With the race just days away, we thought we would use our 32 years’ worth of experience with a whole stack of it having been built up in the windy city, to potentially help you execute the perfect race plan come Sunday.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of race tactics, lets offer some pre-race tips you can follow over the next 2-3 days heading into race day
- Don’t get caught up in the huge energy hype that is pre-race day. You have a few thousand athletes all chomping at the bit to get going. The nerves are on edge and everyone looks intimidating. This is where the less composed athletes become “OVER” nervous.
- Go to the expo, do your registration, look around at all the cool kit on offer and of course, do the customary shopping that forms part of the whole fun weekend. What we do suggest is don’t’ use anything new for race day that you may buy at the expo. Unless your training items and race items you used in the build-up are broken, stick with what you know and have used and save the new stuff for the next race.
- Don’t walk around too much on FRI and SAT – get your registration done early and then go away and try and remain calm and relaxed and legs up as much as possible. Don’t stress about the other athletes – a 226km race is all about what YOU can do on race day so don’t get over stressed by listening and following other athletes pre-race regimes and advice
- A pre-swim is good but we suggest you do it on FRIDAY. Don’t spend too much time on the beach and with the practice swim – the training has been done – you cannot get fitter but you can dent your swim time but over training on the Friday or Saturday with too much swimming. This warm-up swim is more to calm the nerves ahead of the 3.8km swim than anything else. 10-15 minutes at most. If you have to swim on SAT due to a late arrival in PE, then opt to swim without the suit and for only 10 mins. This will loosen up the shoulders nicely and just give you that little bit of water confidence that you may need.
- Make sure the bike is ready for race day by latest Friday – everything tightened, tyres working – nuts and bolts solid – nothing worse than running around like a mad man or woman on Saturday pre bike-check in looking to fix up the bike. Your SAT warm-up ride which should not be longer than 60 minutes is the last chance to fix the bike before you check it in and make sure it’s ready for Sunday
- Get to bed early on Friday night – the saying goes, “it’s not the night before the race that is important but the night before the night that is important. Early to bed and a good night sleep on Friday. More often than not, you will not sleep too soundly on Saturday night. If you do, perhaps you might be over trained and in real need of rest or you are one of those athletes, few and far between that are not fazed by the challenge that awaits.
- Wake up early on Race morning – the race starts around 7am – We would suggest between 3 and 4am sometime. Get in a good breakfast (even for those that battle to eat – a smoothie might be the answer). A hot shower to “fully” wake-up – perhaps some pre-race stretching inside your dwelling and then some warm clothes on to keep the muscles nice and warm. Generally being nervous makes you feel a little colder so pack up warm and rather sweat than be cold
- Get to the transitions at least with 2hrs to spare – that gives you more than enough time to faff around with your bike – make sure tyres are pumped – nutrition is on board the bike and the Bike and run Bags are carefully packed with the right goodies on the racks. We also suggest that you make sure you know exactly where your bike is parked by using a marker as well as ensuring you know exactly where to find your bike and run bags. You will be amazed at how stupid you become once you are in race mode. You don’t think clearly so the detail of being able to find your bags and bike easy, are important.
- Ensure you have an energy bar and a constant supply of fluids to sip on and nibble in the last say 75 minutes before race start. Don’t start thirsty – keep on sipping so you stay well hydrated – water is good – an energy drink even better
THE SWIM COURSE
- Don’t put your wetsuit on too early – 30 minutes before go time is more than sufficient. Remember it’s a rolling start so you might stand around for a long time before you actually get into the water
- Drink at least 400-500ml of water with around 20-25 minutes to spare – nothing worse than a dry salty mouth before you have even dived into the ocean.
- You cannot warm-up in the surf at this race before you take the plunge so your best option is a dry-land warm-up – swing the arms – loosen up the shoulders – do a few skips and jumps. It’s important that your heart rate is elevated to a certain degree before you head into the ocean to ensure your best swim possible from the get go.
- The swim course is 1 lap and it’s long. You will not see the far turn markers until you are around 200m or so from them so don’t even try looking for them. Rather focus your eyes on the individual marker buoys that are present along the entire length of the swim course.
- Don’t let your thoughts drift during the swim – very important to keep your focus – no matter how fast or slow you swim for the entire swim race distance. You don’t want to be thinking about the bike and run when you are still swimming. Keep the focus with the aim of getting in and out of the water as fast as you can possibly do.
