Every triathlete wants to be in peak shape come race day. But how do we know how hard we can race?
When you do a triathlon with performance goals and not just to experience and cross the finish line before cut-off, it's all about racing as hard as you can for the duration of the event whether that be sprint, Olympic/standard distance, half ironman, or ironman.
That doesn’t mean training all-out all the time. Former professional triathlete and multiple ironman champion Belinda Granger says, “Often I will see people do these amazing training sessions and you'll think, ‘Wow, they're going to go really well.’ But when it comes to race day they actually race slower than a lot of their training sessions.”
Your coach or a good training program will have specific race pace/race effort sessions scheduled in the lead-up to your next race. In such sessions, you’re spending a good chunk of time in that bike ride or in that run at race pace so you can visualise and feel what being in the race will be like.
Some of these sessions will be time trial brick sessions where you do a portion of the swim, bike, and/or run at the effort you expect to go during a race. “You don't want to get to the end and be exhausted, but you need to definitely have key sessions – and not just one,” Belinda notes. “There needs to be quite a few of these put in the right places within your training program so that when it comes to race day, you know what's expected, you know how you're supposed to feel and you've got the fitness needed to race the distance.”
It’s also during these race effort sessions where you learn to pace yourself, understand how much more fitness you need to gain to be able to stay on target pace, or reassess your goals for the race so that you can finish strong and happy without blowing up.