The countdown to HITS Triathlon Series – Napa Valley, California has begun and we caught up with Ben Greenfield of Ben Greenfield Fitness to chat about how you can make sure – even a week out – that your race day is flawless. Whether you are beginning to tapper, kicking your training into high gear or just remembering about that race that you have in a week, Ben has seven tips you won’t want to miss. See you in California…
Whether you’re racing the Sprint, Olympic, Half or Full, there are specific steps you can take in the last days leading up to HITS Napa Valley to ensure that your body is performing optimally. Over the next few minutes, you’re going to learn 7 essential training and nutrition tips for HITS race week.
#1: Eat Familiar Foods.
Your gut grows very accustomed and comfortable to the foods that it experiences in your normal, day-to-day training. So if you’re used to fresh foods, fruits, vegetables and home-cooking, and you show up to race HITS with a tummy full of stale continental breakfast from your hotel, gas station trail mix, beef jerky, canned foods, and energy bars, then your body is not going to perform ideally on race day – and you might also find yourself making one-too-many porta-potty stops. Instead, if you’re traveling to the race, stop at a grocery store for fresh vegetables, fruits, avocados, potatoes, eggs, deli meat, wraps, and as many “real foods” as possible. Whenever I’m traveling to a race and I know I’ll be overnighting, I just toss a big cooler in the car so I can bring familiar foods. If you need some help with Healthy Grocery Shopping tips on-the-go, then watch this video I made. And for heaven’s sake, don’t try to comprise breakfast, lunch and dinner of free and new supplements and bars that you find at the HITS fitness expo! Save most of that for after the race.
#2: Stick To Your Plan.
There are many, many people that exercise, swim, bike and run far too much in the days leading up to the race. It’s easy to feel like you’re being lazy when you’re staying off your feet and letting your body rest. But a good race taper should only have you exercising at 40-60% of your typical training week’s volume, so stick to that plan, and don’t get caught up in the social pressure to go on “just one more” bike ride, run or dip in the water. Remember: it’s better to go into the race 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained!
#3: Focus On Intensity
When you actually do go out and shake up your legs on race week to get them ready to race, you should include several short bursts of energy at race-pace intensity, and always stop every race week workout before you are fatigued. For example, a typical race week workout day might consist of a morning bike ride of 20-30 minutes, with 4-6 short 60-90 second race pace efforts, followed by a quick 10 minute run with a middle section of 2-4 minutes during which you pick up to race pace. And then, in the afternoon or early evening, you might swim for just 10-15 minutes, with a focus on form, and a few short efforts (similar to the bike). You’re not going to get any fitter during race week, so there’s no need to go ride 25 miles to “check out the course”, or run more than just a few minutes on the run course.
#4: Know The Course
You can make up lots of extra time on proper swim sighting, technical descents, twists, turns and gathering energy for hills, so if you have the opportunity then A) swim 200-500 meters out in Lake Berryessa, then swim back in towards where you are going to be finishing the swim, looking for sighting markers on land that you can use to swim straight; B) drive the entire bike course, making mental notes of technical descents and significant hills; C) study a map of the run course or during one of your race week practice bike rides, bike the run course. You can print all course maps off the HITS website.
#5: Get Your Sleep
As you may know, your body performs best on about 7-9 hours of sleep. Elements that can disrupt sleep include: being hungry at night, watching TV or playing on the computer before bed, sleeping in a room that’s too hot, too much light in your room, or noises that wake you up. During race week, these elements are actually all within your control. Here’s how: 1) before bed, eat a snack that will stick to your ribs, like protein powder stirred into coconut milk with a handful of almonds, and for extra sleep aid, bring 2 of my favorite sleeping helpers – magnesium and melatonin; 2) avoid heavy use of cell phones, computers and TV before bed; 3) set your room temp at about 65-70 degrees; 4) use a sleep mask; 5) use ear plugs. These simple tips will have you sleeping like a baby (a tired baby!) all night long – which will help you feel better on race day.
#6: Stay Hydrated & Salted
During race week (especially if you’re doing the Half or Full Ironman) drink extra water, and try to get through the equivalent of a standard-sized water bottle every couple hours. In addition, unless you’re ignoring the healthy grocery shopping tips from tip #1 and eating high-sodium canned or preserved foods, then lightly salt your food and dissolve an electrolyte tablet in at least a few of your servings of water during the day. All these measures will make you less likely to cramp or become significantly dehydrated on race day.
#7: Tend To Your Bike
One of the biggest reasons for dropping out of a race or having a less-than-perfect race day is mechanical issues with your bike. Before you head out to HITS, you can swing you bike by your local bike shop to have a once over and ensure that cables are adjusted, the bike is shifting properly, the brakes are working correctly, and wheels are true. On race morning, double check that your brakes aren’t rubbing, that your tires are properly inflated, that no sharp pieces of gravel or thorns are on the outside of your tires, and that no bolts or parts are loose or shaking around too much (drop your bike up and down off the ground a few times to test this). This will not only help you identify any last minute mechanical issues, but also give you peace of mind during the race!
The seven steps above are just a few of the little things you can do during race week to ensure that you have a perfect race. But remember to always expect the unknown, and accept the fact that every race has just a few hiccups or mistakes. But that’s what keeps you coming back for more – trying to get better every time! If you have more questions about race week or what to do on race day, feel free to visit my website, where I have many more tips for you: BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Good luck at HITS!