery afterward. So, effectively, that one 70.3 costs you 10 days of very high-value training time. What is the benefit of that toward your Ironman? I would argue pretty low to where it’s one of those cost-benefit trade-offs. I would say ignore the suggestion that Ironman perhaps is making to race the 70.3 and the full. I would say especially this is even more so for the first timers or those with less Ironman experience. Those that have their legacy qualification--they’ve done it 12+ times--chances are they know. They’ve got a better feel for what their protocols that they’re testing race after race are pretty well dialed in. It’s still important to test because things change. But I would say for those people, they can get away a little bit more so, but I would say especially for those first, second, third time--these are critical sessions that we don’t want to compromise.
Andrew: Along those lines...I haven’t done an Ironman yet...I’m at the point where I’ve done several 70.3s. Each time I do a 70.3, each time I bike that 56 miles and run that 13.1, my body gets...it’s like I’m more and more used to doing that distance. 56 miles on a bike used to sound insane to me. Now it’s a very normal distance for me to ride. So when we do those over time, we hit those race distances over time, we adjust to it. I also want it to be known, though, John, that you made...I love the analogy of the dress rehearsal for a play, for a theater performance. So I want to let it be known that the Mayfield children are fantastic theater performers. That’s their extracurricular activity of choice. So John using that analogy is 1) a fantastic analogy for a race rehearsal, but 2) is a very sentimental nod toward the Mayfield kids and what they go through in their own theater productions. So I see what you did there, John. Nice little shout out.
John: Speaking from experience.
Andrew: So most athletes are placing multiple races on their calendar at the start of the year. Those races can take place at very different times in our season. They can be very different in their distances with everything from Sprint to Ironman. Talk to us about how the approaching race itself affects what the race rehearsal workout calls for.
Elizabeth: Yeah, so we’ve got a variety of distances that we might be racing throughout the year. The Sprint and Olympic races are going to be very similar in duration to those weekend brick sessions that we would see on our calendar. So, essentially, each weekend there is an opportunity for a race rehearsal. But they wouldn’t necessarily be designated as such until we really get into the 70.3 and full distance. That’s where you’re going to see those specific race rehearsal sessions prescribed. Regardless of the distance, whether it’s the Sprint or the Ironman, what you would do during a race rehearsal doesn’t change. It’s just the opportunity to practice your pacing, your nutrition, your gear, and all those things we mentioned before so that you know what to expect headed into race day.
Andrew: Some athletes have a variety of options in terms of how they execute a bike training session. You can go out and ride. You can stay in on the trainer. You can simulate your actual course on Rouvy. You can lay into erg mode on Zwift or similar indoor platform. Tangibly, how are these race rehearsal sessions best executed?
John: A best case scenario would be to do it on the course. I mentioned from the beginning we want to duplicate race conditions as best we can. Understandably, for most people and most courses that’s just not feasible. I live near the Ironman 70.3 Texas course so, for me, it is feasible. When I race that, for me it’s about a 30 minute drive down to the course. So, for me, it’s worth it to go out and I can safely go ride that course and I can experience absolutely zero gain for 56 miles. But down there it’s much more about the wind and that sort of thing. Whereas even 30 miles north, I don’t experience wind like that. So for me it’s worth it. Elizabeth has even come down from the Dallas area to do the same thing, to train on the actual course. I know that’s something that she always does, if possible. She’ll actually go and train on the course prior to race day. So sometimes that’s feasible. Sometimes it’s not. It’s kind of what is your appetite to go…
Andrew: I can’t ride on the Hardy Toll Road in Houston, Texas, on a weekday.
Elizabeth: The logistics there…
John: Most are not available. Many of the bike venues are not. I know Ironman Louisville is a normal weekend ride for a lot of folks. Ironman Florida, I know there are groups that go out and ride that course every weekend. So some of them are available, some are not. Some may be a proximity that you can get to, some are not. So, best case scenario would be doing it on the actual course. But oftentimes, that’s not. Again, from there, you want to duplicate conditions as best you can. So there you can do it remote where actually riding outdoors on your normal route that you’re doing. You can duplicate those conditions that way. So you’re riding the time, getting in the distance, you’re testing your nutrition, your gear. Making it as close to race day as you can. Then there’s the option as you mentioned to do it more of a virtual where it’s indoors on a trainer. Maybe it’s just on the trainer. Maybe it’s using an execution app like Rouvy or Zwift. So, really, three different scenarios there where you can do it on the course, you can do it more of a remote, or you can do it virtually.
