Building a race strategy

One of the most common and detrimental mistakes an athlete makes on race day is not having a strategy. One of the worst things I hear in regards to a race plan is “I’m just gonna wing it.” One of my athletes has done a great job developing his race strategy. Here’s how we did it and how it can help you build yours.

  1. Define your objective. Is your goal to finish the race? Are you trying to win your age group? Are you trying to qualify for Worlds? I have an athlete whose goal this year is to win a sprint or Olympic distance triathlon overall. He’s close. He has the talent and work ethic to do it. But the way he executes his strategy is going to determine whether or not he can win.
  2. Set a realistic goal. If you’ve been running 8:30/mile for your long runs, it wouldn’t be the best idea for you to set a goal of 6:30/mile off the bike. Know what you’re capable of and build the strategy around it. In this case, swimming is not this athlete’s best discipline. The run is. His strategy isn’t to be the first out of the water. Instead, it’s his goal to stay on the leaders’ heals and set himself up for a solid bike and run.
  3. Prepare split points and fueling. You should know where you need to be at certain points on the course in order to achieve your objective. You should be able to adapt these throughout the race when needed, but there should be a specific outline of time and course markers to keep the strategy in play. This athlete has studied the course and knows approximately where he should be at those points.
  4. Prepare for all conditions. I’ve been at races where it was supposed to be 70* and it turned out to be 40*. Your race wardrobe should prepare you for every condition. This goes for your equipment as well. Last year we had a series of hot days that caused big swings in lake temperatures. A lot of races were not wetsuit legal. That being said, you better practice how to swim without a wetsuit.
  5. Have a backup plan. We can all envision a perfect race, we all plan for it. But there needs to be a backup plan. This particular athlete has been plagued by GI issues. He has a specific mix of fuel to avoid it. What happens if he drops a bottle of fuel within the first 30 minutes of the ride? Although it’s not an ideal situation, he has practiced fueling with the products offered on course in order to keep his race on the tracks.

Countless hours go into planning and training for every race. Why wouldn’t you go into the race with something just as specific? Take the time to evaluate these five elements and set yourself up for success on race day. Reach out to me or Coach Steve if you want help planning your strategy.


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