So, you have decided that one form of activity is not enough and you have gone full crazy and want to do three things in a row. Welcome to triathlon.
What is a triathlon?
In essence a triathlon is a 3-leg event - swim, ride, run. But in reality it is a 5-leg event – swim, transition, ride, transition, and finally, run. Needless to say, a little preparation makes race day go a whole lot smoother, you will save yourself a bunch of time and the smile on your dial wider.
Step 1 – Equipment
When you think equipment you think, yeah sure I got my goggles runners and bike, what else is there?
- cycling shoes (if you use them)
- Vaseline if your running without socks and you blister
- socks if your using them
- rubber bands if you are going to have your cycling shoes clipped into your pedals
- a top to cover your torso (if you are a dude and swimming in DTs)
- nutrition (gels, bars, jubes etc)
- whatever other little things you think you need to get to the finish line
Step 2 – Check over
Go over all your equipment before race day and make sure it works (not kidding!). And hot tip, never use new/untested equipment during a race!!!!! Always use new accessories/parts/equipment prior to race day, and ideally a few times to wear it in and get familiar.
Step 3 – Game day
Pump up your tyre’s, clean your lenses, oil the chain, fill water bottles, lube the shoes if needed and all the million other things people do when nerves and excitement are running high.
Step 3 – Transition set-up
Make sure you arrive to the event with plenty of time to spare so you can sign on, setup, warm up and suss out the competition. Find a spot for you bike, rack it, set out you gear how you like it to be to be as efficient and as quick as possible when transitioning. Hot tip, place your bike leg equipment in front of your run leg equipment. Some people like to hang their helmet from the bike so they save the two seconds from bending down to pick it up.
Remember though one of the rules of triathlon is that you have to have your helmet on prior to un-racking your bike!
Step 4 – Go time!
At most local events there will be a race brief before the start to outline the course and event. Where the swim start and exit is, bike course, bike mount and dismount zones, run course, water points and the all important finish line. PAY ATTENTION!!! Many people have been caught out before thinking “no I always do the local races I know how this goes”, they don’t pay attention then BAM the race director does wave starts for the swim due to the high number of competitors and you have started in the wrong wave because you were not listening!
After race brief, you prep mentally, do those last minute checks, grab the goggles and head to the start line. Once there take in who is around you, where you are. Are you amongst the people who have similar abilities? Are you front row because you are a gun swimmer? Are you at the back because you know your limits? Make sure you are where you are comfortable. The start of the swim is the most chaotic par of any triathlon, arms legs googles going everywhere. People swimming over people looking like they are trying to drown each other, two guys over on the left looking they are in a boxing match rather than swimming with the way they are flailing about. Try and find a set of feet to swim behind and ultimately draft off...ideally someone slightly stronger than you and that swims straight! You can save so much energy drafting of people in the swim and if you have faith in the person behind you that they know where they are going you can save yourself have to take a sighting stroke and just follow them. Remember to breathe, relax and swim within your limits. No use doing the first 400metres like Ian Thorpe if you are going to do the next 1100metres like Eric the Eel.
Step 5 – Transition 1
Once out of the water take a couple of big breathes whilst to jog to transition, ditch the goggles, shirt on (if you are the dude wearing DTs), helmet on, shoes on (if they are not already clipped into your pedals), grab the bike, run with it to the mount area, do your best impersonation of superman leaping on and go go go!!!
A lot of people blow up early on the bike as they take the first section way above their race pace threshold. Again, take a breather, find your rhythm, have a drink and settle in for ride ahead with a nice high pedal cadence.
Big one on the bike leg is to remember to take in water and nutrition. When you are doing this, you are fueling your body for down the track not right then and there. You might feel fine now but if you don’t eat or drink you might bonk massively later.
Step 6 – Transition 2
So, the bike leg is coming to end, start thinking about what is going to happen next. About 1km out from transition shift into an easier gear so you are pedalling at a really high cadence, this will help make it easier on the run leg. Coming into transition, take your feet out of cycling shoes (if you are using them), jump off in the dismount area, then run the bike in and rack it at your place. Don’t unclip or remove the helmet prior to racking your bike.
Once bike is racked helmet of, runners on then WOOSH Usain Bolt your ass out of there, last leg!
At the start of the run same as the start of the swim and ride leg, don’t cook yourself too soon, there could be up to 42.2km of running coming up if you are doing a full ironman distance or 5km for a sprint distance, even less for a come-an-try but philosophy is the same don’t overdo it!
At the water points drink, splash it on yourself, whatever but keep the fluids up.
Step 6 – The finish
The most important part, how good you look crossing the line. Remember zip your top up, back straight, knees high, perfect running form and stop the watch as soon as you cross the line. Your done! Enjoy the moment, grab some food and drink, get in the shade and soak it all up.
Even if you are finishing you first ever triathlon of finishing Ironman number 16, there is nothing better then that finish line feeling.
The short and sweet of it
Triathlons really are a great way to keep fit, race if you want to, and to challenge yourself both mentally and physically. They can seem like a big deal, but anyone, really anyone can do a triathlon with a little preparation.