Andrew: So it’s wherever you are, whatever can simulate your race day as best as possible with where you’re at.
Elizabeth: John had mentioned I love going to a course ahead of time and if I can coordinate it so that my race rehearsals are on the course, then that’s an ideal scenario for me. Obviously when I raced Kona it was not quite in the budget to go to Hawaii multiple times and go train there.
Andrew: Yeah, it’s a shame.
Elizabeth: Would have loved that! But that’s a chance where I had to do things in a virtual environment. So I did use an indoor training platform and was able to simulate the course. Certainly not as much to the environment. I did have the heater on in the pain cave trying to make it a little bit warmer, but it’s still nothing for the Hawaii heat and humidity. But what’s so great now is that athletes can use RaceX to export their Power Plan to duplicate those race course power intensities that they’ll be doing on the course on race day.
Andrew: Now we’re getting into a RaceX feature that I have a very specific question about here shortly.
Elizabeth: Okay. Alright.
Andrew: So let’s save the fireworks...
Elizabeth: Hold off.
Andrew: ...for about two questions from now.
Elizabeth: Okay, deal.
Andrew: I want to talk a little bit about pacing in these workouts. Because they are a little bit different than some of the other workout sessions. The pacing for these workouts is described as “race pace.” How do we know how to execute these sessions from a pacing perspective? What is our “race pace?”
John: That’s a question triathletes have been asking…
John: Yeah. For decades. There are some vague philosophical answers as x percent of your FTP type thing. But really it’s kind of generic. Inevitably, that’s going to either be too much or too little, which is toxic on race day. It leads to either going out too hard or leaving time on the table.
Andrew: You don’t know it’s too much or too little until race day and you find out the hard way.
John: We’ve long said that TriDot takes the guess work out of training. It tells you exactly what to do to produce your best results. So we look to RaceX to do that same thing. So RaceX takes that guess work out of racing and provides a specific power plan for each individual athlete according to the course that they’re racing. It’s going to take into consideration the terrain, the environment, the athlete’s fitness and ability and prescribe the very specific power plan that is going to produce their best results.
Elizabeth: To expand a little bit more on the race pace, in the race rehearsal you really want to rehearse the effort that you’re going to be using on race day. The rehearsal may be in a completely different environment than where you will be racing. We talked earlier--if you can do it on the course, fantastic, but that may not be the case. So your race pace, we want to practice what is that effort going to feel like? It may be you’re holding 220 watts on race day. But is that realistic in the environment where you’re going to be doing that rehearsal?
John: So even for those that are doing the rehearsal on the actual course, the environment can change.
Andrew: Within four weeks, a lot of these races are in fringe shoulder seasons. It could be 30 degrees one weekend and 60 the next.
John: Yeah, especially those early season races or late season races where temperature can fluctuate wildly. So that’s actually one of the really neat features within TriDot, or within RaceX, is you can adjust for the environment. So, as Elizabeth mentioned, a Power Plan in one condition or environment may not be appropriate for the same course even in those different conditions. So what we can do is normalize for that environment to where your race rehearsal may be at a higher wattage or a lower wattage depending on how that environment varies from actual race day so that when it comes to race day, you’ll know exactly how that is going to feel. How your nutrition is going to respond to that, as well. So it’s duplicating those conditions by accounting for those variances in the conditions, as well.
Andrew: So within RaceX, our pacing plan--it’s called our Power Plan--what about people that are using heart rate to guide their effort?
