Matt Hudson; Total Motion Events; 20th June 2016
Are you new to triathlon? Have you been trawling the web and social media to pick up a few tips to try and improve your raceday experience? This is a cycle that lots of us follow as we look forward (or not) to our first tritahlon experience. Then after the bug has bitten; how can we shave time of the PB. I am by no means an expert, but I have searched the web and added a few snippets of personal experience to come up with my Top 10 tips for each discipline. Whether you are heading into your first sprint, or tackling season two and looking to shed some excess seconds from your Olympic distance times, hopefully you will find something to help you along your path.
- Wetsuit – ensure you have trained in your wetsuit before race day. You need to know what it feels like. A well fitting one will help with body position and confidence. A poorly fitting wetsuit can feel restrictive and slow you down. Advice here varies;, but IMO it needs to be reasonably tight without cutting off circulation!
- Lubricant – Just to spread around the neck, wrists and ankles. This will prevent chaffing and aid the removal of the suit in T1.
- Warm Up – Warm up properly out of the water and if you get the opportunity get in the water for a few minutes to get used to the temperature and loosen up.
- Goggles - In the melee at the start of the race a stray hand could catch your goggle strap and they could be gone forever. Put your goggles on first, and then your cap. If it’s cold you may have two caps on anyway, put your goggle strap in between them.
- Positioning - Do you need to be at the front of the swim at the start? If you are a strong swimmer this may be the right place for you. If it’s your first event, hang in a position where you’re more likely to be overtaking than overtaken. Plot your route wider around buoys and stay away from trouble.
- Don’t Panic! – Try and find your own rhythm as quickly as you can. This may be difficult in cold water, but get into your stroke and it will be more enjoyable.
- Stroke – Keep your stroke rate consistant and don’t get over excited, remember to keep length in your stroke and glide, this will conserve energy too. If it’s your first event and you aren’t strong on front crawl, then do breast stroke. The aim is to get to the finish line, do what it takes to complete.
- Sighting – Hugely important not to just follow the person in front, they may not be sighting either and you don’t want to swim further than you have to. Practice this in the pool during training.
- Bi-Lateral Breathing – Hard to master, but helps with balance in the water. Don’t worry if you don’t or can’t do it, Chrissie Wellington doesn’t, you don’t need to either.
- Drafting – Really difficult to master, but try to swim in the sweet spot behind the person in front and just off to the side, think geese in flight.
- Organisation - Be as tidy as possible at set up - think about what order you will do things once you arrive from the swim. Have a set order in which you do things, less thought is required and it’ll likely be a smoother transition
- Towel - Brightly coloured towel in transition will help you easily identify your position and give you something to stand on. (Make sure you know what row your bike is in as you leave it to enter the swim.)
- Exiting Swim - Lift goggles, start to unzip your wetsuit on the way into T1, give yourself a head start.
- Helmet - Think about putting your helmet on as soon as possible – it’s obvious, but vital not to forget this – and get it the right way round!!
- Sunglasses and gloves – These are optional, but it helps to put them on your shoes or in your helmet so you don’t forget them.
- Comfort - You are of course focusing on doing everything as quickly as possible, but remember you still need to be comfortable for the rest of the race – personally I always wear socks. The time spent getting them on is more than made up over the cycle and especially the run. Don’t just discount them as costing too much time. Getting them on with wet feet is an art, so I put them on pre race, then role them off to enable them to be rolled on in T1.
- Shoes - attached to pedals - hard skill, but worth the practice
- Weather – If it’s a hot, sunny day then ensure you have lotion on – Ideally apply a waterproof sunscreen prior to swim – P20 is excellent.
- Racking – Rack your bike facing out for ease of recognition and a faster get away
- Bike – Ensure your bike is in the right gear pre race, ensuring a smooth, easy start.
- Bike – For your first event you don’t need to go and spend £’000s on a new bike. Beg or borrow (not steal!) one for your first event.
- Drafting - Is your event draft legal? If so draft and save some energy, but be prepared to take your turn at the front.
- Nutrition – The bike is the most convenient time to take on nutrition. Tape (masking tape works well) gels to cross bar or place in bag attached to frame in advance of race, and fill your bottle(s). Make sure you’re able to cycle and reach for your bottle safely.
- Tri-Bars – ‘Clip’ons’ are relatively cheap and can be a really good addition to save some time.
- Helmet – Biggest bang for the buck in terms of cost versus time saved – research well for the one right for you.
- Hills –For any hill be in the right gear before you get too far into it, don’t grind down the gears, think in advance and ‘spin’ up. Those people grinding on the big ring will come back to you in no time when they ‘blow up’.
- Watt Bike - Practice on a Watt bike to see the ‘rugby ball’ graph, rather than a ‘monkey nut’. You’ll learn to pull up on the pedals as well as pushing down – important for power, but also to spread the work across muscle groups.
