What’s the secret weapon session I hear you ask? I wish someone would also tell me! In reality though, there isn’t one. There isn’t one session that’s going to make you a better athlete, or guarantee that medal winning performance. It’s consistency over a period of time. Producing ordinary performances on a day to day basis, in order to deliver the extraordinary on race day.
Upsetting I know. Or great news?! Depends how you look at it I guess.
So below are three of my favourite race specific sessions for you to add into your own programme of day to day ordinary.
Regardless of distance, ability or age group, the swim is always going to start fast. The adrenaline is pumping on the start line and everyone’s keen to escape the dreaded washing machine, or attempt to at least. It’s also really helpful if you’re able to instrument changes in pace throughout the swim in order to get yourself out of trouble, get a preferable line into a buoy, or bridge across to a pair of feet that are swimming away. They key though, is being able to do this whilst maintaining, and returning to, a strong threshold pace for the remainder of the swim leg; all the while not getting out absolutely cooked for what lies ahead! We live in hope at least. Give this main set a go, remembering to warm up and cool down adequately either side:
5 x 300 (as 50 hard, 200 threshold, 50hard) +30secs rec
Threshold is roughly the pace you should be able to sustain for a 1500m TT. Or another way to look at it; when you finish a set of threshold efforts, you should be able to do a few more at that pace, but you wouldn’t want to. You could make this session a bit easier, and more skills based, by grabbing a few mates and taking it in turns to lead a rep, or portions of the rep, while everyone else sits on each others feet and practices drafting effectively.
I use this session to try and improve my general strength and power on the bike. ITU racing can be very explosive with all the corners and technical sections of the bike courses, and if you’re not able to respond to the athlete driving the pack then its likely you’ll be left pedalling alone pretty soon. Draft legal racing is becoming more and more prevalent in the AG ranks too now, so get ahead of the competition and start developing your jump so that you can be the one doing the dropping next season.
As always make sure you warm up sufficiently, and ideally find yourself a nice hill, not too steep, something in the region of 6-8% gradient, and give this a crack:
6 x 4mins as twice through;
- Best average pace you can hold for 4mins
- 60secs hard, 2.5mins moderate/threshold, 30secs hard
- 20secs sprint, 40secs steady (x4)
Recovery between reps is to spin back to the bottom of the hill.
In my opinion many people spend too much time running in the ‘grey zone’; an uncomfortable, comfortable pace. In order to run quicker I think you have to do just that, run quicker. So instead of doing all your runs at an uncomfortable, almost race pace, speed, take most of them down a notch or two. Steady and easy runs should be just that, steady and easy. Conversational if you would. This will then allow you to attack a few key sessions a week, and really get your legs turning over quickly. This session can be completed anywhere that has a good, stable surface; a running track, gravel path, cricket oval, tarmac road…
Warm up jog, followed by 4 x 80-100m strides – fast relaxed running concentrating on good form and high turnover.
300m (or 50-60secs) hard +45secs recovery
5 x 1km holding a best average pace across all 5 / roughly 5km race pace (3-4min efforts depending on how fast you’re running) +90secs rec
It might not be super long, but its a regular session for me as I prepare to run a fast 10km off the bike, and its pretty tough if you run it right!
Remember to adapt all of these sessions to your current fitness level and ability. Build up to them if you don’t quite feel ready to attack them as a whole. After all, the goal is day to day ordinary.
Non Stanford. October 2018
Non Stanford is a British professional triathlete, the 2013 ITU Triathlon World Champion and an ambassador for Pedalcover.