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Doubling up to double down on multiple-race weekends

Ironman Lanzarote

— By Chris Willer

It’s all too easy to fall victim to overtraining as a triathlete. Training too much and fatiguing both the body and mind can have detrimental effects on overall performance. However, there is a useful aspect of overtraining that is called overloading – purposely overwhelming the body and mind to adjust to longer training and racing.

One of the easiest and more interesting ways to speed up long distance training is to double up on race weekend by doing multiple races. With the Canadian race season fully underway, there are many opportunities to race each and every weekend in many areas across the country. Within that offering of events there are many race directors who have on offer a couple days of race of varying length races. Combining races over the weekend is a great way to tax yourself both physically and mentally to not only improve your workout options, but also to overload yourself to a positive result.

I enjoyed putting this training technique into action during this past weekend’s excellent Rose City Triathlon weekend events held in Welland, Ontario. On the first day I participated in the sprint distance event, then the following day the long distance race which was somewhere between an Olympic and half distance.

Here are some training tips use this concept of doubling up with shorter races to double down and prepare for your longer race later in the season.

Day One

  1. Go fast! Shorter races open up the speed throttle. Treat the first day’s race as both a tune up and also as a blow out. Many longer distance athletes give up pure speed to accomplish endurance and completion of the race. Use the first day’s sprint race to rocket through the event, pushing your max VO2, anaerobic threshold work, and muscular turn over.
  2. Define each segment of the race. Plan to focus on the speed work of each leg of the race. For example, in the swim concentrate on increasing your arm turnover rate and on the run focus on sprinting to the finish line.
  3. It’s ok for your heart rate to go up. In a short race, push your training zones and heart rate up. Don’t be scared to do so, the finish line is close. Ways to do that on the bike include increasing your normal RPMs to take advantage of your cardiovascular system and not having to rely so much on your glycogen stores in your muscles if you were to grind out the gearing. Shift up to spin your legs faster. On the run, do the same by increasing your foot turnover rate. Both the higher spin and foot speed on the bike and run respectively are part of most people’s training in the form of speed work or tempo aspects of training. You just get to do it for a whole race!
  4. Don’t think of what lies ahead the next day. One of the easiest ways to psych yourself out of a race is to burden yourself with the duration. Don’t think about the following day’s race during the current shorter event. Focus on the here and now, by focusing on the above changes to pacing or technique.

Day Two

  1. After day one, treat yourself to some active rest and good post-race nutrition with high protein content for repair of micro tearing of muscle tissue. When you roll in for the second day’s event just start by acknowledging you will have overloaded your muscles, heart and lungs, and your mind. You will be tired. Embrace that. After all, it’s a training weekend.
  2. Focus on efficiency. When you’re racing while already tired, efficiency will save you. Makes each swim stroke count, settle into your aerobic zone for the bike course. Pay attention to shoulder tightening and heightening on the run, keep the nutrition and hydration topped up, and slow down your breathing.
  3. Use your tools and skills to stay in the zone. Rely on your sports watch and/or power meter to help focus your wattage Pay attention to being able to hold your per km times out on the run course. When you are fatigued both from the previous day and the current longer race, it is helpful to rely on smart technology to help you out.
  4. Forget about the day before.Whether it went according to plan or not, don’t dwell on the previous day’s race. Both are stand-alone events with different challenges and where you felt fresh yesterday, you’re going to feel different today. Stay present and focus on the task at hand.
  5. Enjoy yourself. If you decide to overload your training by doubling up on race weekend, enjoy the process. It is a useful and different process for accelerating your training in a fun race environment. Use this training technique sparingly and you can improve your acclimatization for race day in general, and your body and mind’s ability to go longer for future long course races specifically in your season.

Chris Willer has done more than a few doubling up events in addition to the recent Rose City Triathlon. Some of these training weekends have included the Chicago Triple – Tri-a-Tri on day one and sprint and Olympic on day two, American Triple-T with a sprint, two Olympic, and a 70.3 over race weekend, and the double of an Olympic followed by a 70.3 at the unique Savageman race.