If I had to isolate training for the Rev3 Quassy bike course down to its essence, it would be a single word – hills. The course is dominated by its topography. Most notable, of course, is the 900vft+ climb that comes about 25 miles in as you ride up Northfield Rd. But while this ascent is the most prominent, its length and even pitch make it a relatively straightforward affair; it’s not hard to pace something that so clearly commands patience and respect. Shift into your small ring up front, lighten up the load in back, and keep turning the pedals over. What is deceptively challenging – and what will most certainly drain your legs for the punishingly hilly run course – are the constant undulations and false-flat ascents, in particular over the last 10 miles of the course, as you return from the out-and-back on Alain White Rd. and head up the aptly named Hard Hill Rd. It is this sort of constant slightly up, slightly down riding with little hills that you don’t think twice about punching it up-and-over that comes back to haunt you as you wonder what exactly it was that robbed your legs of their ability to run.
As with all bike courses – but especially ones of this nature – a powermeter is an invaluable tool for racing, allowing you to keep a cap on your power and helping you to limit those short spikes that really sap your ability to run. Likewise, a compact drivetrain (a 50-34 or 50-36 front crankset paired with a wide range 11-26 or even 11-28 cassette in back) can keep you from ever getting overgeared on some of the steeper climbs, allowing you to keep a comfortable cadence without needing to dramatically up the power required to keep your legs spinning, rather than grinding. But as much as these things are helpful, they are not necessary for those of you who don’t currently have them and aren’t ready to make yet another investment in equipment. I will say that they – a powermeter and a compact crankset – are two of the best investments you can make in terms of equipment, but they are investments nonetheless. So with those recommendations aside, I will aim to set out some basic guidelines to prepare yourself for the race, whatever equipment you may – or may not – have.
First off, learn to shift effectively. Shifting is an often overlooked way to make your life easier. Most folks have at least 18 gears, probably 20, and some of you may even have 30. With all those gears, there is no excuse for a “set it and forget it” attitude. Pay attention to your cadence. If you find yourself pedaling in “slo-mo,” shift into a lighter cog in the back or shift down in the front. Learn to take full advantage of the gears you have available. Pick a route with “rolling” topography in training and see how shifting more – or less – changes how difficult you perceive it to be, and especially how you perceive running off the bike to be. Practice your transition runs and make a note of what things you do riding that seem to help with your running.
If you don’t have a powermeter, learn to pay attention to how your heart rate responds to rolling courses. In most cases, you’ll notice that your HR is highest as – or even after – your finish a climb. This is an important limitation of training and pacing by heart rate – there is lag. That lag means that you may not realize how hard you’ve gone – harder than you should have – until after it’s too late. If you use heart rate in your training, which is great, you also need to be aware of it’s limitations, especially over a course like that at Rev3 Quassy, where the first 25 miles can be incredibly difficult, though you likely won’t realize it until it’s too late. Those first 25 miles are all slightly up or down, and that’s really what can punish you, especially since you feel so good during the early portions of the bike. It’s hard to be too conservative over those first 25 miles. Let your HR settle. If it’s jumpy even then, your power is likely even more erratic, and you can start adding minutes to your run time right then. Be patient until you start that climb up Northfield. If you feel good then, you can push the pace a bit there. That climb is long enough and steep enough to command your respect. If you want to take some risks on pacing, do it in the last 10-15 miles of the ride, not the first. You can always make as much time – relative to the clock – at the end of a ride as you do in the beginning, and – relative to your competition – you can often make much more.
“Patience is a virtue,” the old adage tells us. And nowhere is this more true than with long course triathlon. And among that specific subset of races, it is especially true on a course like Quassy. Practice this patience over the hard rides that you train on. See how fast you can finish those punishing courses, rather than how fast you can start them. Practice holding back. Everyone knows how to put in the miles, but preparing for your best race at Rev3 is about learning to pace those miles, to hold back, and to push yourself at the end in order to truly evaluate how much you left in the tank by the way you paced your workout. Train your ego, since that is as much a part of being successful as training your legs.