Monday, February 1, 2016

Are You a Trainer or Racer?

by Dave Latourette

A number of years ago I did race with a training buddy whom at the end of the day I had beaten. After the race he exclaimed, “Man you race faster than you train!” My response was a quirky smile and a, “Yeah, racing is racing, training is training.”

This incident comes back to me often and it did so again recently as I have some athletes who raced earlier this season or are peaking to do so in the next few weeks. While I have seen a number of performances that lived up to or exceeded training numbers, unfortunately I have seen just the opposite too. My goal with these athletes is to turn them into both smarter trainers and better racers.

What I propose to you is ask yourself some honest questions to evaluate if you are a better trainer or racer. If you are a better trainer than racer, hopefully we can get you on track to being a better racer as well. Below are a just a handful of traits that differentiate trainers and racers. As you read through, see what seems to describe you best:

  • Racers tend to have better sense of current fatigue levels where trainers tend to be so consumed by training that they never have an honest feel of fatigue. This can lead to trainers carrying unnecessary fatigue around on a daily basis to the point that when they finally realize that they are smoked it will take a number of days or longer to bring the body back in line.

  • Racers chronically are not always the fastest performers in their training or in their training groups, rather they look steady and sometimes average. Meanwhile the trainers are putting up great numbers, paces, or performances on a regular training basis. Similar to the above this pattern can leave the trainer too tired, many times mentally, to reach down and ask for a big effort on race day. The racers have left that final “bullet in the gun” to be able to pull the trigger on the big effort when needed on race day.

  • Racers carry a certain amount of confidence in their peaking periods knowing that they are doing everything correct and as well are confident in their training, equipment, and race plan. Meanwhile trainers start to create a tremendous amount of self doubt with any or all of those areas and may deviate from their plan or begin changing equipment at the last minute.

  • Racers seem to be able to relax, thrive, and exude a sense of calm during race week. Trainers struggle with reduced training load and the excess free time that could be used for resting.

If you find yourself being more of a “trainer” or possess a few of those characteristics, here are a few ways to start becoming a better racer.

  1. Find a Mentor or Coach - Hire someone who you not only trust but is willing to ask you to do things you wouldn’t do yourself, be it recovery or training sessions. I find that keeping close communication, seeing athletes in person, or asking them pointed questions allows me to keep them on track.

  2. Use Data Measuring Devices… Properly - Many athletes have power meters, Garmins, swim watches, and a variety of pace, power, heart rate measuring devices yet simply ignore them at crucial times. Establish accurate ranges and zones (power, heart rate, pace, perceived exertion) and use them intelligently with purpose, not just to provide a random number at the end of a training session. If you can’t follow guidelines relative to your devices in training you will never be able to do it in a race.

  3. Race More - I find that those who tend to struggle with race week training and protocol and race day performance simply need to race more. It allows athletes to gain experience and most importantly develop confidence that not only is their training preparing them well for races but their race week routines are set up for them to get the best out of their training. As a coach the one thing I try to do is have very little variation in race week routine from race to race. Paces, power and output may vary pending race distance but the familiarity in routine creates a sense of calm that the trainers need race week.

  4. Race Week Distraction - Until you have completely built confidence in your process of training, pacing, equipment choices and the ability to enjoy your hard earned energy and fitness, I find it can be helpful to find relaxing distractions. This can be as simple as being with people who don’t want to discuss racing or simply reading a book or watching movies that take you out of the competition mindset.

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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