When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin returned from their historical 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon, they were asked how they found the experience. They answered, 'it was ok'. The media went it to a spin. Ok, what do you mean Ok! These guys had just made history and walked on the moon and all they could say was, 'it was ok!'
The astronauts elaborated and said that they had trained so specifically for every aspect of the mission for so long, that on the day it was just like another training day. They knew exactly what, how and when they were going to be doing every part of the mission. Nothing was a surprise.
Specificity in training is such an important component that is often missed. Below are some examples of specific factors that are often neglected by athletes in their training build ups.
Terrain - is your race going to be on a rough chip or smooth road, indoor track or outdoor track, foot path or off road, calm lake, rough lake or a river.
Weather conditions - is your race likely to encounter rain, cross winds, do you need to acclimatise or artificially acclimate to your race that will be in hot temperatures or will you experience cold temperatures so will need to address your clothing choices?
Time of day of start - If your race includes an early morning start it is important to practice eating your breakfast early in the morning or if your race includes sections at night it is important to get use to operating at these different times.
Race equipment weight – This is really important for those races requiring the carrying of compulsory gear in a back pack as this can change your running gait and centre of gravity on the bike which can affect your handling. Have you carried ALL of your required race gear in training? How does it sit, does in rub or cause you to change your technique. Pacing strategy – Do you have one? Have your practiced it? Remember pacing is not just about ‘starting slow’ that is just one pacing strategy and may not be the best option.
Race nutrition plan – Have you trialled your full race nutrition plan at your planned race intensity? Does it sit well in your stomach, can you easily consume the food, what are you planning to do with the rubbish?
All of these small details can make or break your day. While you may not be gunning to win your race, getting the specifics nailed early can make your day a lot more enjoyable and help you on the way to improving your PB.
In the early phase of your training start by simulating small specific aspects of your race and then build this to become more and more specific as your training progresses. Then when race day arrives your body and your mind will know exactly what it has to do and how it needs to do it.