It’s hard to believe, but it’s about time for specific preparation for athletes training for St. George. The specific preparation (SP) period is the last period of training before we taper for our race. During the base period we focus on the general elements of fitness that you need to succeed (endurance, technique, overall strength). During the SP we care only about 1 thing: being 100% ready for race day.
1. Do Whatever It Takes To Be Ready.
This is the #1 rule. Ideally you’ll be entering your Ironman SP strong, fresh and with a solid base of endurance and overall strength. However, we don’t always live in a perfect word. If you have been sidelined for 2 months by a run injury, for example, you’ll need to focus on rebuilding basic conditioning and endurance. It would be foolish to have the attitude, “I’m 5 weeks out from my IM, so I need to do a 2 hour run.” Similarly, if you are still struggling with swim technique you better focus on getting some lessons much more than doing 2 mile open water swims!
2. Do Your Biggest and Most Specific Training When It Counts the Most.
The training you do 3-7 weeks out from your race has by far the biggest effect on your race performance. (Read sport science savant Alan Couzens’ blog post on Influence Curves for a detailed explanation). During this time we want to do our biggest and most specific (race-like) training of the year in order to get one final boost of fitness going into our race. As a result we want to make sure that we are strong and injury free going into this period. This last period is like the final “kick” in the race to get ready– be sure that you’ve left good power in reserve and that you haven’t spend all your physical and emotional energy before you get there! You also want to do everything you can in advance to make sure that things are lined up at home and at work to let you do your training. For example, you might want to use a vacation day to take a Thursday off to sleep in and do a solid big day of training followed by a nap.
3. Completely Dial In Your Pacing, Mental and Emotional, Nutrition & Hydration Plans for Race Day.
It blows my mind how many people are willing to train 15 hours week after week but are unwilling to take the relatively small amount of time it would take to develop and test a strategy that gives them the best chance of success on race day. Or even worse, some people take the time to develop a strategy, but then choose to ignore it on race day! Remember that the real value of the famous mega workouts we do during the SP is in helping us dial in our nutrition, hydration, and pacing strategy for race day in addition to boosting your confidence in your ability to succeed on race day. If you are just going to do the workouts without learning from them you might be better off skipping them! During virtually every workout you should be learning lessons about pacing your race. Get your strategy dialed in and then brainwash yourself to the point where you would never even DREAM of violating your strategy.
In future blog posts I’ll talk more about how to achieve each of these goals, but for those of you in your specific prep period right now, always keep these 3 things in mind to make sure that you are ready to rock on race day!