March 29, 2021

Rested and Ready for Race Day

Your best triathlon performance is preceded by an effective taper. Join coaches John Mayfield and Elizabeth James as they discuss the purpose of the taper and how to productively finish preparing for your race. The coaches overview your final workouts, considerations for sleep and nutrition, and how to handle travel during this time.

TriDot Podcast .079 Rested and Ready for Race Day Intro: This is the TriDot podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile, combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We’ll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let’s improve together. Andrew Harley: Hey, folks. Thanks so much for listening. We’re glad that you joined us today. It’s going to be a great show. Hey, we would love you forever if you would take a quick second to subscribe to this show or leave a review on your podcast listening platform of choice. But especially Apple Podcast. That helps us the most. That just helps our podcast find its way to the listening ears of new athletes. Great topic today, talking about tapering for your next race. How to show up rested and ready to crush your next big day on the racecourse. Joining us for this conversation is Coach John Mayfield. John is a USAT Level 2 and Ironman U certified coach who leads TriDot’s athlete services, ambassador, and coaching programs. He has coached hundreds of athletes from first-timers to Kona qualifiers, and professional triathletes. John has been using TriDot since 2010 and coaching with TriDot since 2012. John, what’s up man? John Mayfield: It’s going really well Andrew, thanks. Andrew: Next up is Pro Triathlete and Coach Elizabeth James. Elizabeth is a USAT Level 2 and Ironman U certified coach who quickly rose through the triathlon ranks using TriDot. From a beginner to top age grouper to a professional triathlete. She’s a Kona and Boston Marathon qualifier who has coached triathletes with TriDot since 2014. Elizabeth, thanks for joining us. Elizabeth James: It’s great to be here Andrew. Andrew: I am Andrew the average triathlete, voice of the people, and captain of the middle of the pack. As always we’ll roll through our warm up question, settle in for our race taper main set topic, and then wind things down with our cool down. Lots of good stuff. Let’s get to it. Warm up theme: Time to warm up! Let’s get moving. Andrew: Between Gatorade showers, pitchers of beer, and champagne showers, pouring a beverage over the head of an athlete or a coach is a common way to celebrate a big win. If your Tri support group were celebrating you at the finish line by pouring something over your head, what beverage would you choose? Coach John Mayfield, what are you thinking here? John: It would definitely not be Gatorade. By the end of a race, I’m not wanting anymore Gatorade. We all know how sticky it gets, and nasty, so definitely not Gatorade. I’m not really a champagne kind of guy and I feel like that would be a waste of beer. My first craving after a race, really any distance, I always want soda. That’s definitely one of my go-tos on the long course races. I pull a cola out of the aid stations. I hit that every chance. And ironically, as much as I disdain Gatorade afterwards, I still want that cola. So I’ll go with that, even though that would be incredibly nasty and sticky as well. Since you asked the weirdest question, I’ll come up with the weirdest answer. There you go. Andrew: That’s what I’m here for. I like to think people tune in for the warmup question and then duck out after that, cause that’s the best part. That’s the highlight of the show to me. So, you heard it. Next time John Mayfield crosses the finish line, instead of us all shaking up some champagne and releasing it over his face, we can do that with a couple bottles of coke. John: Maybe Ginger Ale. That would kind of be like champagne. Andrew: Probably settle the tummy after a long race. Checks out, makes sense. Coach Elizabeth James, what are you thinking here? Elizabeth: This was a hard question. At first I was thinking thank goodness he called on John first. But I still don’t have a great answer. The only thing I can come up with right now is something with ice. I prefer racing in warmer weather, I don’t like the cold at all, I don’t do well in the cold. So hopefully it’s a race that’s nice and warm and I need to cool down a little bit at the finish line. So something nice and chilled would be appreciated. But to be honest Andrew, that’s all I’ve got right now. I don’t know. Andrew: That’s Elizabeth’s nice way of saying I’m going to be honest Andrew, this is a weird question. That’s what that is. So really Elizabeth, what it sounds like for you is let’s bypass that and get to an ice bath as soon as possible. Elizabeth: There we go. Just promoting the recovery. Andrew: Okay, alright, there you go. There you go. So for me, I’m going to give 2 answers here. I’m going to give my truthful answer and my fun answer. Because truthfully, the only thing I want is water. That’s not because I feel sticky after a race. That’s not because I feel adverse to...I literally hate my hands and my face getting messy with food items. When I eat BBQ, I go through napkins like crazy. I will BBQ off my face and hands… Elizabeth: This is true. We’ve seen this happen. Andrew: I go through double the napkins that my wife does at any given meal that we’re eating at our home. If I were a spy and got captured, the only thing they would have to do to break me would be restrain my hands and put a dot of BBQ sauce on my hands or face. I would tell them anything they wanted to know immediately in exchange for getting that wiped off. During our wedding, my wife’s greatest expression of her love for me was not the vows or the first dance. It was not smashing the cake in my face during the cutting of the cake. She knows I cannot stand having food on my hands or my face, liquids on my hands or face. I’ll freak out. I’ve gotta get it off. So truthfully, my answer is water. Anything else poured on me or over me, I wouldn’t handle it well. I’d freak out a little. John: Sometimes your answers are as weird as your