Learning to Race



"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift"                                                                                                                                          Steve Prefontaine

Those who have seen the film "Without Limits" or read Steve Prefontaine's biography will know what an icon he was in US distance running. Coached by the legendary Bill Bowerman who created sports company NIKE, Prefontaine was a standout character of his time due to his persistent front running and 'race hard' mentality. Often regarded as arrogant his competitors feared and envied his style of racing. He tragically died young in a car accident, this only a short time after finishing (in his eyes) a disappointing 4th in the 5000m at the Munich Olympics. He is one of my idols in endurance sport due to his gutsy racing nature and willingness to physically give his all. It took me years of racing and failed attempts to learn to be able to push my body to the limit in running races to achieve a top result.

The link to triathlon here is the ability to turn our hard efforts week in, week out into what I'd call a Prefontaine kind of race. A race where you physically give your all but within your capabilities to achieve a great result. As age grouper's we have to be able to find that mental and physical level where we put it on the line and border on the edge of 'over cooking it' sometimes on the race course. This can however be a steep learning curve when it goes wrong. So the question this week is...

                "How to know how much is too much in race".

Some people seem to be able to put themselves in that elusive Lactate Threshold area and just keep grinding it out even though they look like they are about to collapse. Some who are more conservative have a solid race but always come away wishing they gave more. The other dilemma is whether this gets harder when you have weaker disciplines in triathlon. Do you find it hard to push yourself to the limit in the swim or bike when it's your weaker discipline? I know from experience that in most triathlon races I have always left too much to do on the run and not pushed it enough on the swim/bike and this is disappointing but also motivating to try to rectify this next time.

               "So how to get that Prefontaine performance?"

  1. Should we lay it on the line and not be concerned with what lies ahead in the race and risk blowing up.

  2. Or should we play it safe and gradually learn to work harder?

I think training is a good place to start. Completing time trials with Balmoral Tri Club and smaller Club races when I was in the UK with Boxfit Tri Club gave me a realistic starting point to gauge how far I could put myself 'in the box' and still be able to grind out results. The other knowledge I will impart is from my running coach from the UK, he always had very realistic outlooks on racing and he was of the opinion that you should never be afraid to lose/blow up/suffer the consequences of a bad race, but prepare for the consequences of never trying. Racing becomes habitual and as you learn to race you need to set expectations for yourself and keep trying new things to get to the level you want.

So, Sydney ITU next weekend - keep posted to see if any of this babble is apparent after that!