I recently took part in an Olympic distance Triathlon in the Algarve in Portugal, which involved a sea swim in the Atlantic.
A big personal concern on the build up to this event was I that hadn't competed in a triatlon for 9 months so preparation was going to be very important for this event. Using this experience I have put together this blog to help aid you in your training for a triathlon.
Think about Joining a club
Many of us who ride bikes will venture into Triathlon, be it for fun or simply to say you’ve done one. You can go the whole way and join a Tri Club, where you learn to swim-bike-run to the best of your abilities. It’s a great way to meet other people with similar goals, clubs can help you choose your first race and assist you in improving your performance if you have already taken part in a Triathlon. I’ve been taking part in Duathlon and Triathlons since the early 90s and am still racing to this day and even I’m still learning.
Unless you come from a swimming background (which I don’t) you need help. I get help from a local swim club who assist me with my technique which comprise of drills and swim sessions, these are so important, a must if you want to improve. It is important to remember there is always something to learn or improve on, you may be happy with how you swim but be bold and welcome the chance of improving from other peoples instruction. It's no good doing lots of lengths in a pool when you your technique is far from perfect, welcome change and you will notice results. The great thing with drills is that once you know them you can do them on your own, I make sure I do plenty of drills, if you wish to train by yourself have a look online, the web is full of decent drills.
Another important point is if you don’t get the chance to test your wetsuit in open water then another option is to take to the pool to make sure it fits ok and get a feel for the wetsuit and practice taking it off.
USEFUL TIP: If you’re running to the swimming baths, people tend to take too much and this can hinder your running. The way I do it is I only carry the following:
Micro towel, swim-cap, goggles, trunks, small freezer bag, small shampoo bottle (the type given at hotels), small water bottle, sleeveless cycle top, with pockets to put it all in. No rucksack!! It all fits nicely in your pockets - see the photos to the right.
My bike riding was good, I had taken part in 2 road events this year and plenty of winter training, so a good base. However these events hadn't been on my TT bike which I would use for the triathlon.
It’s imperative to ride your TT bike prior to your race, also to run after, as body position is different and will affect your run off the bike.
So I found myself a nice 40k route out and back to the house. Trainers ready and waiting to go straight out for a 10k run. Obviously if you’re building up to the distance, then it's important to work on this with a plan in mind.
If you can’t find a route to cycle on your TT bike safely, due to where you live, then put your TT bike on your Turbo trainer, then run immediately after. Try and use a different rear wheel or tyre than the one you’re racing on, as turbos tend to wear out your tyre.
As mentioned earlier, running to the swimming pool is great but it is something you have to build up to in time and make sure you’re at the right level of fitness to do this. I had two running races under my belt this year, a 10k and half marathon. It’s very important to get some running events in. You always go harder in a race environment and it also gives you an idea of your level of running fitness. Another great way to train, is to get a lift to the running race, with your bike and then cycle home afterwards. It’s a great way to build up your endurance levels.
My Experience: Olympic distance - 1500 swim, 40k bike, 10k run
With at least two months preparation behind me, I was looking forward to my first Olympic distance for a while. I have a half iron man distance coming up on May 7th so this race was good preparation.
The swim was in the sea and we all had to sprint down a sloping sandy beach and then straight into crashing waves, it really was a mass start. As I was running into the water, the waves crashed against my body, while surrounded by other competitors. It’s hard to choose the right moment to dive in, as your legs get heavier running through the water. When the water hit my waist, I dived into a white bubbling on-coming wave, head down, through the wave, it was time to swim. With everyone trying to find their own space, it’s very important to keep calm, it’s like a giant Jacuzzi on full power. I made sure to pop my head up every so often to sight and make sure I wasn't drifting off course, you can lose a lot of time if you’re not heading directly for the buoys.
After a while things settled down and I got into a rhythm, my focus went onto my technique and making sure I have a good swim. As I emerged out of the water, I was ready, pealing off my wet suit down to my waist and continued to run up the beach to transition, wetsuit off and helmet on, shoes are on the bike, a swift grab of the bike out of transition as I rolled away.
Cobbled climb out of the town, then settled down to some nice rolling roads with a few 10% climbs to break up the field. I made sure to keep eating and drinking on the bike to refuel after the swim, which is key! I was feeling good, the session on the TT bike had definitely paid off. I felt very comfortable on the bike, nice aero position, good cadence, picking my way through the field.
This race I decide to have no gadgets, just go with how I feel, mentally and physically. After two 20k laps of working hard, transition is ahead, I slip my feet out of my shoes and I placed my feet on top to dismount in transition, I put the bike in the rack, quickly removed my helmet slipped the trainers on, made sure to grab a couple of gels and away I was on the run. It was a 2 lap course, half on road and half off road, with 2 rocky climbs. I made sure to take a gel as I started the run and to grab some water at the feed stations. My legs were feeling good - just shows you, the run off training session off the bike sure worked. I seemed to be overtaking a few more athletes now, still feeling good as I hit the turnaround point for the second lap. I took another gel, grabbed some more water, 5k to go.
As I hit the 2k mark, I pressed on with what I’ve got left. With the line in sight, I go to max and give it everything until I crossed the finish line and finished. I had no idea where I had finished, After I got my breath back, I spoke to the time keeper to be informed my position was 13th overall in a time of 2hr 6 mins, on a lumpy course I was very happy.
It’s all about the preparation and making sure you are well fueled, happy racing!
The views shared are that of the author and are not necessarily that of Lexham Insurance Consultants Ltd.