questions. (laughter) And I gotta say, water you’d be like...there’s something about water. I never understood this. You can get in the salt water on the swim, and have the Gatorade and all that all over your body, and it seems fine. You get in a nice, clean, fresh water shower, and all of a sudden you find out everywhere that you’ve chafed. All of a sudden it feels like fire when the salty Gatorade was fine hours earlier, now the freshwater for some reason is highly irritating. So the water may not be a great answer. Maybe reconsider. Your second answer may be better than the first. Andrew: I feel like this is true. Although any liquid might do that in that circumstance. But what my second answer, just to have more fun with this question and if someone was like “Andrew, you can’t say water. That’s dumb. We’re going to do this to you anyway and it’s not going to be water. Pick something else.” I thought about it and do you guys remember from the late 80’s or early 90’s, growing up playing sports as a kid, Capri Sun’s and Squeeze Its were the common parent would bring that as the drink for the kids after a t-ball game kind of drink? They were super bright colors, probably terrible for us, they’re probably nothing but sugar. But just to have more fun with it, I think if you squeeze a tube of Squeeze It really hard, the liquid just comes shooting out. And so a bunch of people at the finish line shooting off some multi-colored Squeeze Its would be quite a picture for sure. If I had to pick something different. Do not do this to me at any of my upcoming races. Elizabeth: Of course the photographer thinks about the picture aspect of it here. Andrew: The champagne shower right with the pros on the podium and they’re shooting champagne everywhere. It's makes a fun image. It’s fun imagery for sure. John: We’ve been hearing it for a year and a half. Ironman Texas. Andrew at the finish line. Squeeze It’s. Andrew: Do not. That is the last thing I want. John: Do you know what to do people? Andrew: Oh gosh. Hey, we're going to throw this question out to you guys on social media, partially because we’re interested in your answers and partially to deflect from everything I just said. So, find us on Facebook I AM TriDot Facebook group, we’re going to throw this one out to you and see if you have any more creative answers than the three of us did. What do you think would be a fun, different twist on the fun, beverage shower at the end of your next race? Main set theme: On to the main set. Going in 3…2…1… TriTats: Our main set today is brought to you by TriTats. 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Andrew: We push ourselves through interval after interval, training session after training session, all to get stronger and faster for our next big race. But at some point in the training cycle, we have to back off on our training in order to show up on race morning with fresh legs and primed muscles ready to crush the course. TriDot, of course, has the pre-race taper down to a science. And so today, we will talk through nailing this key part of a training cycle to ensure our best race possible. So, Elizabeth, John, just to make sure everyone in our audience is entering this conversation ready to learn, lay the groundwork for us. What is a taper? Elizabeth: A taper is the transition from training with the intent of fitness or performance gains to training with the intent of preparing to race. So it’s the gradual reduction in training load that provides for adaptation, for rest and recovery, that really allows you to be race ready. John: So fitness follows 7-10 days after your training. So for today the fitness that you have really is the product of the training that you did a week to a week and a half ago and everything prior. So everything you’ve done the last couple days is still largely in that adaptation process. Your body is still recovering from that. So as of today you don’t necessarily have the benefit of the training that you did yesterday. That’s not going to come for another week and a half. That’s part of this process here is realizing that our ability to gain more fitness has stopped. So what we want to do now is shift focus from gaining more fitness, gaining more race readiness to preparing to maximize. So it’s allowing the body to rest, to top off all the tanks. So recovery is glycogen replenishing, electrolytes, all those things that your body uses and depletes in training, we want to through these last couple days and couple weeks, is to have everything topped off, refreshed, and ready to race. Andrew: So in letting our bodies get primed and ready for race day, what differences should we expect to see in our workouts during this tapering? John: It’s going to be a gradual reduction in training volume. So that’s what we mean by taper. It’s a gradual reduction. There are several common mistakes that are made throughout the taper. One of them is not maintaining the frequency of sessions. So that’s the first rule is to stick with the schedule that you’ve had. So the sessions themselves are going to look different, but keep with what you’ve been doing. So if you’re training 7 days a week, 6 days a week—headed into race, maintain that throughout your taper. So you don’t necessarily want to reduce the frequency of the sessions that you do. To a certain extent you want to maintain the sequence of the sessions, as well. So the biggest thing you’re going to see is that gradual reduction in volume. So your hours are going to drop. Another common mistake is not including intensity. So they think often times that we’re looking to rest up so we want to take it easy. The easier we go, the more we’re able to rest or recover. But there are certain benefits to including the intensity back in. So that’s something we don’t want to do is neglect the intensity piece of it. So we drop the volume. We maintain or sometimes even increase the intensity in these last few sessions. Andrew: I remember being a little surprised my first race on TriDot. I remember being a little bit surprised when I hit that week before the race and seeing some of that intensity still on the schedule because in your mind