Elizabeth: There’s a couple different scenarios here. Athletes that are using heart rate for training and racing, and athletes that may have power for training, but not necessarily for racing. I feel like more and more athletes are training with smart trainers, but may not have a power meter available on their bike. So let’s talk about both scenarios here. So for athletes that may be using a smart trainer for training and/or an indoor race rehearsal, but they’re planning to race by heart rate on race day--they can watch and learn what their heart rate does and use that for guidance on race day. So as they’re following their Power Plan on their smart trainer, they can be watching how quickly their heart rate elevates on the simulated climbs that they’re doing. How quickly is your heart rate coming back down when you get back to a flat section of the course? What is your heart rate doing as you’re transitioning from the bike to the run? So there’s a lot of things that they can be learning about their heart rate as they’re following their Power Plan on their smart trainer. Certainly temperature, dehydration, intensity, anxiety, all of those things are going to impact heart rate a little bit on race day. But at least you’ve taken the opportunity to learn what your heart rate is doing and how it’s responded in those race rehearsals. It’s really giving you the best information available headed into race day to be able to utilize that metric for your best performance there. That’s kind of the point of the race rehearsals is the preparation for race day. So you’re using that information to best prepare you. Then we have another scenario where athletes might be training and racing by heart rate only. There are specific protocols available for heart rate. In the same way that we’ve been talking about your Power Plan, your pacing, they are going to have specific protocols to rehearse with their heart rate. So they’re still going to have the same opportunity to practice all of these things headed into race day, as well.
Andrew: So we started talking a lot about RaceX because RaceX drives our pacing. It drives how we execute on race day. It drives how we need to execute these race rehearsals. So just in case someone listening is not fully aware of what RaceX is, but they caught the message and they want to be able to truly rehearse the race day pacing, hit us with the highlights of what RaceX is.
Elizabeth: Oh, okay. Yes. Gosh, this question makes me excited. There’s so much here.
Andrew: Go! Go! Go! Go!
Elizabeth: We’ve already touched on a lot of things that are available to athletes with RaceX. All of these different tools that they can really utilize to make sure that they can have their best performance on race day. So we’ve talked a little bit about race pacing plans. Predictions of what their swim, bike, and run would be. There’s also some great opportunities for athletes to go in and look at some “what if” analysis. What if I wear my aero helmet? What if I purchase those race wheels? What if I lose 10 pounds before race day? All of these tools that they can utilize for their best possible race rehearsal with these pacing protocols. There’s a section in RaceX, as well, for them to plan out their nutrition and hydration so that as they’re practicing they can use that same information on race day. So I think that one of the things to maybe help relate this to athletes--RaceX is to racing what TriDot is to training. TriDot optimizes athlete training. RaceX optimizes athlete racing. You’re going to get your best performance by utilizing the tools within RaceX. It is a stand alone application that is available to all triathletes. So regardless of how you train, the app is fully integrated with TriDot, but it’s not just for athletes that are using TriDot, as well. Regardless of how you train you can utilize RaceX to get your best possible pacing for your best performance on race day, as well. I guess...gosh! This is where I can keep rattling things off, but we’ve talked a little bit about how it’s optimized racing. There’s specific race optimization functionality. Not just guidelines. It’s very specific that can literally help athletes take 20 to 30 minutes off of their race time. Athletes leave so much time on the course just due to poor pacing. This really eliminates that. You are going into race day with a very deliberate, well-vetted plan. So it’s not an experiment. You have exactly what you would need to do for your best possible outcome. I guess for information I would just say go back and listen to episode 65. It was amazing to have our founder and CEO Jeff Booher really dive into all of these things that are available with RaceX. So I know I gave some high-level highlights…
Andrew: We don’t bring it up today to sell people on RaceX. To your point, we have episode 65 to dive into the nuts and bolts of what RaceX is and how it works and why athletes should use it. But when we’re talking about race rehearsals, RaceX is the way to execute race rehearsals. Without utilizing RaceX and the tool that it is, you’re just guessing at what you’re pace should be in a race rehearsal, just like you’d be guessing what your pace should be out on the race course. So RaceX takes care of both. It takes care of your pacing in your race rehearsal and takes care of guiding your pace on race day. So that’s where--I want to qualify for people--I lobbed that up to Elizabeth because I want people to understand what RaceX is because it is very much what guides our race rehearsals and our race day pacing itself.