- Depending on if the wind blows vigorously or not on race morning, you might find that the current and wave direction for 1 part of the course is behind you while you might face some stiff current and surf chop in the other direction or in front of you. The important part here is not too try and “fight” the water and swell but rather relax and try and swim on top by allowing the swell to dictate your position. Your job is to ensure the hand-catch and pull are being done properly so you are moving forward at all time. Don’t get dis-heartened during the swim (it might feel like you are getting nowhere fast but you are moving forward so keep that focus 100% of the time) – you might be a weak swimmer but great biker or runner. This race distance is long and the swim forms only a small part of the entire event so get it done as best as possible at a speed that you are comfortable with and then work on your better disciplines on the form of the bike and run. A good swimmer must use this opportunity to post a solid swim time that will give you some room to breathe when you get on the bike.
- Seed yourself correctly – if you are not that fast a swimmer – don’t line-up in front because the faster guys and girls will swim right over you and that is not good. Don’t start too far back either because swimming around slower swimmers in front takes more energy for sure.
- Start the swim moderately paced and try and maintain or even increase the pace as you move around the race course. Starting too fast is a bad idea. If you are used to swimming 2 minutes per 100m in training for example – why try and start the 1st couple of hundred metres at 1:45 pace per 100m. Not possible and you will end up blowing and having a terrible swim
- Focus on land markers and the course marker buoys rather than someone’s feet – you need to be swimming as straight as possible so lift that head every few strokes and maintain as straight a line as possible. The onus is on your to swim the shortest possible routing around the rectangular swim course. You want the GPS to read 3.8km and not 4.2km.
- Don’t overload your bike with too much nutrition – this makes the bike heavy and bulky. This race has more than enough water and feed stations along the route plus there is the special needs area. Why invest in a light TT or Road Bike by adding 3-4kgs of nutrition on board before you even take the first pedal stroke
- The road – especially over the 1st part is relatively bumpy. Makes sure the nutrition and water bottles you put on board are secured. So many bike bottle holders and other items end up lying on the tar because they have managed to loosen themselves on the bike course. You don’t want to lose important fluids and food because you did not tighten something before you got on the bike
- The bike route is 2 laps of 90km – don’t take off like a house on fire at the start. With so many people cheering you on and the music pumping, it’s easy to get carried away and go off like the klappers. Remain calm and ease into the cycle section. The 1st 20km or so are relatively flat and depending on the wind direction – can actually be quite hard if you are riding into a head wind.
- Thereafter the route becomes fairly undulating with some up and down sections before you make the turn at Seaview Village and head back along the same routing back into town and the start of lap 2
- Pace yourself like you did on your training rides– you don’t want to start too slow but not too fast either – ride YOUR OWN pace and not that of someone else.
- The natural reaction is to ride faster from the 45km point back to half way point at 90km – here the crowds are at their fiercest and you can easily get carried away as you start the 2nd loop on the bike course. The hard part of the bike course normally comes around the 100km through to the 135km marker. This is where you need to concentrate fully and keep the pace going. If you have paced your ride well and not raced too hard over the 1st loop, you should find your second wind with 45km to go.
- Important – eat and drink often during the bike leg. We suggest smaller portions of food and smaller sips of fluid more often but this is totally up to the athlete – each person works differently – do what you did in training and all will be okay.
- Always ride the bike course as though you know you can ride faster but don’t because you want to save a little in the “tank” for the marathon leg which is still to come. You hold back just a little – don’t max yourself out on the bike with a run still to come. We have always maintained – if you swim well and bike well but run badly, the race will be a grind but if you run well, irrespective of how well you did in the swim or bike, the race generally ends up being a good one. So save some gas for the run on the bike VERY NB!!!
THE RUN COURSE
- The run is 4 loops of 10.55km – don’t start out too hard – you want to start at a pace you think you can sustain for 42km.
- Eat something solid before you start the run and if you need to go to the loo, do it before you head out onto the run course
- Once again, smaller sips of fluids and bites of food will keep the engine running on enough fuel for the next 4-6 + hours.
- The run is tough – make no mistake – just keep heading in a forward direction at all times – even if you need to walk at each of the aid stations for a couple of seconds – regain your composure and then start running again till you hit the next water point.
- Mentally speaking, 4 laps can be perceived as being long but it does give you a chance to stay amongst the crowds and energy that line the route. This should give you an extra lift as you make your way to the finish line and that elusive finishers medal
Good luck. Have fun – enjoy the whole experience and the race will go well….