you’re like, “I still have to go hard this week? I’m racing this weekend. I don’t want to get tired before the race!” But you do it and you realize that’s getting you ready for the race. It’s getting you primed, getting you ready. John: It can certainly be a little counterintuitive, but it does help maintain muscular elasticity. So we’re keeping the muscles ready to race. It helps maintain neuromuscular activation, so those neural pathways that have been developed throughout training, we want to maintain those. And then promote recovery, as well. Throughout your normal training, it’s that overall training stress load that you’ve been doing. So now that that training load is reduced, is tapered down, we still want to invoke that training response or that recovery so that your body stays in that state of making those adaptations in recovery. So it’s just a little bit of stimulus to keep the body doing what it’s been doing. Elizabeth: Those sessions are maybe going to have some shorter intervals with some similar intensity to what you’ve been doing. But there’s also that additional recovery in between, too. I think a good example of this is a session that we would have during race week. So race week builds on the bike. You might see three to four intervals where you’re progressing throughout the interval up to your threshold intensity. Goodness, I mean, we were just discussing here how a lot of athletes think they need to sit on the couch for two weeks and really rest up. Or they look at the schedule and think, “What do you mean there’s intensity?” I think it’s becoming more and more understood, but it’s an education thing, too, of how do we really prepare our body for race day? It’s maintaining that schedule, maintaining frequency, including some intensity, as well, that’s really going to prepare you for race day. Andrew: Yeah, Elizabeth, I humorously think back to my first 70.3, which was 70.3 New Zealand—I’ve talked about it on the podcast a few times before. My wife and I vacationed in New Zealand for two weeks leading up to the [race], which was great. I am definitely a huge proponent of the racecation. But in terms of optimal performance, I remember she was like, “Do we need to race first and then do the vacation?” I was like, “No! I need to rest for race day anyway. This will be great! We’ll have two weeks where I’m not training so I’m resting.” I totally had it backwards on what I needed to do on those weeks leading up to the race. I would’ve had a much better performance had I been doing training leading up to that race as opposed to just vacationing and enjoying and not doing anything. Exactly what you said is something I’ve learned in my time at TriDot and I’m sure a lot of other athletes have, as well. I think for most of us during a typical training session, we’re focused on either hitting our intervals or keeping the easy zones easy and the hard zones hard and pushing ourselves, knowing that we’re trying to build stamina or power. But it seems like during the taper we aren’t trying to build power or stamina anymore. So what should our focus be during workouts during a taper? John: As we mentioned, fitness is a delayed response. What you really want to do during this taper period is to respond to and absorb all the training that it has been doing over the past several days, weeks, months. Everything that has brought you to this point. Now what you want to do is allow all those adaptations to happen within the body as well as rest up. We mentioned that we certainly don’t want to neglect that. That is certainly an important component of the taper is resting. That’s where a lot of these adaptations occur is during these times of rest, so that certainly is important. But the focus of the taper is really preparing to race. There are several things that need to happen in order to race at the best. But, really, the focus is really to allow the body to fully recover and fully adapt from all those previous training sessions to really get the fullness of the training that you’ve done. Andrew: Every race is different, and thus it makes sense that every taper would be different to get us ready for that race. What factors play a role in how long our taper should last before race day? Elizabeth: In general, the higher the training volume, the longer the taper. This is also going to be very individualized for each athlete. Based on their ability and need in each discipline. So the individual, their age, their sport age, their recovery rate, injury predisposition, etc. All of that is going to be considered into the length of the taper. Then, additionally, the taper should be discipline independent. You may not taper for each discipline at the same time. John: I think this is something that is often misunderstood or neglected, as well. They think it’s time to taper so it just happens at a certain specified period of time. Sometimes it’s one week, two week, three weeks. It’s often an interval of weeks. That kind of goes back to vague philosophy and principle, whereas, as Elizabeth mentioned, we have three independent disciplines that each are very different impacting the body. The recovery demand that a swim session creates is very different than the recovery demand that a run session creates, so we don’t necessarily need to taper these at the same rate. Also, as she mentioned, the individual athlete…everyone is different in their ability to absorb the training, where their strengths and weaknesses are. So primary consideration would be starting with the longest recovery. Typically this is going to be the run. The run does cause the most trauma to the body. It creates the largest recovery demand. Secondary would be starting with the strengths and continuing to train on your weaknesses and focus on those. Take advantage of those opportunities to get in a few more sessions to get in on those disciplines that you may not be as strong in. So it’s a process of balancing the two and where the tradeoffs are between providing for that recovery and taking advantage of those additional sessions. Andrew: John, what I’m thinking of as you’re saying all that—I’m thinking even today of a buddy of mine