While training and or racing I think about the most important components of racing. Is it endurance? Speed and power? Nutrition? Technique and skill? Mental toughness? The reality is that they all are important. Any given one can be the weak link that ruins your performance.
First and foremost, you need endurance to be able to cover the distance. It's not necessary to complete the distance before the race or event, but it is important to do 50 to 75 percent before race day. Most marathoners run 18 to 20 miles as their long run to get ready for a marathon. The important thing is that you get substantial training time under your belt.
Speed and power also are required to go fast or just get to the finish line. You may need more power just to be able to make it over some of the tougher climbs. The offseason, when it's cold outside, is a great time to focus on building power through strength training. I offer FREE strength training advice when you sign up for a free account here http://www.getfit-getstrong-getfast-getwendy.com.
Nutrition is important to achieve optimal body composition, fuel, recover from workouts, and most importantly, power you through races. Race nutrition can be especially tricky during long races since eating too much can be as much of a problem as eating too little. Get nutrition right and you are almost guaranteed to make it to the finish line. Get it wrong and no matter how fit you are, you might be staring at a DNF (did not finish.). Contact GOTRIbal expert coach Cindy Dallow, Ph.D, RD with nutrition questions.
Technique also cannot be underrated. When most people think of technique in regards to endurance sports, they usually think of swimming. But swimming isn't the only sport where you can benefit from strong technique. Running, rowing and mountain biking can all require high levels of technique and practice. Good form will lead to better speed and efficiency.
The last component is mental toughness. The central governor's theory includes the idea that the brain regulates your energy supply and that when your brain feels you are in danger of running low, it signals pain and tells your body to stop. Part of successful racing is visualizing how you are going to deal with the inevitability of pain. Knowing that you can push through it will help you manage these negative feelings.
You might be asking where one finds the time to work on everything. You should periodize your workouts and work on different aspects of training at different times of the year.
You can maintain endurance throughout the year by conducting one two-hour or longer workout a week.
In addition to strength training in the offseason, use that time to focus on body composition. It's likely you'll be doing less intensity so you can afford to eat less and lose weight. This also is a good time to focus on technique. Drill-based workouts don't require the level of energy that more difficult workouts require.
It can be overwhelming to prepare for endurance events. The best thing you can do is start to plan now, develope a base and go from there.