John: That was going to be my follow comment, as well. It’s not a pacing guideline. It’s also not just a “what if.” It’s going to take your current FTP and prescribe it. So it’s not a hypothetical of “if you raced at an FTP of this…” or a guideline of “it’s 80 to 85% of your FTP.” It’s very specific. In the optimization it’s going to give you an exact wattage. Here, for this segment of the course, you need to be holding wattage of x.
Andrew: Yep, exactly right. To that, John, with RaceX you can actually push your race day Power Plan to your device and practice the race plan exactly how it will be prescribed on race day. Tell me about that feature.
John: This goes back to...there are different scenarios for how you execute your race rehearsal. Those three--whether you’re doing it on the course, whether you’re doing it remote, or whether you’re doing it virtually. The file you actually use on race day is going to be GPS based. So it’s going to know exactly where the start of the bike course is and then based on your exact GPS determined location, that is how it’s going to prescribe your power. So in a specific location, you’re going to have a specific target power or power to hold for that segment. So then as the elevation changes, that sort of thing, then your power will adjust accordingly. If you’re doing your race rehearsal on the actual course, that’s the file that you’re going to export. That’s going to be your Power Plan file. If you’re doing it remotely--so maybe on your home route--again, you can still duplicate these conditions, but instead of being based on GPS location it’s going to be based on time. Whereas on race day, your first 20 minutes may be on a flat and your optimized power for the flat is a wattage of x, you’re going to hold that wattage for the first 20 minutes. Then as you approach a hill that’s going to take you 3 minutes to climb, you would increase your wattage to whatever it says for the next 3 minutes. Then as you ride down the hill, your wattage would drop to simulate riding downhill. So for that scenario you would be riding on a flat the entire time, but you would alter the power. So you would increase the power to replicate going uphill. You would decrease the power to replicate going downhill.
Andrew: So it’s simulating about the time you’d be reaching those elevation gains and decreases.
John: Right. The reason this works is because your body does not perceive changes in elevation. Your body does not necessarily perceive elevation gain. It understands time and intensity. So that is what the body is perceiving when you are climbing a hill. It knows for a certain amount of time that you are increasing the output because you have to. You have to overcome gravity, so it requires you to increase your wattage. So that’s the same whether you actually are climbing a hill or whether you’re riding on a flat. Again, all your body knows is that you’ve increased the intensity. You’ve increased output for a certain amount of time. So, again, this is how it works and why it works, regardless of your training. That’s the magic of having power is when we’re measuring power is that objective quantification of your intensity level. So that’s how that works. The other option is if you’re doing it on a trainer. That same logic applies. Your body does not perceive distance. So, again, it perceives time and intensity. So technically on your trainer you’re not going anywhere. The distance you travel is zero. But your body would beg to differ, saying, “No, I’ve been working hard for the last several hours at a certain intensity level.” Which is essentially the same as traveling over a distance. So you could also export your power plan to apps like Rouvy or Zwift and use those apps to replicate your race conditions. So three different options there. You have the GPS version. You have the time version. Or you have those that integrate to those apps. Something else is that you don’t necessarily have to export the entire race. If there’s a certain portion of the course that you want to train on, then you can export just that portion. This is also something that’s great to do in training. Maybe there’s a particularly difficult section of the course. Maybe that’s one you want to focus on and really get confident in completing that section of the course when race day comes. You know you’ve got it down. So there’s options there. Again, whether you’re doing it on the race course, doing it remote, or doing it virtually, there’s an export option for your Power Plan.
Andrew: In our race rehearsals, if we hold the paces correctly and we execute to our ability, how should we feel after these sessions? Should we be destroyed because we’ve rehearsed a race? Or should we have gas left in the tank? What are the signs of a job well done?
Elizabeth: You’re certainly going to be tired, but definitely not destroyed. We don’t want you to feel destroyed when you’re done. The race rehearsal session is going to be a very similar training load or NTS to the previous week’s training. Because of that, you shouldn’t feel smashed. You’ve built into this race rehearsal session. There’s a lot more miles to run on race day. So we don’t want you feeling destroyed at the end. You should feel like you would be able to keep going.
