7 Tips To Execute A Perfect Grand Columbian Race Week

Welcome to the first part of Grand Columbian Race Course Tips, from triathlon coach Ben Greenfield  ! Here’s what you’re going to get in this three-part series that will be released over the next few weeks:

Part 1: 7 Tips To Execute A Perfect Grand Columbian Race Week

Part 2: Critical Race Tips For The Grand Columbian Half-Ironman

Part 3: Critical Race Tips For The Grand Columbian Olympic Distance

So let’s jump right in (and be sure to check out the end of this article, where you’ll learn how to get a free video entitled “6 Grand Columbian Race Day Domination Secrets”).

7 Tips To Execute A Perfect Grand Columbian Race Week

Whether you’re racing the Olympic distance or the Half-Ironman there are specific steps you can take in the last days leading up to the race to ensure that your body is performing optimally. While the last 2 articles in this series will focus on race day tips, over the next few minutes, you’re going to learn 7 essential training and nutrition tips for Grand Columbian race week.

#1: Eat Familiar Foods.

Your gut grows very accustomed and comfortable with the food that it experiences in your normal, day-to-day training. So if you’re used to fresh foods, fruits, vegetables and home-cooking, and you show up to camp at Grand Coulee park with beef jerky, canned foods, and energy bars, then your body is not going to perform ideally on race day – and you might also find yourself making one-to-many porta-potty stops before or even during the race. Instead, on your way into Grand Columbian, stop at a grocery store for fresh vegetables, fruits, potatoes, eggs, deli meat, whole grain wraps, and as many “real foods” as possible. Try to bring a big cooler and make as many “ice trips” as you need to the convenience store. If you need some help with Healthy Grocery Shopping tips on-the-go, then watch this video I made. 

 And for heaven’s sake, don’t try to comprise breakfast, lunch and dinner of free supplements and bars that you find at the expo. Save most of that for after the race.

#2: Stick To Your Plan.

You will see many people exercising, swimming, biking and running in the last couple days leading up to the race. It’s easy to feel like you’re being lazy when you’re staying off your feet and letting your body rest. Most good race tapers should only have you exercising at 40-60% of your typical training week’s volume, so stick to that plan, and don’t get caught up in the social pressure to go on “just one more” bike ride, run or dip in the lake. Remember: it’s better to go into the race 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained!

#3: Focus On Intensity

Image: Ben  Greenfield finishing the Grand Columbian Triathlon
Ben Greenfield finishing the Grand Columbian Triathlon

When you actually do go out and shake up the legs to get them ready to race, inject several short bursts of energy at race-pace intensity, and always stop every workout before you are fatigued. For example, a typical race week workout day might consist of a morning bike ride of 20-30 minutes, with 4-6 short 60-90 second race pace efforts, followed by a quick 10 minute run with a middle section during which you pick up to race pace. In the afternoon, you might swim for 10-15 minutes, with a focus on form, and a few short efforts similar to the bike. You’re not going to get any fitter during race week, so there’s no need to go ride 25 miles on the course, or run more than just a few miles of the run course.

#4: Know The Course

You can make up lots of extra time on proper swim sighting, technical descents, twists, turns and gathering energy for hills, so if you have the opportunity then A) swim 400-800 meters out, then swim back in towards where you are going to be finishing the swim, looking for sighting markers on land that you can use to swim straight; B) drive the entire bike course, making mental notes of technical descents and significant hills (especially the climb out of Grand Coulee and the descent back in); C) study a map of the run course or if you have access to a mountain bike, bike the run course. You can print all course maps off the Grand Columbian website.

#5: Get Your Sleep

As you probably know, the body performs best on about 7-8 hours of sleep. Elements that can disrupt sleep include: hunger, cold, uncomfortable sleeping surface, light and noise. While these may seem unavoidable if you’re showing up to camp in the last few days leading up to the race, they are actually all within your control. Here’s how: 1) before bed, eat a snack that will stick to your ribs, like protein powder stirred into coconut milk with a handful of almonds, and for extra sleep aid, bring my 2 favorite sleeping helpers – magnesium and melatonin; 2) if you’re concerned about cold disrupting your sleep or making you have to get up and pee, bring long sleeve pajamas, and if you want an extra recovery advantage, long sleeve compression top and compression tights; 3) pack an air mattress if you’re sleeping in a tent; 4) pack a sleep mask; 5) bring ear plugs to block out barking dogs or cars.

#6: Stay Hydrated & Salted

The Grand Columbian race is traditionally very hot on race day. So drink extra water in the last few days leading up to the race, and try to get through the equivalent of a standard-sized water bottle every couple hours. In addition, unless you’re ignoring the healthy grocery shopping tips from tip #1 and eating high-sodium canned or preserved foods, then salt your food and dissolve an electrolyte tablet in at least a few of your servings of water during the day in the last few days leading up to the race. All these measures will make you less likely to cramp or become severely dehydrated on race day.

#7: Pick Up Your Bike

When you’re cruising around the Grand Columbian campground, it’s very easy to pick up small pieces of sharp gravel or thorns that collect on your bicycle tire. The last thing you want is for one of these objects to eventually puncture the tire when you’re several miles into the bike course on race day. When you’re not on pavement, pick up your bike and carry it – or if you decide to keep the bike wheels down, then brush all the debris off the outside of your tires, and then check them again race morning to make sure there’s no foreign invaders waiting to sabotage your race.

If you found this article helpful, then you must check out Grand Columbian on Facebook, where I will be releasing a video to Grand Columbian Facebook fans only, entitled “6 Grand Columbian Race Day Domination Secrets”. The video will be released in those last crucial weeks leading up to the race, so be sure to get over to Grand Columbian on Facebook now!

Image: Ben Greenfield
Ben Greenfield

About The Author: Ben Greenfield (pictured right) is a sports nutritionist and triathlon coach. Check out his helpful websites below, and look for Ben at the Grand Columbian event to get any last minute race tips!