Monday, February 1, 2016

Back Half Strength

by Dave Latourette

Limiters or “limiting” can be scary words as they reference something we may not be good at. The reality is, if we want to improve, we have to face that fear of what we aren’t good at -- or simply need to improve at -- and find a way to change it. One area I find lacking in most of the athletes new to me or that I continue to work on with developing athletes is what I call “back half race strength.”

That may mean different things to different athletes; for most it means maintaining pace/power from the first half of the race over to the final half of the race (and even within each race discipline). This especially holds true over the last half of the run where it’s easy for a race to go wayward very quickly. While many of the other columnists here have addressed specific limiters within each swim, bike, or run discipline, I would like to address how we can work on our back half strength on a daily basis.

Though the back half of our races is obviously dictated by our fitness it can often be our mind, ego, toughness, or just reality that sabotages the end of those events. (Yes, nutrition plays an important role too, but we need to assume for this article that you have a good grasp of that.) The largest component of getting this right is being realistic and confident about our abilities so we can be tough at the end. Without racing frequently, how do we practice “getting it right?”

  • Daily: No matter what your session is -- swim, bike, or run -- structure the workout so that the session or main set begins in such a way that you feel strongest over the second half without “pace fade” or a drop in power. Keep doing this day after day until you get it right, and then stick with it.

  • Weekly: It’s not uncommon to see a pattern of athletes being real good Monday through Wednesday, struggle a bit on Thursday, re-group Friday for a strong Saturday which is then followed by a lackluster Sunday. When you see patterns like that, be honest with what you can handle over a week so that you structure yourself and your fueling to be steady over the entire week.

  • Training Blocks: No matter what your training cycles are (10 days, two weeks, 17 days, etc.) be reasonable about what you can handle so the last few days aren’t a death march just to get through it. Don’t create a pattern that forces a “recovery” period before you want it.

  • Season: When the dust settles the most important period of training before your peak or key event is the final eight to 13 weeks. If you can’t be strong for at least the last eight weeks leading into your target race, you’re missing the sessions that most highly influence your race day performance.

Much of this takes time, confidence and experience to learn. But do your best on a daily, weekly, and training cycle basis to give yourself a chance to be great at the end. If you are honest about your fitness and you can train back half pacing frequently, you’ll have the confidence to race it and not be affected by outside influences that might force you to do just the opposite.

Be strong at the end!


Dave Latourette is a full time triathlon coach living in Santa Rosa, California, who works with athletes from newcomer to elite. His top athletes have won USAT Age Group National Championships and raced in World Championship events that include the ITU World Championship and the Ironman World Championship. You can learn more about Dave and follow him at: TrainToEndure.com, his blog, or on twitter @dklatourette
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