John: A job well done on a race rehearsal doesn’t necessarily mean that you had a fantastic race, so to speak. The intent of the race rehearsal is to learn, to test, and then be able to refine headed into race day. So a job well done provides information as to how to make adjustments, as to what to change, what to adjust, what to refine. And then head into race day with that confident plan. So, especially the first one is really all about testing and finding. The second race rehearsal is about making adjustments and making sure those adjustments are what was needed. So you’ve had two opportunities as you head into race day with that plan that you are confident and it’s well-vetted and it’s going to set you up for your best results on race day.
Elizabeth: Oh, yeah. I’ve had some absolutely terrible race rehearsal sessions. I was really proud of my performance in Ironman Texas 2017, but the first race rehearsal that I had for that...seriously, about everything that could go wrong, did. I had major nutrition issues. I took in way too many calories. I had bad GI distress. I had a mechanical issue on the bike where later that day I needed to go and replace my cassette. My watch band snapped and I needed to purchase a new watch band. But all of those things happened during the race rehearsal. Because I was able to discover these things, address them, then come race day I was able to have a really good performance.
Andrew: To your point, that was still a successful race rehearsal. Everything went wrong. It wasn’t walking away with a negative feeling. It was, “Hey! We learned what we were supposed to learn and we were able to adjust it before race day.” So successful race rehearsal, even though it was not the workout you wanted.
Elizabeth: Right! Yes.
Andrew: So we’ve talked on the podcast before about how race rehearsals are a great chance to test out some nutrition items. They’re a great chance to test out some gear items. Elizabeth, we just talked about how you were able to test some things out and Ironman Texas won and you were able to make some adjustments. Knowing that this is a prime opportunity to test some things and play with what we want to actually use on race day, what all should we specifically make sure we test in these sessions?
Elizabeth: I think the short answer is: everything! So, we’re testing our pacing...you brought up nutrition. I think that’s a big part of this, too. Athletes are testing nutrition throughout the long sessions that they’ve had leading into these race rehearsals. But the race rehearsal is a really good opportunity with that longest bike ride and a little bit longer run off the bike to see how that nutrition is going to set them up for a very successful race. So the type of nutrition or nutritions that you’re taking in is important. Are you doing solids or liquids? At what point are you switching from solids to liquids? I know, for me, with my nutrition plan, I go from more of a solid food at the beginning of the bike to more gummies near the end and then gels and then liquid by the end of the race. So mine moves throughout a progression. I practice that during the race rehearsals to then get myself ready for race day. How much sodium are you taking in? We’ve talked on a couple different podcasts about electrolyte replacement. Making sure we have that dialed in. The timing of it. How often are you going to eat? How often are you going to take sodium? How are you going to consume that nutrition? Is it going to be from an aero bottle? Are you going to have a back bottle on your bike that you’re going to refill that aero bottle from? Are you planning to stop at aid stations. Same thing on the run--are you going to carry something with you? Are you going to have a water bottle? Are you going to have a fuel belt? All of those things in terms of nutrition, as well, need to be practiced.
John: An additional benefit of this besides the testing is the decision making process. Especially when we’re talking long-course racing. And really any triathlon--there’s so much gear that goes into it. But I think especially...I would say even Ironman is unique in that I think there’s some different gear selections that we tend to make there. As Elizabeth mentioned, there’s things like special needs bags and different opportunities that don’t exist in other triathlons. So this is a great opportunity to make those decisions and to see what is the gear that I want to use on race day? I mentioned before...testing everything. Your kit. Again, is it comfortable? Does it chaffe? Where do you need to apply the lube? You want to learn to apply that prior to race day. Then the gear--the wheels, helmet, which shoes are you going to run in? That sort of thing. It’s a great opportunity to make those final decisions. Your last race rehearsal is two weeks out from race day. So it’s kind of like you need to know in that time. Or do you need to replace anything? Maybe it’s the aero helmet that you’ve always worn is no longer comfortable. Maybe it’s worn out. Maybe it’s time for new shoes. It’s kind of late at that point, but it’s better to know that on race rehearsal day than it is to find out on race day. So it helps to make those final decisions. These are also included in our race ready e-mails. This is something we include for all the Ironman races. As you put those on your season planner, you’ll receive a weekly countdown e-mail with a lot of these reminders of things like when to replace your running shoes and that sort of thing. Some of those things are covered in there, as well, to help with those decisions and provide some reminders.