who is a TriDot athlete. Paul Wolff is training for Ironman Texas just like I’m training for Ironman Texas. Paul messaged me literally this morning and asked me, “What’s your workout today?” We’re having fun looking at how TriDot is getting us ready for this race a little bit differently. I’m a stronger runner than Paul. Paul is a stronger cyclist than I am. So for him to today say my run is an hour and fifteen minutes. His run is an hour and fifty-five minutes. I have a little bit more time at marathon pace than he does. So we’re starting to see that TriDot is already taking us in different directions in how long we need to train each discipline based on what we’re stronger at and weaker at. When it comes to the taper, does TriDot also do any customization of what your taper will be based on your ability as an athlete? Or are all tapers kind of backed off in the volume at similar rates? John: That’s where those training strengths and weaknesses are going to come into play, as well as recovery rate and injury predisposition. Those have to be balanced. You threw out the example of he’s being a stronger cyclist. So in this case, Paul being a strong cyclist provides him the opportunity to taper that sooner, whereas you may have a few more sessions delaying your taper so that you can continue to get in a few more sessions prior to race day. Andrew: Lucky, lucky Paul. John: Especially knowing that those bike sessions aren’t particularly traumatic. You recover relatively quickly. You can afford to do that. Also knowing yours. You’re young, you’re lean, you’ll recover relatively quickly. So you can afford to take on those additional sessions, whereas the additional time of tapering and recovery…again, it’s that cost/benefit relationship. So where are you in that? Is it more beneficial for you to begin to taper? Or is it more beneficial for you to get in a few more sessions? Those last few sessions aren’t going to have a tremendous effect on your overall result, but they can certainly contribute. They’re worth doing. So, again, are you better off continuing to train or are you better off beginning to taper? As you mentioned, that’s the great thing about TriDot—taking care of all that is really getting into the weeds. It’s getting really technical and really difficult to determine balancing that across the swim, bike, and run: when exactly do you taper? What is the cost/benefit evaluation of additional session for each of the swim-bike-run, but, yeah…fortunately TriDot has taken care of all that for each individual athlete. So when you begin your taper, how long your taper is versus how many sessions you squeeze in there at the last minute. Almost cramming before the exam, so to speak, really comes down to the individual and how well they’re going to be able to maintain and absorb and adapt from those sessions. Andrew: So everybody’s taper for every single race is different for what we need. Super cool. For a race that is maybe on the schedule as a C priority race—so not one that we are trying to pique for and not one we are going to taper for—is there a big difference in how well we will be able to perform on the course if we train through the race without a taper? John: It really depends on the athlete and the race, but by definition, that’s okay. When it’s a C race it’s more so just a training opportunity. It’s an experience kind of thing. We know emphatically that tapering for a race improves the performance. That’s something that’s been documented in numerous tests. That’s clear. The athlete that tapers is going to perform better. So the inverse of that is if you don’t taper, you will not perform as well. Again, it really takes into consideration which athlete we’re talking about and what event we’re talking about. A young, elite level sprint distance athlete is going to largely perform the same whether they’re tapered or not. It’s a short race. Being young and fit, they’re going to bounce back from their training relatively quickly. So they’re not going to see a tremendous difference in their performance, whether they’re tapered or not. Flip that on the other side and you go long course Ironman with an older athlete that’s not quite as fit—they’re going to see a much larger delta in their performance in what they did if they just trained into that Ironman race versus tapering into it. That would be a much larger delta. And then there’s the broad spectrum in between the two. Andrew: So part of having fresh legs, primed muscles, and a sharp mind for race day is the sleep leading into the big day. Is there anything strategic that we should be doing in our sleep pattern heading into a race? John: Yeah. Get as much of it as you can. It really should be a priority. Andrew: I mean, John, it’s such a priority that at this point I’m thinking back now…we’ve had 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 podcast episodes where we’ve talked about different race day topics where we bring up sleep like every single time. I’ve heard the Coach John Mayfield rant about banking sleep the week of many, many times. But, again, I would be remiss if someone missed those. We keep bringing it up because of how important race week sleep is, right? Elizabeth: Oh, yeah. For sure. Sleep is where the body makes those adaptations. It’s where we get that prime recovery. So for us to bring it up over and over and over highlights… Andrew: Plus it’s just so enjoyable to sleep. Elizabeth: That’s why we need it! John: It’s certainly the inverse side of the coin from all the hard training we do. We go really hard in training. We work our butts off, but then sleep a lot, which is polar opposite. I think another important consideration is…this is one of those things kind of like prove me wrong. You’re probably not going to sleep well the night before the race. Andrew: I never do. John: Perhaps 2, 3, 4 nights out from the race, I would say especially if it’s a new distance or certainly if it’s a big event, a marquis event—I generally sleep like a baby. But even after all my years of racing, I know that night before the race my head is doing to be racing with everything I’ve got to do. Did I pack this? Did