Three Weeks to Go to Age Group Nationals
By Barb Lindquist
Over the next three weeks I will provide a weekly checklist to help prepare you for your first Age Group Nationals (August 22 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.) or for any major race of the season. Early preparation has two primary objectives. First, the more you know now about the course and the racing logistics, the less you will be nervous from the unknowns of your first big national race. Knowledge is power, and knowledge has the power to reduce nervousness. Second, some of the things on the checklist take away your energy both physically and mentally, and yet they are necessary steps to get you to the start line. The idea is that the further from the race you can do some of these things, the more you can rest and relax on race week.
As a note, I have never been to or raced at Tuscaloosa. The following list then, is what I (an Olympic triathlete and 10-year seasoned professional), would do for a championship event in an unknown place.
- If you have not done so, print out the maps of the race course.
- With maps in hand, watch the wonderful course videos that the National Events Staff have made for you. You can find these on the USAT website under the maps for Age Group Nationals. While watching the bike and run videos, make notes on the maps. Can you see landmarks at the turns? Are there any tricky corners? Dodgy road quality? Slight hills? Shady trees?
- Tape this map to your mirror in the bathroom, or on the fridge (depending on where you spend more time looking!). Become so familiar with the course that you could draw it. This will be a challenge with the run course especially. When you get to Tuscaloosa and pre-ride or drive the course, it will seem like you have done it before.
- This is the last week to try anything new for the race. This includes: shoes, saddle height, aerobar position, drink mix, PM pre-race meal, AM pre-race meal, gels, race wheels, race suit, etc… Newbie triathletes are notorious for wanting to try the latest and greatest for a race (especially if their friends are using it), without practicing it beforehand. By the end of this week, you should have no doubt as to your gear selection for the race. Be confident in your choices.
- If you have not made travel arrangements, a hotel reservation, or car rental, get on it!
- Print out all documents you will need. This includes maps from airport to hotel or driving directions; hotel to packet pickup; hotel to transition area; schedule of events from the USAT website; collect any other information you will need in one place such as phone numbers, airline reservation number, car rental number. This stuff takes time, so you might as well do it this week.
- If you are self-coached and have not done so already, map out all key quality workouts between now and the race. Are there any workouts you have done in your previous single sport life that give you confidence on race day? Put those on the calendar so that you don’t cram them all in on taper week.
- By becoming familiar with the race course, is there anything you need to add to your training at this point specifically for this course? For example, with so many U-turns on the run, you could practice going around an imaginary cone, and accelerating out of each turn. Are you someone who likes to do a wide turn around a cone to keep momentum, or do you like to do a tight turn and run less distance? Practice and find out!
- If you don’t include transition training in your weekly workouts, start now so that you will get in at least three before Nationals. Transition training is NOT a brick workout. It is the skills work you need to possess to have fast, smooth, error-free transitions. Practice should include but is not limited to: putting on your helmet FAST; using rubber bands to secure your cranks; a bike mount with shoes on the pedals (come on, you can do it!); riding with feet on top of the shoes; getting your feet into the cycling shoes at peak speed; drinking your bottles efficiently (squeeze to get it in fast) ; getting your feet out of the cycling shoes; dismount; running with the bike; putting racing flats on fast; finish line celebration, and smile!
Barb Lindquist was a 2004 Olympian in triathlon and currently serves as the USAT Collegiate Recruitment Coordinator. This series of articles was written for her recruited collegiate runners and swimmers who will be competing at Age Group Nationals in Tuscaloosa for their first time, and who have done on average 1-3 triathlons in their life. Barb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through her own personal coaching business at www.barblindquist.com.