The bike is racked, the nerves and excitement are high, but it is all for naught. The inaugural IRONMAN California was canceled last weekend, less than an hour from the starting cannon. It was the right call, but that doesn’t make the feelings of disappointment for the competing athletes any less. So what’s next?
If you were one of the unlucky ones, I thought I would provide a few pieces of advice. I hope this helps:
- Mindset: Let’s first put this in context compared to the last eighteen months of our lives. I realize this might feel like just another bad thing dumped on top of an already challenging last year or so, but this is a small challenge in the broader spectrum of life. You will recover and have other opportunities, so allow the feelings of disappointment to swim around for a day or so, but then lean into the two traits that have been so important for us all over the pandemic: resilience and adaptability.
Leverage the fitness: If schedule, finances and logistics allow, I would recommend sourcing a different challenge in the coming 6 to 8 weeks. This might be an ultra race, IRONMAN Florida or Arizona (or further afield), even a local half marathon. You have the fitness and readiness, so leverage it if you can.
Squaddies: we've got some specific recommendations on how to set up your Baseline/race builds below (and we also strongly encourage you to book a coach consult as part of this pivot to a new race).
- Draw the lessons: Whether you are able to sneak into an alternate race or not, don’t let the lessons of the journey and preparation bypass you. What went well in your lead up? What could you improve on next time? While you didn’t get race day, you did navigate preparation, and you can reflect and learn for next time. Fueling, hydration equipment, energy in race week, training lessons. There is so much to review. Did you feel prepared? Tired? Lacking fitness? Write it down and seek to evolve next time. Every journey is full of lessons, and the race is just the final part of each journey. Seek to implement improvements for your next goal or race.
These are three quick-hits on the optimal approach, but let’s get into the weeds a little and get practical. If you are hitting an alternative race in the coming weeks, I would take the following approach:
Take a breather first. It was a stressful weekend, and one that would have been full of frustration. While last week wasn’t a tough training week, I would still encourage you to take this initial week following the 'race' very, very easy. I would then build back with a controlled and calm ramping week the second week post race.
For Purple Patch athletes, this means sticking to the Baseline for 1-2 weeks.
Build off the fitness. You are not trying to chase massive fitness gains in the bridge between the canceled race and your looming alternate. Instead, be confident in the fitness developed for the canceled race, then maintain strong training without an obsession for too many huge over-distance sessions. I would mimic the final 3 to 7 weeks of training, but have a heightened emphasis on the 2 to 3 key workouts each week, while making the supporting sessions much easier.
For Purple Patch athletes, this means typically using a short (4 or 7 week, depending on when the race is) build, and taking any intensity out of supporting bikes, easier runs or more supportive swims. Make these fun, free and soul-filling, without anything over conversational effort. With this, aim to nail good performance, practice your fueling and hydration, and simulate equipment choices in the tougher key workouts within each week. The program will feel different, even if similar in design, as you more aggressively reduce any intensity from the supportive training. 75% is soul-filling, 25% is tough. You will retain fitness, but also improve sharpness. If you did miss out on endurance work in your initial prep, this is also an opportunity to sneak in 1-2 longer rides or runs.
Go in with no expectations. There is no value in looking back and reflecting on what might have been, and certainly none in comparing this bridge build to the original race prep. Instead, smile and go in with heavy curiosity. Be thankful for another chance to race, and commit to have fun and go and give it your best.
When you get to race, you should do so without expectations, and with a heavy dose of gratitude and joy at the opportunity. The body will provide your answers with the race performance, so stick with the commitment to execute and get everything out of what the day provides. On the back side of the race, you will be gifted with even more lessons.
I hope that helps.
By the way, we're doing a free course overview webinar for IRONMAN Florida on October 26 (register here), and have the course preview PDF here. We will also have a PDF for IRONMAN Arizona coming out shortly.
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