- Turbo Trainers – If you have access to one these are great for ensuring a proper workout, especially if you live in a city with lots of traffic and traffic lights!
- Punctures – The one thing you pray not to get. Make sure you have relevant kit. Pump or gas – you choose, but know how to use it. Lots of clips available on YouTube to talk you through it. Don’t let it ruin your race.
- Fitting – Ensure you’re on the right size bike and have a pro assess your position – again comfort will translate into performance.
- Sit Up – As you near entry into T2 it will help to sit up on the bike and ‘spin’ to stretch out and get the blood flowing in preparation for the run leg.
- Take feet out - Heading into T2 you may wish to take your feet out of your shoes to allow you to get trainers on faster.
- Leg Over – As you approach the dismount line swing one leg over and get positioned to run off the bike into T2.
- Helmet - As you approach T2 remember that you need to keep your helmet on and strapped, the marshals are waiting to disqualify you! Rack bike before removing helmet.
- Racking – Don’t reverse the bike on to the rack as it was when you originally racked it, just go in forwards.
- Multitask – As much as possible multitask – undo helmet, kick shoes off.
- Comfort - You are of course focusing on doing everything as quickly as possible, but remember you still need to be comfortable for the run - time for socks now?
- Elastic Laces – By far the biggest help in T2. Will save you time in transition and on all of those training runs – brilliant for a few pounds on eBay.
- Hands – Use them, carry things out of T2 – hat, glasses, drink, gels.
- Practice – Whatever you do, practice all aspects of your race, but make sure you include transition as the 4th
- 2 Down 1 To Go – That’s 2 disciplines down (or 3 including transitions), and you’ve run 5km, 10km+ in training many times, so you know you’ve got this covered.
- Stride Length – Keep strides short at first, get used to the sensation of running.
- Body Position - Be as upright as you can, ensure your forward foot hits the ground under your body to propel you forward, rather than ahead of you that acts like a brake. This can be tough after being on a road bike for 20-40km+
- Head Position – Keep your head up, this will help straighten you up.
- Comfort – Ensure trainers fit well and you have run in them before…. tried and trusted.
- Weather – Wear a visor or hat and sunglasses on hot, sunny conditions. The feeling of running in the shade is psychologically powerful.
- Longer runs – May need to be carrying gels here – this is where the race belt is extremely valuable. The novice may want to run between aid stations and walk through them to get max hydration too.
- Drinking and Running – Pinch the lip of the cup so that it is like a spout and pour in, more drinking, less dribbling.
- Negative Splits – A big ask for the novice, but will help with pacing – leave some in the tank for a strong finish.
- Have Fun - Relax, enjoy, wave to friends and family – they’ve come to support you. Show them some love!
- Sleep - Get a good nights sleep...2 days prior to your event. Sleep is hugely important, but you can store it up, so don’t be overly concerned if you struggle to sleep the night before an event from nerves/anticipation.
- Nutrition – plan your strategy in advance. Don’t make it up during the race, you have better things to think about…oh and have a proper breakfast!
- Tri-suit - invest in a tri-suit, they aren’t all expensive, but will make the whole event easier and more comfortable.
- Racebelt – Great for attaching number under wetsuit, or carrying your gels.
- Wetsuit – ensure it is recommended for triathlons – you need to be able to swim in it, hence the neoprene will be slightly thinner around the shoulder allowing proper rotation. You may be able to find a venue that allows you to trial a wetsuit before you buy. Alternatively you can rent if it’s your first (and potentially only) event.
- Cycling Shoes – First timer on generalist bike may choose to wear their running shoes (great, some time saved in T2!). Everyone else take a look at tri-specific shoes.
- Check List - Have a triathlon check list and pack your bag in advance of the event, leave nothing to chance/memory and pack spare goggles
- Wetsuit - Each time you wear your wetsuit in training practice taking it off quickly afterwards as though you are in T1.
- Punctures – know what you are doing – watch YouTube and practice.
- Transitions – The fourth discipline. It’s often easier to save time here than it is to swim, cycle or run faster.
- Brick Sessions – In training try a short run after a bike ride, get used to that feeling of moving from one discipline to another.
- Weaknesses – Focus on where you need to improve, not where you are already strong. For most this will likely mean upping your pool time, even enlisting a coach.
- Training Plan – Find a plan that’s right for you, and tailor it to your schedule and needs. It’s near impossible to stick 100% to a plan, but identify the key sessions and ensure you fit them in to your week
- Clubs – There are triathlon clubs all over the UK and they are will offer structured training sessions. This is a great way to buy-in to training and you will also get some great, friendly advice from other members, some of whom will probably have competed in your upcoming event previously.
- Course – Ensure you know the route, and get to registration in plenty of time so that you can take your time pre race, including going to the toilet…bring your own toilet roll!
All the very best in your upcoming events, above all, stay calm and relaxed and have a great time!