Finding the right race pace is crucial for athletes to perform at their best. However, determining the appropriate pace for each athlete can be challenging as it varies depending on experience, training, goals, and risk-taking behavior. Here are some strategies I use to help athletes find their race pace:
- Conduct Testing Sessions: I work with athletes to conduct testing sessions that assess their current fitness level and determine their pace for each discipline. These sessions provide valuable information about the athlete's strengths and weaknesses and help establish a baseline for training.
- Adjust Paces as Needed: As athletes progress through their training, their paces need to be adjusted to match their physical and mental demands. This adaptation ensures that they remain on track and are making progress towards their goals.
- Customize Pacing for Each Athlete: Each athlete is unique, and therefore, it is not accurate to say that all athletes should do a specific set pace for a given distance. The pacing needs of a new athlete or someone wanting to be more conservative may differ from that of an athlete with ambitious goals. These differences need to be discussed and tested in training.
- Have Integrity with the Desired Outcome: A common mistake athletes make is changing their goals on race day or trusting that they are doing the right pace. Often, they are influenced by other athletes who do not have good plans. I advise athletes not to let the missteps of others dictate their plan and to have integrity with the desired outcome.
- Use Multiple Pace Measurement Methods: There are various ways to measure pace, such as velocity, speed, power, turnover, heart rate, and rate of perceived exertion. I recommend having a few methods in your toolbox to rely on and track progress.
- Consider External Factors: Conditions like terrain, wind, and weather can significantly impact pace. Therefore, relying solely on speed or velocity can lead to unnecessary mental stress. Athletes need to adjust their pace according to the conditions they face on race day.
- Regular Communication with Your Coach: Communication with your coach is essential to stay on track and make progress. Communicating any concerns, issues, or changes in your training allows your coach to make adjustments as needed.
- Be Willing to Take Risks: Although athletes must be realistic about their abilities, taking risks can sometimes pay off in the end. This could mean pushing yourself a little harder than you think you're capable of or experimenting with a new training strategy.
- Practice Race Simulation: Practicing race simulation is an excellent way to train at or near your race pace in a simulated race environment. This helps athletes get a feel for what race day will be like and provides valuable information about what adjustments need to be made to their pace or strategy.
- Trust the Training Process: Leading up to race day, there may be some uncertainty and nerves. Trusting in the training process and knowing that you've put in the work with a solid plan can help alleviate some anxiety and allow athletes to perform at their best.
Finding the right race pace is vital for triathlon success. As a coach, I strive to help my athletes achieve their goals by providing guidance, support, and knowledge. By conducting testing sessions, customizing paces, using multiple pace measurement methods, considering external factors, regular communication, taking risks, practicing race simulation, and trusting the training process, athletes can find their appropriate race paces and perform at their best on race day.