Expect the Best, Prepare for the Worst
You can be your fittest self before the gun goes off, but not doing your race prep spells the difference between a triumphant finish, or a disastrous day of misfortunes. By Coach Noy Basa
Often overlooked, but just as important for a stellar triathlon performance are two things: familiarizing yourself with the course pre-race, and the intangibles on race weekend that need to be anticipated. If you’re doing the Cobra Ironman 70.3 for the first time, here’s what to expect on race weekend and the race itself, and how to prepare for them.
COUNTDOWN TO PRE-RACE (2 days before)
GEAR PREP: If you traveled by plane, your bike should have been packed well. Make sure you’ve noted the parts that have been disassembled, and that these are all intact when you have your bike reassembled by the mechanic.
HOW TO PREPARE: Most likely, you’re still unfamiliar with your bike and its parts, so delegate the packing and unpacking of your bike to a trusted mechanic. Better to shell out cash than risk a bigger expense from broken bike parts during transit due to improper packing. (I recommend Trek Bicycle Store Manila (Two Parkade, 30th St., Bonifacio Global City, 0917-800-3242/ (02) 553-2445), and Primo Cycles in Forbestown Center, Burgos Circle, Bonifacio Global City (02) 836-7455.) The key parts to take note of which are usually disassembled for packing are the aerobars, the rear derailleur, and your pedals. The wheels are deflated. Do a shakedown ride after reassembling to make sure that your bike parts are secure and according to your fit. Don’t forget to tip and thank your mechanic.
HOW TO PREPARE: Save the Zubuchon binge for the post-race party, and beware of the much talked-about “carbo-loading.” Avoid deviating from the tried-and-tested meals that have worked for you on the nights before you’ve nailed your most challenging long weekend workouts. If you aren’t sure the food or drink you need is available locally, buy and pack them with you from your point of origin.
A MAD RUSH OF ATHLETES. A common mistake is to get a few extra minutes of sleep and “just make it” to the starting line. I’ve seen triathletes frantically setting up their bike nutrition, pumping their tires, and what-not within minutes before the gunstart. Don’t be one of them. There’s the stress you’ll be putting your body through for the next five to seven hours, why add to it even before the race starts?
HOW TO PREPARE: The night before, put on your race tattoos, pre-mix your race nutrition, pack your T1/T2 gear bags, wear your timing chip to bed, and go to bed early. Wake up at least three hours before your gunstart to allow ample time for breakfast, your trip to the bathroom, and other personal rituals. Get to the race area at least an hour before the gun goes off for your wave. This allows you to calmly set up, properly warm-up. and truly soak in and enjoy the experience. Pre-race selfies with friends will be more enjoyable, guaranteed!
IN THE SWIM
HEAVY TRAFFIC. Since this year is the Asia-Pacific Championship, attendance will be at its record highest, with 2,850 athletes. Although the race format dictates a rolling swim start, it is still highly likely that you’ll be swimming in a tight space with a bunch of other swimmers.
HOW TO PREPARE: Include mass start simulations with your swim squad in the pool, and practice drafting and sighting. If you’re still not used to swimming in open water, go for at least one ocean swim before race day to apply the skills you’ve practiced in the pool.
STRONG CURRENT. Not a sure thing this year, but last year’s freak current caught everyone by surprise. Many missed the swim cutoff; even athletes who hoped to break 40 minutes on their swims ended up close to an hour, even more for others.
HOW TO PREPARE: Good old pool time. A training program with a consistent 3 to 4 swims a week builds confidence in the water. Strength-based workouts which involve the use of paddles in swim sets, deck-ups and resistance cords, will be key for you to have a powerful stroke that’ll get you through hostile conditions.
ON THE BIKE
HOW TO PREPARE: On taper week, deflate your tires and practice fixing a flat. Repeat a few times until you’re confident you can do it quickly and error-free. Have your tires thoroughly checked. If the shop recommends replacement, don’t think twice about doing so.
A FLAT BUT ROLLING COURSE. There’s only one significant climb at Marcelo Fernan Bridge as you ride from Mandaue into Lapu-Lapu City. You may also experience some headwind at the start of the bike shortly after T1.
HOW TO PREPARE: Ride in similar road conditions. The 90-km route from Alabang to Naic has a fair share of gentle slopes, similar climbs, and headwind that’ll get you ready. Nuvali is also a good choice, hardly any wind there but the hill by the wake park is very similar to the course’s climb.
HOW TO PREPARE: Always keep your eyes on the road, slow down when you see thick crowds along the shoulders of narrow roads. Time your sip of fluids or have that gel when you’re riding in areas that have wide roads or are relatively spectator-free.
ON THE RUN
HOW TO PREPARE: Practice moderation and deliberate pacing at the start of your brick runs off the bike. Rehearse a plan to start your run conservatively off the bike, with quick strides to get your rhythm going but nothing more than your heart-rate range at Zone 2, then gradually build up to your 70.3 race pace. That way, you start running conservatively and finish strong.
A VERY HOT DAY. There is risk of dehydration from the heat, but hyponatremia may also result from excessive fluid in the body relative to a normal amount of sodium, which may potentially lead to death.
HOW TO PREPARE: Hydrate regularly by having a sip of fluid every 10 to 15 minutes, but be also aware of the danger of overhydrating. Other than just having water, it is essential to take salt tablets or other drinks with sodium and electrolytes. Regularly pouring cold water on yourself and using the cold sponges from the aid stations will also help regulate your body temperature and prevent it from overheating.
Preparation is key for any successful race. Thinking ahead, planning accordingly and familiarizing yourself with the course ensures a safer race and better performance. After months of training and hard work, race day should be the fun part! Race strong, the best of luck, and we’ll see each other at the finish line.