Race Simulation Benefits

Does the benefit of a race simulation ride outweigh its harm?

Yesterday, I completed a very difficult gravel group ride to simulate a race in two weeks. The route was designed to match the race conditions, with about 80 miles and 6K feet of climbing, mostly on dirt roads. There were hot temperatures and dry, dusty conditions. Others in the group are preparing for the same race.

Overall, the ride increased my race confidence.
Nutrition strategy worked pretty well. No bonking or cramps. No significant equipment issues. Held a good pace all day, while avoiding going into red on the steep climbs. Getting better at the fast rocky descents.

But I feel physically wrecked today. Garmin Training Readiness score has me bottomed out at Poor. Planning to spend the day resting and eating.

Did it do more harm than good? In the near term, I expect that it will reduce my likelihood of success on upcoming TR workouts. But has it reduced my race fitness? Can a race simulation ride be too hard? Is two weeks enough time to recover?

The podcast has repeatedly emphasized that group rides don’t provide the fitness benefit of structured training. I didn’t expect a fitness improvement from the ride; instead, I hoped to get other training benefits (i.e., testing time in saddle, nutrition, pacing, equipment, etc.) while not negatively impact fitness too much. Was it worth it?

FYI, I have no illusions about finishing on the podium. I’m an old guy that just rides for fun (and to try to beat my friends).

Depends on the benefits and depends on the harm.

Benefits: I have a low FTP and credit my wins with strategy and some cornering skills. I got those from race simulation type rides. That’s a big benefit for me. Also, it’s fun.

Harm: I do Saturday race-pace rides then spend the rest of the day lazily. Then I’m usually good for a long endurance ride on Sunday. If I really go deep, I turn Sunday or Monday into a rest day. Then it’s back to intervals without issues on Monday or Tuesday. So, for me, the harm is not much.

YMMV. Ignore Garmin though, unless you find it much more accurate than I do.

I don’t race but I think a big benefit you already noticed is that you have a sense that nutrition and equipment worked well - that’s may be a big confidence boost for you as you prepare for the race and then do it.

I wouldn’t race the race before the race (if you know what I mean) but a group ride simulating the event isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The only negative is don’t do it too close to the event you are peaking for. You mentioned you are pretty beat from the ride… the focus now should be all about recovery. There is nothing you can do now to make you better for race day. Dial it back and crush it come race day.

I think race simulations are very valuable, just don’t overdo it. I think the podcast is addressing more the people who are doing hard group rides every weekend, rather than periodic race simulations, which you can even just call a “c” race. The mental component is huge, knowing how hard a race can feel, having to ride at a pace you don’t get to choose, etc.