I remember to do that? Do this, this, this in the morning. Then all those, “I hope I do well.” It’s a lot. Andrew: And dreading the alarm clock so much that I can’t fall asleep. John: That’s the irony. We all have those nightmares months out that we’re going to sleep through our alarm clock. Elizabeth: You’ll already be awake. John: This happened a couple years ago. I believe it happened over in Europe. It was so rare that it was actually documented. A guy did sleep through and missed the start of his Ironman race. It’s so rare that I know of it because it made its way around the triathlon world that someone actually slept through the start. Andrew: He probably didn’t taper correctly. He’s worn out. John: Of all the mistakes that could be made on race day, sleeping through the alarm is probably not going ot be one. You have much more legit things to worry about. Really, starting early…especially early in the week to bank sleep is really going to offset the effects of that last night where you’re not sleeping well. Again, I’ve said it before because we talk about it all the time, but there have been lots of fantastic races, lots of PRs, lots of Kona qualifications, after really bad nights of sleep. So getting a solid 8 to 10 hours of sleep the night before the race is not a requirement for a good race. Banking sleep early in the week can really go a long way to help offset the effects of not sleeping well the night before. Andrew: Yep. My last race, John, that you and I raced (Challenge Daytona) I…it’s well documented in the TriDot social media circles that I shaved my arms and legs the night before that race. It took way longer than I thought it was going to. So John and I got to bed way later than we intended. And, yeah, did just fine the next day. So that just tracks right along with what you’re saying. You can have a great day on the race course without nailing the sleep the night of if you’ve taken care of it. John: I do remember we even said that’s going to make great podcast content one of these days. We were sharing the hotel room. My plan was to be in bed by 9 o’clock. At 11:30 Andrew is still shaving his legs in the shower. So, yeah. And we both had fantastic races after a much later night than anticipated and a really early morning. Andrew: Even without an entire episode about showing up on race day fresh, several times on the podcast we’ve talked about scaling back the amount of calories that you consume as you taper toward race day. I’ve heard Dr. Austin mention this and Coach Jeff Raines, as well. What is the best way to cut back on the calories without showing up to the race under fueled? John: I think a big thing is to be cognizant of what you’re consuming. Know and understand that your training load is down so your calorie burn is going to be down, as well. Your calorie need is less. It is important to maintain a healthy diet. We don’t really want to gain weight in those last two weeks, but it certainly is possible if we have that balance off where the training is down. The calorie burn is down. So the nutrition needs to be adjusted, as well. Elizabeth: I think being intentional and strategic is really important. I have almost all of my meals and snacks planned out for race week just to try and make sure that I’m cutting back a little bit and avoid overeating. I think a lot of athletes will end up eating too much because that’s just the habit they’ve created with the training. And now they’ve got more time to look in the pantry or cook a little bit more, too. The other thing I’d say here is to save those splurges for after the race. John already mentioned, you need to maintain qualify nutrition headed into race day. I eat healthy most of the time, but I’ll absolutely be having a burger and a milkshake or nachos when it’s over. But that’s when it’s over. So you need to eat really healthy leading into the race so that you’re fueling for that performance. Andrew: In my experience, there are two types of athletes during a taper. The first embraces the extra downtime whole-heartedly and uses the decreased volume to just relax. The second feels a little out of sorts. They aren’t training as much. They see extra hours in their day that used to be filled with a training session. So they’re tempted to fill that time with maybe some other race prep things. Maybe some extra training volume they aren’t scheduled to do. Is there anything right or wrong with either of these approaches? John: Definitely not a right or wrong. Personally, I love the taper. I’ve been working hard for months and you get a little tangible break here. It’s almost a victory lap before the victory lap of race day. I think a lot of this has to do with personality. I tend to be laid back, pretty relaxed. So I’m not stressing over too much. Also, I think it’s a certain amount of faith and confidence. I’ve been doing this long enough to know what I’m doing, know what I’m in for. I also have faith in my training and preparations and all that. I think it’s more of a personality thing. Just me, personally, being a little more laid back, I think that’s why I approach it as a, “Great, now I get to back off a little bit.” Andrew: That’s me, too. Elizabeth: That’s not me, so...Andrew, you said there’s two types of triathletes during the taper. We’ve got those two types here in this recording. Andrew: At the table, on the podcast. Elizabeth: I would agree. It probably does have a lot to do with personality type. I am not a laid back personality. The taper is hard for me. I absolutely love training. I love the routine of training. I want to do more of it during that race week, but I know that I shouldn’t for my best performance. So to help fill those hours that are usually dedicated to training, I’ll usually schedule some appointments for race week, just to kind of help fill that time. So I’ll get my haircut, I’ll go get my nails done. A few years ago I took care of all my annual doctor’s appointments during race week. So I went to the dentist and the optometrist. All activities that are very low-stress. Andrew: I don’t know, the dentist is pretty high stress for me. Elizabeth: See, I like the dentist. But, you