Andrew: Every time I get one of those, I panic a little bit for this next race. Ironman Texas that I have coming up. It’s also an e-mail from John Mayfield and the subject is always “11 weeks from Ironman Texas!” “9 weeks from Ironman Texas!” And every time I see that date creep closer, it’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time. So thank you John for that. I regularly check my e-mail first thing in the morning. So starting my day off with a jolt of Ironman terror is always great. So thanks for that, John.
John: You’re welcome.
Andrew: So we do the workout. We bike. We run. We get some nutrition afterward to recover. Then we start to examine how that race rehearsal went. What is the best way to evaluate what worked and what didn’t?
John: You have that plan beforehand as you go in and now you want to see how well it worked. I think some important considerations is were there any lulls in energy? Did you feel strong throughout or toward the end were you fading, as you mentioned? You may need to increase your caloric intake. Did you have any GI issues? Did you have cramps or anything like that? Did you have to go to the bathroom excessively? So maybe there it’s changing the frequency of your nutrition. The amount of your nutrition. Maybe it’s the type of your nutrition. So hopefully not anything major. That goes back to the importance of testing throughout your training so that you arrive at your race rehearsal with a good idea of where it is and then you’re confirming that. But if you have those GI issues those obviously need to be addressed. That’s why we retest in the second race rehearsal so we can confirm that those adjustments are working. Were there any gear issues? If there were, that’s the time to fix it. Were your brakes rubbing on your race wheels? Maybe it’s time to take the bike down to the shop and get your brakes adjusted. Any logistical issues. There’s a whole lot that goes into that. Especially racing the Ironman distance. There’s a ton of stuff to consider. Was it easy to execute all this? Was it easy to get all your gear together and do this? Because that’s going to be very similar to what you’re going to experience on race day. Basically, were there any issues? That’s the magic of doing it twice. Even if your first race rehearsal is perfect, you want to make sure that wasn’t a fluke. So if everything goes right, we want to confirm that in the second race rehearsal. If there were any issues at all, let’s address those, test again. That way as you head into race day you know you’ve got a solid plan.
Andrew: So in your own preparations for a race, what is an example of something you learned from a race rehearsal, tweaked for race rehearsal number two and then nailed down and timed to execute to perfection on race day?
Elizabeth: I feel like I’ve had a number of race rehearsal learnings.
Andrew: Let us learn from you!
Elizabeth: Yes, the Texas one. Another thing--when I started using UCAN gels as part of my nutrition plan for the run, I distinctly remember the first race rehearsal where I practiced using those. I had been using my hair straightener and the little heat vacuum seal packets to package my own little UCAN nutrition. They don’t seal quite as well as the commercial sealed packets. So I had placed a bunch of these gels in my fuel belt and that ended up being an absolute disaster. They did not close as well. They were exploding all over my kit. It was a sticky, gooey mess of a disaster. I didn’t get any nutrition in. So I needed to really…
Andrew: It became a super-starch soup in the fuel belt.
Elizabeth: It was disgusting, let’s be honest. So I had to experiment a little bit with how to get them to seal a little bit better and then change the placement of them. I actually put them in my tri shorts pockets so they didn’t explode in the fuel belt. Worked perfectly for race day. I was able to get my nutrition in. But that was an opportunity to learn, we’ll put it that way.
John: I’ve done lots of race rehearsals over the years and had lots of things go wrong. From pacing to nutrition to gear. You name it, I’ve been there. I think on the other end of the spectrum, ending my season last year with Challenge Daytona, I had two really good race rehearsals headed into race day where everything came together. My nutrition was good. My pacing was good. I felt good. All the gear worked. It was almost like...I was almost nervous that everything had gone so well. I hoped that I hadn’t spent all the magic on the race rehearsals. But it gave me a really high level of confidence headed into my race. I set a PR. I had a fantastic day. So I was really able to draw from those race rehearsals and look back and when the worrying, concern, and doubt inevitably comes in those last days and hours before race day, I was able to look back and say I had two really great race rehearsals.
