Race Week – Freshen up with the Pros

The week before a key race such as an ironman can be testing. With all of the hard work done, often we’re at a bit of a loss as to what to do. We know we are no longer in “training..” we know we should somehow start to feel “fresh,” but at the same time our hormones and sleep patterns can get pretty out of whack! Throw in a time zone difference, some last minute work deadlines and interstate travel and it’s easy to lose track of the main goal for the week – getting ready to race!

Trizone has had a chance to pick the brains of a couple of the pre-race favourites from the mens field for Ironman Western Australia Pete Jacobs and previous winner Patrick Vernay. We take a look at what works for the guys at the sharp end of the stick in terms of race week eating, training and sharpening up.

Pete Jacobs keen on keeping it simple: fresh is best. In the week leading up to the race, Jacobs takes a “less is more” approach to training, ensuring that he’s well rested and ready to rock and roll come race day. The week consists of organising a couple of shorter swims and bike sessions around travelling and race week commitments. The running volume is backed off considerably – possibly more so than for many age-group athletes even! With a race on Sunday, Jacobs might have one key run session on Thursday, consisting of:

  • Dynamic stretching warm-up
  • 3k at base pace
  • 2k at half marathon pace
  • 1.6k at 10k pace
  • 2k cool down at base pace

With the last “long run” on the Sunday week before the race, this is obviously a pretty light week of training, focused on form, technique and mental preparation.

Patrick Vernay also has some thoughts on when works best for his final sessions:

“I always take a total rest day on the Friday.. two days after a training day the body is normally pretty tired, so I completely rest on the Friday.. then go through each sport on the day before the race.”

This is a pretty standard format for many athletes – going through the motions of each sport on race day eve can help to visualise how the race will play out, as well as encourage blood flow and sport specific muscle activation. This is a day about preparation both mentally and physically.

Vernay continues:

On Saturday I spend some time in each sport.. maybe.. an hour on the bike.. just enough in each sport to freshen up and tick it over.

The other key aspect of race week is nutrition. With a reduced training volume, an athletes overall caloric intake should be reduced, while at the same time ensuring that the body is topped up and glycogen stores are fully replenished by race day. Again, for the pros, keeping it simple is key. PJ usually opts for a simple diet, sticking to what he knows. Options include brown rice, tuna, almonds, and simple foods.

Overall, the take home message for athletes of all levels is keep it simple, rest up, minimise external stressors and relax. As illustrated by the pros, there’s no magical formula, but keeping things familiar and allowing the body to totally rest is key. The race generally can’t be won through a great race preparation, but it can definitely be lost – smart and simple planning and execution is sure to see you hit the course in fine form!


John Marsh

Triathlon and running technique coach, Australian Long Course Triathlon AG Champion 2010, World Ironman Championship competitor 2009