know, that kept me from those anxious feelings of, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got this extra time.” I had it filled with those extra appointments. So that’s been the strategy for me who is not a laid back personality and has a hard time with the taper. John: I’m laid back until I go to the dentist or the doctor. Definitely opposites. Andrew: I’m very open with my dentist about how much I like visits there. They’re gracious about it and do the best they can and I do the best I can and we move on with our lives, but I don’t want to go during race week. But both of what y’all are sharing and for those listening, they’re going to identify with one of you. It just goes to show that you can have success on race day either way. You can make the most of your personality. If you’re lazy and kicking back, great. If you’re a little bit anxious, a little bit jittery...you heard from Elizabeth on some strategies on how to deal with that. But give yourself some grace. There’s not a ‘wrong’ personality type leading up to  the race. You just have to know what your personality is and navigate that week accordingly. John: It’s not a problem until it’s a problem. If you’re too laid back, obviously that’s a problem. If you’re too anxious or stressed out, obviously that’s a problem. But it’s all about keeping it within the lines. Keeping it where it should be. So, again, just personality wise, chances are you’re fine. Again, it’s not a problem until it is. Andrew: Traveling for a race, or even if you’re racing close to home, sometimes a race week schedule might not perfectly align with every workout as prescribed on the date that it’s prescribed. What advice do you have for athletes on which sessions they should try to do at all costs and which they can flex in and out of the schedule with no harm done? John: So those last couple days, there’s a lot more flexibility there. Something I mentioned previously was trying to maintain the frequency and sequence of the sessions. Within those last couple days, that’s not quite as important. We’ve mentioned before that the taper is about allowing the body to make adaptations and recover. At this point in the taper, when you’re a couple days out, those adaptations are largely made so it really focuses more on recovery and topping off the energy stores. Topping off the tank, as far as that goes. So especially when you’re traveling and especially for those bigger races like Ironman or you have bags to pack and gotta drop your bike off the day before and all that, there’s a lot going on. So I would say in those scenarios, especially two to three days out, really focus on those things. Obviously those things have to get done. So focus on getting those done. And be efficient in that plan. Get them done early. I always advise that. So you should be able to get those sessions in. But, really, no session the last few days is going to make your race. But the wrong session can sabotage your race. So that’s what you want to be careful about. Again, it goes in that panic mode. Don’t do that. You’re better off not doing a session than doing a session wrong in those last couple days. Andrew: If we have nailed our taper, how should we feel physically heading into race day? John: Ideally, rested, loose, no soreness. All that has largely been taken care of. Hopefully you’ve been banking some sleep. Rested, loose, because you’ve been doing those sessions and maintaining that intensity that’s going to help keep you loose. And worked out all the soreness and all that, which, for some, may be a little unfamiliar or an odd feeling to feel like that because it’s been so long since you have. Three or four months of gradually increasing your training and almost existing in a perpetual state of depletion and soreness and being tired. So maybe a little unfamiliar for those that have been training for a long time. Elizabeth: All the tips that we’ve shared today should help you feel your best. You know, that rested, loose, ready to go feeling. But I also kind of like to throw out there that if you don’t feel that way on race morning, it’s still there. Don’t panic. Don’t be like, “Oh my gosh, I do feel tired!” I’ve had race mornings where I’ve just felt terrible. My warm-up was incredibly challenging and yet it all comes together when you cross that timing mat to get started. Andrew: Yeah, that’s a great point, Elizabeth. You can’t tell in the morning. You might think you can tell if it’s going to be a great day or not, but you really can’t tell what your muscles are going to do until you get out there. I’ve had training sessions like that. I’ve had training sessions where after the first five or ten minutes on the bike I’m like, “Oh man, I am not going ot be able to hit my zones today.” And then it goes great. So don’t panic. Settle in. Elizabeth: Hopefully you do feel rested. But if you don’t, it’s alright. Andrew: The fitness is there. The muscles are there. You’ve put in the work. You’ve put in the training. Another thing I’ll say, Elizabeth--you’ve mentioned the warm-up, as well. After we’ve done our taper and gotten all the way through it, race morning is here...Go listen to podcast episode 67, “The Why and How of Your Pre-Race Warm-Up” because the things that pro-triathlete Elizabeth James and Coach Jeff Raines are the finishing touches. You’ve tapered and now here’s the finishing touches to make sure you’re on the starting line, optimized, ready for a killer performance. So go check that one out, as well, before your next race. Cool down: Great set, everyone. Let’s cool down. Andrew: From riding outside, taking a spin class, or riding at home on the trainer, there are many, many ways to execute your bike training sessions. For my folks who spend time inside on a trainer, we all know it really helps to have something to help you pass the time as you pedal your way into a mental abyss. This fact has given rise to online training platforms such as Trainer Road, Rouvy, and Zwift, which all have different ways of providing a mental stimulus and sense of community to our lonely indoor rides. All these platforms are used by athletes in the TriDot community as different