Andrew: I just gotta do it again!
John: I know my plan is solid. My pacing is there. My nutrition is there. My gear works. So all I had to do was go out and execute. It was really good to know that and have the high level of confidence headed into race day. Again, going back to the phrase: “sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”
Andrew: It’s a great takeaway for athletes to hear that. It might go just fine. You might not need to tweak anything after race rehearsal. You might have it down. Everything might have worked. Don’t think there’s always some nugget you have to tweak after a race rehearsal. Because you can get it right and then confirm that in race rehearsal number two. I think, John, that that same training block...leading up to Challenge Daytona last December, you, me, and Elizabeth were in Panama City Beach, Florida. We all had our race rehearsal on the same day. We went out and rode the same 56 mile course. Then we ran the same 40 minute course. You guys were so kind. You’re stronger than me on the bike and you waited about 7 to 8 minutes for me to roll in on the bike. We started the run together. So in that race rehearsal, we all have a 40 minute off the bike run. We’re all training for a 70.3. I’ve got pro triathlete Elizabeth James in front of me, clocking 6 something per mile, pulling away from John and me both. I’ve got John behind me. I’m a stronger runner than John. I’m in between John and Elizabeth. And on that day, John, I was trying something different with my fueling. And it didn’t work. I was drinking my UCAN, but I was trying something else alongside of my UCAN. I was just under-fueled heading into that run and I am dying in the Florida heat and humidity. But my Coach, John Mayfield, is behind me 20 or 30 seconds. So I couldn’t look like I was dying because I couldn’t show Coach John that things are going poorly on my run. So I needed a break. Thankfully we hit a red light and I hit the little button for the crosswalk.
Elizabeth: I bet you were like oh yay, thank goodness.
Andrew: So Elizabeth went through the red light without waiting for the crosswalk because she was on a roll.
John: Tsk. Tsk.
Elizabeth: Don’t call me out like that!
Andrew: I intentionally...I acted like a good citizen, but I intentionally stopped at a red light and waited. That was just a good memory for me. Kind of fun looking back. But after that, John, the three of us went and got smoothies. We were sitting there and talking about our race rehearsal and talking through how those race rehearsals went. John, you were able to ask me how did it go? Bike went great. Run I was dying. We talked through, “What did you change nutritionally?” This is what I changed. I’m going to tweak this. I went into race rehearsal number 2 two weeks later back home in Dallas. I tweaked what I did nutritionally, and that race rehearsal went great. It did exactly what you were talking about. It gave me the confidence to go into Challenge Daytona. I learned some lessons in rehearsal number 1. I applied the changes to rehearsal number 2. Things went great. I felt great on the run. On race day I executed the pacing the same way I did on race rehearsal number 2 and it went great. So for both of you as coaches--long story short, that’s a tangible example of John coaching me into that race rehearsal number 2 into that race at Challenge Daytona. As coaches, when you talk with your athletes before and after race rehearsals, what are those conversations like? What are the things that you’re covering with those athletes as you’re examining how those race rehearsals went?
John: I think this is one of the reasons I love race rehearsals so much. It’s a great opportunity to have those conversations with athletes. You can learn so much along the way. The conversation is pretty simple. It’s pretty basic. It’s what went right? What went wrong? What do you keep? What do you adjust? It’s an evaluation of...you have your list of things. This was right, this was right, this needs to be adjusted, and that’s it. It’s pretty simple. It’s what went right? What went wrong? And what do you do about it from there? There’s some great insights and great opportunities for feedback, and also some great opportunities to really build confidence and know that your fitness is there and know that you’ve got a plan to really get the most out of that fitness on race day.
Andrew: So race day comes. We are actually out there on course in the heat of battle, doing our thing. How can we make sure success in our race rehearsals translates to success on the course?
Elizabeth: For me, one of the biggest things is the confidence in the preparation. So whether the race rehearsal was fantastic and you’re like, “Yes! This was exactly the plan I had going into race day.” Or if it was a race rehearsal where you learned some things and needed to make some adjustments...either side of the coin there, you were prepared. You did the work. You saw what was working. You adjusted as needed. That can give you a lot of confidence headed into race day.
