A good race plan is one of the most important pieces of a successful race. The more detailed the better. I write my plans for race day starting from the time I wake up until I cross the finish line. (side note: that also helps my wife know how the day will go…). I include what I’ll eat, what I’ll drink… everything!
The core of what most people think of as a race plan is the pace you will race at and how hard you will push. To some extent, that is right. If that is all you have, that is better than nothing, but it would be best to be as detailed as possible.
For the bike portion of this last race of the season, I have really started to get the hang of bestbikesplit.com. If you are not familiar with the program, Best Bike Split uses some pretty nifty, advanced math to predict race times based on aerodynamics, weather, and power, among other variables. I have been using the free version of the software since it came out a few years ago and it has been fairly spot on.
Here are some ways BBS has helped me make my race plan:
1. Knowing how long it’s really going to take me. This is important for a few reasons. First, just because one course is the same distance as another doesn’t mean you’ll ride the same speed. There are a lot of things that affect your speed on the bike, so this helps you set realistic time expectations. Second, once you have a realistic expectation, you won’t psych yourself out when you go slower than you thought. Also, it helps you tell your spectators how long they can expect to wait for you to come back into transition.
2. Knowing when to push and when to back off. This is huge! It is super simple to know what your FTP is and to determine to hold 90% of that, but when you hit a hill, you might slow to a crawl at that power and then spin out on the other side. BBS helps you see where the hills are and know what is a realistic power to climb the hill and how much it’s realistic to back off on the down hill.
3. Know the weather. Another big point that people sometimes fail to consider. The main part of this is the wind. This kinda links to the previous point, but with wind, knowing if it’s a headwind or tailwind can play a big part in your strategy. In my case this weekend, I know wind will be a big part of the race with almost 100% of the race open and exposed to wind. I also realized that a change in forecast as we get close can affect my plan. I originally thought the 4 parts of the out-and-back course would be crosswind, headwind, tailwind, crosswind. When I ran the program again while writing this post, the forecast changed and it looks like a tailwind, crosswind, crosswind, headwind. That changes my plan quite a bit as far as power goes.
I really like what Best Bike Split is doing in area of data based cycling plans. They have changed the game when it comes to Triathlon and Time Trial race plans and I know they have totally changed the way I write my race plans.
How do you write your race plan? Having you used Best Bike Split? Tell me your experience in the comments below or on Twitter!