The Patriot Half Ironman is known as New England’s favorite half distance event. This weekend, athletes will celebrate the 10th annual race, featuring a swim in Long Pond, the largest fresh water body of water in Massachusetts, a 2-loop bike course and 13.1 miles through the scenic country roads. A HOTSHOT station will be at mile 3. Elaine Vescio, head coach at Vescio Multisport Performance Services, is a USAT and Ironman Certified Coach who has raced the Patriot on several occasions. What makes the Patriot the perfect course for a beginner Ironman athlete? What to do when you just want to quit? Elaine gave us the details on her top training tips and deep knowledge of the course.
VMPS has been a long time sponsor of SunMultiSport race series including the Patriot Half. What is the role of VMPS for athletes?
VMPS helps athletes of all levels and abilities achieve their endurance sports goals. We provide coaching services, educational programs, and skills clinics for triathletes, cyclists, runners, and swimmers. My role at VMPS includes coaching athletes, developing and supporting VMPS coaches, leading educational seminars, training clinics, and camps for athletes and coaches. I also serve as a coaching resource and consultant for several race production companies.
Can you talk about your involvement with the Patriot Half?
Like many athletes, the Patriot Half was the event I chose for my first half ironman distance event because of its beginner-friendly course, and supportive atmosphere. A few years later, VMPS became a sponsor of the Patriot Half Ironman. Since that time, the race director and I have been working together to offer education and training opportunities for the Patriot Half participants to help them succeed on race day. One of these offerings is our popular full-day training camp at the race venue. Let me tell you…it’s wonderful to witness the transformation of the participants as the camp progresses. Nervousness and tentativeness are replaced by an increasing confidence and understanding of how to approach the event.
2016 marks the 10th year of the Patriot Half. What makes the Patriot Half special?
The Patriot Half is a ‘perfectly-sized’, well-organized event with a nice community feel. By ‘perfectly-sized’, I mean it’s big enough to have plenty of competitors of a wide range of abilities, but not so big that the logistics of getting there require taking a shuttle, and waiting in long lines; or that navigating the courses means dealing with congested areas. The community feel comes from the genuine support of the volunteers, spectators, and event management staff. This translates into a camaraderie amongst the participants that is lacking at many large triathlons.
The swim, bike, and run courses, and the race venue for the Patriot Half are very nice. At our recent training camp for the Patriot Half, I reminded participants to savor this wonderful course on race day: take in the beauty of the lake on race morning, enjoy the scenic bike route, and appreciate the kindness and support of the enthusiastic volunteers on the run course. By the way, a number of those volunteers on the run course have been a part of this race since the very first year.
You are a USAT and Ironman Certified Coach: What are 5 of your go-to tips for training and prepping for a triathlon?
Oh, I love sharing my tips! Here are five, in no particular order:
1. Focus on a polarized approach to training. For most athletes who work Monday through Friday, this means shorter, intense interval workouts in each sport during the week and longer, conversation-paced workouts on the weekends. Too many athletes get caught up in doing longer and longer workouts at a medium intensity. This ‘more is better’ mentality leads to some initial gains in fitness, but then a plateau. It’s the intensity of interval workouts that build a bigger engine and more strength. This translates into better race day performances.
2. Don’t neglect functional strength training to fit in more swimming, biking, and running. Functional strength training helps an athlete’s body to work more efficiently, and become more resilient.
3. Fuel your training and recovery. Misinformation regarding carbohydrates leads many athletes to try to train and race on ‘empty’ with the hopes of making their bodies more efficient. This is like not filling up the gas tank of your car in the hopes of making it more fuel efficient. Timing of your macronutrient intake—carbohydrates, protein, and fat– is key to your fueling and recovering from workouts.
4. Taper training volume in the final 10 to 14 days before your half ironman race. This allows you to be physically and mentally ready for race day. Don’t be tempted to squeeze in just one more long workout in the hopes of building your fitness. It takes at least 10 days after a workout for your body to complete the physiological changes to get stronger from the workout. In this final lead up to the race, decrease the duration of your workouts, but keep some intensity to keep you sharp on race day.
5. Train your brain. Negative thoughts about a perceived shortcoming can spiral on race day. Obviously, do the physical training to try to reduce that shortcoming, but also come up with a mantra that reframes how you view yourself. For example, replace ‘I’m a lousy swimmer’ with ‘I’m a strong, confident swimmer’. You need to repeat this mantra throughout the day for many days to change your perception, but you will change it. Your brain will believe what you tell it to believe. So tell it something positive!
What keeps you going when you just want to quit?
I focus on doing something tangible, positive, and within my immediate control. For example, if the run is feeling grueling, I might focus on my run cadence and good run form till I get to the next turn. I’m not worrying about the entire run, just a manageable chunk. Then once I get to that corner, I’ll focus on something else like my breathing until I get to the next aid station. Something tangible, positive, and within my control.
HOTSHOT will be stationed at mile 3 on the run. Can you talk about your experience with muscle cramps?
I am fortunate in that I am not prone to muscle cramps, however I would recommend that if someone gets muscle cramps that are not alleviated by slowing down the pace or hydrating if dehydrated, then try HOTSHOT!
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