features appeal to different folks. Zwift, in particular, has really caught on as we all have hundreds of athletes with TriDot in their username on Zwift. One of these athletes took some initiative and formed a Saturday morning group ride. Welcome to anyone and everyone in the TriDot family. It’s gained a lot of buzz with a lot of folks enjoying being able to knock out the Saturday trainer ride together. I wanted to have TriDot ambassador Brian Mull join the show and tell us all about the new TriDot Saturday morning Zwift ride. So, Brian, thanks for coming on the show. Brian: Thanks for having me. It’s been fun getting this started and having you on a couple rides. I know we’ve talked in the past about getting together for this, so I’m glad to have the opportunity to do it today. Andrew: Brian, take me back to the beginning--what gave you the idea to start a TriDot Saturday group ride? What’s it been like watching it get bigger and bigger every week? Brian: I’ve been on Zwift for a few years now. A couple of years ago I joined a Zwift team. One of the things a Zwift team does is they have a Saturday morning group ride. But their group ride operates more like a typical group ride would where people of various cats that are getting together. They’re all kind of...they’re riding together, but if someone drops off the back when they get to the top of a climb, the group waits on them and everything. They’ll wait for them and rejoin the top of hills and all. So, just being on that and riding with other rides gives you that sense of community that’s there. I was trying to think about how we could do this with TriDot. It’s really hard since everyone is doing their own prescribed training. Getting everyone to be able to stay together and have that community in a group ride while being able to do the work that you’re supposed to be doing yourself. Andrew: Absolutely. Brian: So finally finding a way to do that one day searching around and getting that started and watching it grow and watching the people who are getting their training done the right way and having fun doing it has been a joy to watch. Andrew: So group rides on Zwift do take a little bit of logistical understanding to be able to join in and get the full experience. Through some trial and error, week-to-week, Brian, you’ve become the TriDot guru on the group ride experience. Talk to us about how  Zwift’s group ride feature works. Brian: First of all, if you’re on Zwift and done group rides or races before, you’re not going to notice much of a difference on how you do those or how you do group rides. Basically what you do is get your--however your normally do it--you get your workout loaded into Zwift. Once it’s in there, I think we’ll talk a little bit later about how people can join us--but I’ll get a request from you that you’re interested in joining the ride and I’ll send you the invitation. Andrew: That’s key to know. You have to have joined the ride beforehand. I made that mistake one week. You have to join it ahead of time to have that group ride pop up on your Zwift app as an option to join. Brian: Right. So I’ll send you that invitation. It’ll send it to Zwift for you. You select that you want to join. Then Saturday morning about 15 minutes before the ride is the earliest you can jump in and click to go to the ride start location. Once you get into the starting pen there, you’re sitting on the side of the road on your virtual trainer, just spinning away. Then you go back into the garage screen or menu screen and load your ride. Once your ride is loaded and the clock hits zero, we all take off together. Theoretically we stay together in this rubber band. It doesn’t matter what paces you’re going at. We’ve all quickly learned that Zwift doesn’t always work the way we want it to. We occasionally get gaps that build in. But most of the gaps that build, two or three stick together. But there’s usually a pretty large contingency that does stay together. Andrew: Yeah, that rubber bad feature is Zwift’s way of making sure if I’m riding at 20-something miles an hour, but someone else is only putting out watts to hold 15 miles an hour, that rubber band feature keeps us together despite how hard or soft we’re pedaling. Honestly, this is something...probably a little over a year ago, the TriDot staff talked about getting going for our riders on Zwift. We were at an endurance exchange conference. Kind of a multi-sport conference and Zwift was there giving a couple sessions that sparked some ideas. So, anyway, long story short, we looked into starting something like this. At the time, we weren’t aware of the rubber band feature. We were like “If someone is doing a Zone 2 sessions and someone else is doing a threshold and hold, those people can’t stay together.” But when Zwift created the rubber band feature it gave us a way to do these group rides and stay together. To your point, it works most of the time, but not all of the time. Brian: They implemented that rubber band feature and they never really advertised that once you’re in your group you could go back and pull in a workout, so that was kind of the next step. It’s one thing if you’re in the rubber band, but then how do you see your training zones and everything where you’re supposed to be for your workout on the screen at the same time. So someone figured that out and posted a write up on the web about it. I stumbled across it one day and that’s when the light bulb went off and I said, “This is how it can happen.” So it’s actually set up perfectly for TriDot. Andrew: It really is. It just took a little bit of trial and error to figure it out. Brian, you’ve been great when anyone on the I Am TriDot Facebook page asks about the group ride, you’ve ben great about talking them through how to join it. Brian: No problem. It’s been a pleasure. Andrew: There’s a video you’ve posted to the video before that maybe we’ll try to feature somewhere for athletes trying to figure out how to join it. It’s a lot of fun. Coach John Mayfield and myself have both joined this ride multiple times. Having the group chat up on your phone and participating in the workout alongside so many other