The final 90 days are key to your race preparation.

Here’s how to dial them in.

by AJ Johnson/ adapted by Vy Waller to an Olympic distant race.

While every athlete is different, following some general guidelines will help you

make it to the start line healthy and ready to race. Use these principles to tailor

your training to your own unique needs and to build a winning race-day plan.

With a progressive build involving race specificity and a taper to let your body

recover, you can be fully prepared to have the race you know you’re capable of.

12 to 14 weeks out

At this point in your race prep your training should start to become more race-day

specific. The key during this crucial time period is having the necessary volume

to cover the distance, but also maintaining the quality of each session.

By this time, you should be able to comfortably ride 15 miles. Over these 6

weeks, build to being able to ride the full 30 miles, or even slightly more. During

these rides, you should consider your race-day power/heart rate and ride in those

zones for longer intervals of 20 minutes to an hour. These rides also give you a

chance to get comfortable in your bike position and make any necessary tweaks.

What feels good for 15 miles may not feel good at the 30 mile mark. It also allows

you to experience what your shoulders, back and hips will feel like deep into the

ride. A 15 to 30-minute brick run off the bike is another way to make your training

more race specific. If you are cycling indoors you may want to run off the bike for

a 10 minute period and then return to cycling. Repeat.

The same principles apply to the long run. For most triathletes, running over 1

hour is not necessary. Keeping the long run to 45 minutes with some race pace

(or effort) intervals is a better option. If you do feel like you need to run longer, do

so early in this timeframe, 12 to 10 weeks out, to allow for more recovery but

ensure that you include the speed intervals in the run.

Most athletes do their long rides and runs on the weekends. I often suggest that

athletes swap the days for the long sessions. So, one Saturday would be the

long ride, then the next Saturday would be the long run. This gives you the

opportunity to have more quality in your long run versus running on tired legs

every week.

Next, these longer rides and runs are where you want to start to dial in your race

day nutrition and hydration plan. This process takes time, so if you haven’t

already, now is the time. Know what will be available on the course and see how

those products work for you. Carry your own only if absolutely necessary.

Weekday workouts should focus on race-day effort intervals. Consider your goal

times for the bike, swim and run and know your wattage, heart rate and/or pace

you need to feel comfortable at for race day for each section.

The last of these weeks can have a little less volume to allow for a micro-

recovery. This will give you the extra energy needed for a good final block of

training.

8 to 4 weeks out

This block of training represents your last chance to add fitness. During the first

part of this block you can still be adding volume to your long days, but the

additions shouldn’t be more than 10 to 15 miles on the bike or 15 minutes on the

run. Big jumps in volume here can be very risky and cause a very ill-timed injury.

Your longest ride and run of the training should occur during this time.

If you haven’t already, begin adding in some long, steady swims for a set

distance, typically 2,000 meters. Perform a short warm up, one you can simulate

on race day, then swim at or near your goal race pace. Do your best to keep

even splits for each 500 by checking the pace clock or glancing at your watch.

Do some short heads-up swimming as well to simulate sighting for buoys.

Related Article: Sight Like an Alligator, Swim Like a Fish

Six weeks out is a good time for a long race-day simulation brick workout. Give

yourself a few easy days to rest before this key workout. The workout should

include a 2,000 swim a 30-mile bike and 5 mile run done in succession. During

each session, perform some work at goal race effort to further dial in your race-

day pace and nutrition. This workout will show you just how prepared you are

and gives you a more realistic idea of your splits for each segment.

This is also the time to finalize your race gear. Use your race clothing, aero

helmet and race-day wheels for at least part of this workout. Make sure

everything you need is in good condition. Use the running shoes you plan to

wear on race day run on at least some of your longer runs to mitigate the

chances of blisters, especially if you don’t wear socks and intend to use the

blister spray instead (right Alex).

4 weeks out

This is the time to really start dialing your volume back and allowing your body to

absorb all your training. In the last two to three weeks there is little you can do to

improve your fitness, but there is a lot you can do to harm it. Remember, it’s

better to go into race day 10 percent undertrained than 1 percent overtrained. If

you’ve been consistent over the past months, you’ll have the fitness you need to

perform well.

Many athletes find that a gradual two to three week taper works best. Reduce the

volume of your long days and your weekly overall volume by 10 to 15 percent

each week. Continue to do race-pace or faster intervals during your sessions, but

they should all be shorter than in previous weeks. This will keep your legs

moving and sharp, but the reduced volume will keep fatigue to a minimum. Every

workout should end with you feeling like you could have done a bit more. Resist

the urge to “test” the legs. If you are feeling particularly good, save that energy

for race day when it matters most.

This is typically an awkward time for most athletes. Being used to long rides and

fatigued legs, you suddenly find yourself with time on your hands. Rest is the

key, so don’t take this time to remodel your house. You may feel tired or

lethargic, but don’t panic. Your body needs time to absorb all those months of

training and adapt. The more you can rest and recover the better.

Believe in your training and trust the process.

Good luck in the next few months and happy racing.

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