Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Art of the One Race Peak


Today going to chat about how to peak for a single race.

Building for a peak over a period of the season can be quite easy. The broad brush approach is best when setting for a peak that extends over a period of time. Build intensity gradually, introducing race specific intensity and skill sessions as the season approaches. Generally a coach can expect to hold their athlete at peak fitness for 6-10weeks during a race season.
Peaking for a single event on one day of the year is a much more refined and challenging task for any coach.

Just ask James Magnussen (Australian swimmer) who was in World record swim shape prior to the Olympics, but was unable to peak when it mattered.

Recently i had the job of peaking 22 of our team athletes for single day World title events, including Spain LC, Hawaii IM and the Auckland World Olympic Championships.
The art of getting them into supreme form is a tough gig.
This is how i do it. Assume a 20week preparation period with the athlete starting this prep with basic endurance.
Specific Phase
  • Race to Train - use periodic races (1per month) as race pace training sessions. Sharpens their skills and the intensity of a race is always much higher then they achieve in training.
Logic- if you are going to enter a race, then always race at race pace. The time is not the important thing, the effort is. If you are not going to give it your best effort, you would be better off training, not racing.
  • Include easy short aerobic runs after 1 to 2 bike sessions each week. 20-30mins easily is enough, aiming to hold form and find rhythm and cadence as early as you can in the run off the bike (timing foot fall and breathing)
  • As well as the above, include 1-2 swim, bike and run race intensity sessions each week for your longer speed / strength endurance sessions.
  • Include 1 race intensity or above aerobic power surge sets to develop speed and power with change of pace each week. Surge sets have a duel role, development of speed and power with change of pace training and also endurance due to higher average heart rate over time - Such an all round session.
  • Look at the course you are racing on, say with our athletes who raced NZ Worlds, it was hilly on the bike leg, so geared hill strength repeats on the bike and descending rehearsal 1-2x each 3week block throughout the general phase. (Train to Race)
Race Phase
In this phase we get the athletes to run hard following quality bike sessions at race pace and intensity once weekly. This is to mirror race conditions and teach the body to adapt quickly to running flat out after a quality bike effort.

Whats important here is when setting hard bike to hard run in combination is that the efforts are short sustained or broken efforts, ensuring the athletes can maintain race pace speed and intensity by remaining fresh enough using the recoveries between efforts.

Example :
Ride 60mins in total, after a 10-15min warm up do set below 
(1km effort, 1km rec, 1km effort, 2km rec, 1km effort, 3k rec, 1km effort, 4k rec, 1km effort, 5km rec, 1km effort) Efforts at 85-90%mhr and race cadence 
Run 30mins off the bike alting (2min effort at 85%mhr with 1min rec) 

Note : The 1km bike efforts have increasing recoveries after each repetition.

This is to ensure that the rider can generate top speed on each effort, and maintain this as the recoveries increase. As a result, they finish the bike fresh enough to maintain their goal 10km race pace intensity by way 1min recoveries in between each 2min effort.
No use doing this kind of intense workout if you can't maintain the high intensity required for race pace sets.

  • These sessions are run once weekly, in varying forms depending on the sets position in our 3week block. This session above comes after a Sunday rest day, as it's quite challenging.
  • These 'Train to Race' sessions are complimented by extensive speed endurance bikes and run sessions that develop the athletes ability to maintain high intensity close to Lactate threshold.  
  • Train to Race sessions also continue as part of the training schedule.
Racing is a Habit - Be a Racer
i have found that practise makes perfect with racing. Especially in shorter Olympic / Sprint racing, exposing the athletes to the high pressure/speed environment of racing helps teach them racing strategies, and increases their ability to push to their limit more readily when the big goal race comes around.

Sessions that also mirror these pressures (see example above) are also highly useful come race day.

  • if you are afraid of public speaking exposure is the key to overcoming your fear. If you are known as a great trainer, but not racer, expose yourself to racing and high intensity training often, this will help you become a racer.
So there is no use training to train in a lead up to one major race. Train and race yourself into race shape by rehearsing over and over again the conditions you will come up against come the big day.

Train to race NOT Train to train

Coach Foz

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