John: I think a great takeaway is to stick to what you know works for as long as possible. The race rehearsal is going to give you a well-vetted plan, as we’ve sad. But I think the reality of it is it goes back to...I love the Mike Tyson quote. “Everything has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Chances are, at some point Ironman is going to punch you in the face. Then you need to be flexible. You need to adjust. You have to do what you can with it. Stick to the plan as long as the plan is working, but at some point if things change...you need to be flexible and adjust and do what you have to do to maximize with what you’ve got left.
Cool down theme: Great set everyone! Let’s cool down.
Andrew: Even doing the right training right and rocking our race rehearsals, sometimes a quality race day just isn’t meant to be. Louise Strydom is a TriDot Coach and the founder of Infinitude Coaching based in Pretoria, South Africa. She has a story about one of those race days where everything could go wrong just went wrong. In the end, it led to a pretty cool moment that she will remember forever. Here is Louise with her story.
Louise Strydom: Hey, Andrew. Thank you so much for letting me share the story. Shout out to all my Infinitude Athletes that I hope are listening to this podcast. So in 2017 it was my second full Ironman race. Everything went wrong from about three weeks before the race. I fell during a training run and tore all the ligaments in my ankle. I didn’t know because I could walk on it. So I chatted with Coach Kurt. We made the decision that I would do the swim and do the bike as far as I possibly can and see how the marathon goes, but it’s probably going to be a walk marathon. The morning of the race I stripped the zipper of my tri suit, which we needed to fix really quickly. Somewhere in transition I lost the ankle bracelet I’m supposed to run with. Standing on the beach I realized I have no idea where I lost it. I got really sick in the ocean for the first time since doing triathlons, which was really horrible. They actually wanted to pull me out. I said no, I’m finishing this race. I nearly yelled at a lifeguard and there was a few choice words that I’m not going to repeat here. I did the bike, which went really well. I made the rookie mistake of not putting my race belt or race number in my bike bag instead of my run bag, so there was a little delay in transition. Off the bike into the run, which I walked. My ankle was throbbing. It was very, very painful, but I’m not going to quit. My husband was next to the road at certain spots. He was in contact with Coach Kurt with messages of encouragement. Every time I passed him he would yell at me and say, “Kurt tells...go do this. You’re doing well. Just keep moving! Keep going forward.” As the marathon continued it got darker. There were less and less athletes around me. From very far in front of me a light came toward me. I thought they’re going to pull me off the chute now. It was a camera man wanting to do a tv interview. My first thought was, “How does my face look? Do I have any goo marks and stuff around my face?” I did the quick tv interview. Obviously I had my doubts. It took a lot of determination to keep on moving even though my body was screaming to stop. As I got closer to the finish line I could start hearing the crowds. I was the last female that needed to come in, although not the last athlete. There were still a few men behind me. So I just decided I’m running on this red carpet, there’s no way I’m walking. I don’t know where I got the energy or the power from, but the ankle worked with me and we got to the finish line. I got a high-five from Paul Kaye. This woman was just...a red bull hat was just coming toward me to give me my medal. Eventually I looked up and I’m like, “This is Daniela Ryf. She’s going to give me my medal!” She gave me this massive hug. The whole time I’m thinking, “I’m so sweaty. I’m so smelly. This person is so famous and she’s hugging me and giving me my medal and telling me, ‘You did such a good job and congratulations. You had so much determination. I’m so proud of you.’” That absolutely just made my race! I can’t wait to get back into the game of racing again and hopefully not finishing as the last female. That’s my race story. Never give up. That’s the message I got. You never know who’s going to give you your medal.
Andrew: That’s it for today, folks. Big thanks to Louise for sharing her Daniela Ryf medal story and encouraging the rest of us to press on to our own finish lines. Thanks to Coach John Mayfield and Pro Triathlete Elizabeth James for talking to us about race rehearsals. Enjoying the podcast? Have any questions or topics you want to hear us talk about? Head to tridot.com/podcast to submit your question or leave us a story like Louise did for the show. Until next time, happy training.
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