We asked former ITU and 70.3 world champ Javier Gomez for his tips on how Olympic distance athletes can make a successful move into middle-distance racing.
Volume doesn’t have to skyrocket, but do focus on nutrition
“Don’t be concerned about the move from Olympic to middle. You can still do well in middle-distance racing on Olympic-distance training. You just need to make sure that your body can take all the food/drink you’ll be using.”
Mix distance work with intervals of different length repeats
“My coach [Carlos Prieto] and I plan for the year, with the main focus on Olympic-distance races. I do my track sessions, my speed stuff as an ITU athlete. I don’t do a full programme for middle distance, but I will do intervals on the track of 800m, 1,000m or 1,500m repeats.”
Sustain your TT tuck in training and try to hold the position
“Key to my middle-distance training are my rides on the TT bike. I found a good position that I feel comfortable with in the Specialized wind tunnel, so I feel very comfortable on the TT bike.
“I do three rides a week on the TT bike and another two or three on the road bike. I do two short rides of 2hrs. On one of them I do short intervals of 3–4mins, for example 5 x 4mins, 6 x 4mins. And then the long ride on Sunday goes up to 4hrs and that’s on my TT bike too, trying to hold the position.”
Don’t get dropped from the front pack on the bike
“I know I won’t have any problems with the swim. I’ll swim at the front and aim to come out first or second, and I know I can run with the best athletes. So for me it’s all about the bike.
“If I’m in the first group, I have a big chance of winning the race on the run, but those guys are very fast. If you’re dropped in the first 20km and you don’t see them again then you might lose like five or six minutes easily, so you need to be very, very focused.”
Read on for more advice from Javier Gomez on moving up to 70.3 racing…
Keep fuelling. Rehearse your race food/drink in training
“I was lucky in the 70.3 worlds because I only had three gels in the race. The beginning was so fast on the bike that I didn’t have time to eat them – something which can happen when you’re focused on the race. The conditions were really good, not very hot, not very cold.”
“I was drinking, but on the last couple of kms of the run I felt really empty and I was struggling. It’s very important for all the distances to get the body used to food and drink, so for some long sessions I have one or two gels.
“So far I haven’t had a problem with that but I should eat a bit more in future races than I did during the last 70.3 I competed in, especially for races in locations such as the Middle East where it will be pretty hot.”
Include plenty of incline work in your regular sessions
“The first 30km especially I wasn’t thinking about how far it was. I was just trying to pedal as hard as I could. They eventually got a bit slower and I felt a bit better, but that was definitely the toughest part.
“And Mont Tremblant was a pretty good course for me, because it was a bit hilly, there were rolling hills and I think that’s better than just flat because the big guys, the strong guys are really good on the flat. But I have to be keeping very, very focused and persistent on the bike.”
There’s no such thing as the off-season
“We go to the gym during the early part of the year 3–4 times a week. Sometimes we do weights and sometimes we focus more on core and some specific exercises for running with the Swiss ball.
“Later on in the year we do less gym and more specific strength sessions on the bike or running hills. It’s important to keep doing exercises throughout the whole year, to avoid injuries and to keep a strong body.”
Plan for plenty of good-quality post-race nutrition
“I just try to eat well after the race. I just feel different after an ITU race. After an ITU race I feel sore in my muscles, and my calves are tight from going fast. But in middle distance, the day after a race I felt good generally but just tired. My body was more tired than sore.”
Strength & conditioning helps to keep injuries at bay
“I’ve only had a couple of bad injuries in my career. One was during the Beijing Olympics, I had a problem with my Achilles tendon, which ended up in a stress fracture on my heel and took a while to recover from.
“After that I didn’t really have major injuries. I just try to work a lot in the gym and I know myself better, so when I have any pain I’d rather stop for a day or two to make sure that it heals.”
(Images: Delly Carr / Polar / Mizuno / Triathlon.org)
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