TriDoters, it really helps big time. The time goes by, and it lives up the experience, chatting with folks. Even if you’re not doing the chatting just seeing what people are saying and seeing the conversation unfolding in front of you. Brian, since starting this, how much have you seen the chatting and the community aspect of this ride help athletes connect to our TriDot tribe? Brian: It’s kind of funny because when you get on to a ride at the start, everyone is going at it. The talking is going back and forth, we’re all joking with one another. There’s a core group that comes almost every week. We’ve really got to know each other pretty well. All of a sudden at one point during the ride, it’s just a silence falls across the group and you know that’s when everyone’s in their Z4 zones and plugging away at it. As individuals hit their Zone 2 rest breaks, they jump back in and chime in. We talk about before the ride starts who is doing what workout. We know how long these different sessions last. So there’s one group hitting their rest area. They’re talking to the ones who are in their hard sessions, encouraging them and pushing them forward. After the group ride, I generally post a post-ride report. I try to keep it light and funny and all. Those have been fun to see the conversations that take place there. It’s been interesting to notice that those individuals who are in those group rides are ones I see talking over and over again and sharing over and over again on the TriDot Facebook page. So I do feel like the ride is doing a good job of b ringing this group of riders together, and hopefully as we keep moving forward, we’ll continue encouraging riders to join us. Andrew: For athletes listening who may--whether on Zwift or not--think, “Gee, that sounds like fun!” And they want to join this ride, how can they best get together with you and join in on the fun? Brian: I’m usually available on Facebook. I don’t want to say always because I have work to do and stuff myself. But I’m on Facebook a lot, so if you drop me a message with questions, I’ll always get back to you on that. But there’s a video that I put together that is posted in the video media section of the TriDot Facebook page. If you open that up, you’ll see it there. Also, every Saturday after the group ride is over, I will post the group ride for the next week. In the instructions for that group ride, you’ll find everything that you need to know about how to join. Specifically, the most important piece if a link you have to go to complete a very short form. Basically you drop in your TriDot name. I’m sorry, your Zwift name. And that will tell me who to look for in Zwift companion to be able to invite you. You have to be following me for me to be able to send you that invite. That’s Zwift’s rules, not mine. So once you fill out that form, everything else is pretty much self-explanatory. All the instructions are there. You just show up on the day of and hopefully have a great ride with us. Andrew: Yep. And there are, I believe, group rides on Zwift that you can just join. That anybody can join. But those do not have the rubber banding features. That’s the factor that will have the group to stay together. It’s got to be that invite only format. So people need to reach out to you and get the invite. Once they’ve done that once, they’re in for good. So it’s a little bit of a… Brian: They do have to request the invite each week. Andrew: Okay. Gotcha. Brian: What happens is the group rides and the meet-ups are different in that the group rides are public events. Meet-ups are private events, and they’re capped off at 100 invites. So what I used to do in the beginning is once you’ve joined me once, I would just send you automatically an invite every week, but now we’re over 100 riders who request invites. So just to keep it fair for everyone who wants to join, I require that each week you fill out the form again. It takes 10 seconds to fill out the form. You fill out the form each week and I’ll send you that invite. That just keeps it fair for everyone. Andrew: Great. Love that. Love the explanation. I will say for folks that if you want to fit in on your first TriDot Zwift group ride, change your Zwift jersey to the black and red swirly pattern that every athlete...it’s one of the original Zwift jerseys that everyone starts with if you’re new to that platform. I forget exactly which...what it’s name is. But you can’t miss it. It’s the blackest and reddest jersey available to wear. So if you want to fit in, go ahead and switch your Zwift avatar to that jersey ahead of time. If you want to stand out, wear whatever you want, it’s all good. You’re welcome either way. Brian, before we call it a day and sign off for the show, what races are you training for personally this year? Brian: So I have my two A races right now. One of them is one that I’ve done the past two or three years. It is the Sugar Man duathlon. I do duathlons and not triathlons. So I do the Sugar Man Duathlon, which is based around Lafayette, Louisiana. And this year I’ll be doing the duathlon national championships in Tuscaloosa in May. So those are my two big ones right now. I’ll do a couple of other local ones also. Andrew: We love our duathletes and our aquathon athletes. It’s all multi-sport. It’s all in the family. So we’ll see you on Zwift to keep that bike training going! Brian: Sounds good. Andrew: That’s it for today, folks. A big thanks to Coaches John Mayfield and Elizabeth James for talking to us about the race taper. Enjoying the podcast? Have any questions or topics you want to hear us talk about? Head to TriDot.com/podcast to get your voice on the show asking your question. We’ll do it all again soon. Until then--happy training! Outro: Thanks for joining us. Make sure to subscribe and share the TriDot podcast with your triathlon crew. For more great tri content and community, connect with us on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Ready to optimize your training? Head to TriDot.com and start your free trial today! TriDot -- the obvious and automatic choice for triathlon training.
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