How to Race Fast on a Fast Course February 02, 2021 11:45 Updated Follow Not signed in? Log into your Purple Patch account for full access to your education program for coaches and athletes. You need to sign in to view this page. A flat IRONMAN or 70.3 distance course — PR ready as many would say, but too many fit athletes become unglued when it comes to race execution that matches potential with performance. A note before you read on: If you missed part one of the series, with a focus on training and preparation for flat courses, I invite you to read this first. As you prepare for race day, there are a few essential tips that will help you increase your chances of having a great day. These are your non-negotiables, and by integrating them you will have a much greater opportunity for success. Race day is a confusing time, with so many thoughts and decisions to be made, so we must make these rules simple and easy to remember. For this reason, let’s outline with memorable headlines and a little explanation following for a context. Context: Before we dive in, some important notes to frame our conversation: A flat course can deliver monotony — the body prefers variance. It is way too easy to get stuck in one position, and one cadence (or RPM), in a narrow range of power for much of the ride. If you passively follow the demands on the course, this will be the outcome, and you are almost certainly heading for fatigue in the later stages of the ride, as well as a compromised run. If there is no natural variance in the course, you must create some! These tips will help you: Vary your position, pedaling, and power. Some folks will tell you to set your power and cadence, then hold on and go fast. This is only going to create fatigue and heighten the risk of cramping. Make it a priority to shift your pedaling, leverage opportunities (aid stations, turns, tailwind sections) to shift position and stand, and even mix up the power a little throughout the ride. Remember, monotony is a performance killer, so find a way to mix it up. Your running legs will thank you. Don’t forget your fueling and hydration. An incredibly common issue is for athletes to forget to fuel and hydrate due to the monotony of a flat course. You cannot afford to do this, especially in the early to middle stages of the bike ride. Get programmatic about it, and stay in tune with the signals of the body. Whether it is setting a buzzer on the watch to ensure you hit the bottle every 10 minutes or so, or another reminder, you must stay consistent. Miss early, and pay the price later! Strong like Bull into headwinds. If you have trained appropriately, including adding some bigger gear and low cadence (RPM) intervals into your bike training, you should be confident of adding tension to the chain and pushing more gears when you are faced with a headwind. Trying to spin your legs at a high cadence when faced with a headwind will either leave you going slower than you are able or creating massive fatigue due to intensity being too much. Strong like bull into the headwind. Tailwinds demand a little ballerina. Don’t be surprised to see your power drop if you are riding with a tailwind, it is complexly normal, and typically not a good use of energy to force trying to push the same power as in normal conditions. Take the ride! Keep pedaling smooth, position comfortable, and tension on the chain. Your cadence (RPM) will naturally rise up, compared to normal conditions, but you should feel fluid and smooth. Don’t chase an extra 30w to only yield 0.5 mph. Be smart and save the pedal strokes, you will need it later. Run like it is Saturday Night Fever. Leg speed is essential to great run performance, but the flat terrain often beats up the predominant quad muscles, leaving you with heavy legs. Don’t let it happen. Instead, stand tall and remind yourself of posture, and don’t hesitate to mix in a wide variance of foot speed and cadence. Remember what we discussed around that terrible word; monotony? Well, it is important in the run. Mix up longer strides to provide a break to the rhythm, then revert to short and faster strides. An old phrase we use among our pro athletes: ‘If you don’t like the rhythm you are in, change it!’ Commit to these approaches. If you embrace all five over the course of the day, you will be mixing muscle groups, and staying hydrated and fueled. This is the gateway to your best performance. All that is left is to go fast! Best of luck.