Maybe you have done a few sprint or olympic triathlons and want to try a bigger endurance test, maybe you just fancy hitting the longer distances straight away, or perhaps like me, you’re an idiot, your friend entered you into it and now you can’t back out. Whatever your reasons, here are some triathlon tips and training tips to help you move things up a gear.
What are the distance options?
A 2km swim, a 90km bike and a 21km run is somewhat misleadingly called ‘middle distance’, whilst a 4km swim, a 180k bike and a 42km run is ‘long distance' which when you are telling people what distance you are racing, makes it sound like a breeze.
We don’t know about you but we always thought a sprint or an olympic triathlon seemed like a really long way, so these next stage events should actually be renamed ‘really far, i.e. takes you until lunchtime far’ and ‘even farther than you can imagine doing in a day’ and perhaps even just simply ‘really bloody long’ to really understand what completing one of these races entail.
We don’t say that to cause panic if you are approaching your first endurance race, the triathlon community are some of the friendliest people out there. One of the great things about competing in the longer distances is the encouragement you will encounter. An endurance event is a brilliant challenge and incredibly satisfying to complete, and perfectly achievable with the right preparation.
Which leads us to the one thing you will need to do, of which there is no escaping, and that is train. With a sprint or olympic triathlon, provided you are fairly fit, you will get round it with some nice kit, a bike, the odd snack and a positive frame of mind. in contrast middle and long distance events require a lot more preparation. The following tips will help you with this preparation.
1. Enter a race which inspires you
It doesn’t have to be in some exotic location, although personally at THREO we find a bit of sunshine and scenery works nicely for motivation.
It could be a race you saw someone else do, one which has the challenge of a famous climb, or just about anything really which gets your heart racing. It could even be a race which is scheduled the same day as the elite men and you fancy seeing Javier Gomez in his tight lycra up close (that one might be just us). Anyway, we hope you see the point - for the next few months you will be imagining this race and the build up to it repeatedly as you progress through training, its ultimately the reason why you are outside in some cold weather while everyone else is inside comfortably watching a boxset in their pyjamas, so make it a good one. Ironman races are well organised, spread all over the world and never fail to inspire, so have a look here.
2. Find a good training partner
Even if you keep things to the bare minimum, you will be spending a fair amount of time in sportswear and some days you really won’t want to. Having someone who makes you laugh, who can cheer you up when you have a day where you feel like the slowest person in the universe, or who really does appreciate a good coffee stop or a post swim breakfast, will make the miles fly by.
If you can’t find one for all three, mix them up across the disciplines. If you can’t persuade any of your friends to come with you, then join a club. Many a happy THREO evening has been spent with a group of girls from our running club even in the depths of winter. We might be dying on the track but I am pretty sure round about rep 5, someone always manages to make someone laugh.
3. Invest in your bike.
We don’t mean spend vast sums of money, triathlon should be accessible to all. Just spend some time on it by cleaning it when you come back from a ride. Pay attention to your setup when out on the ride and notice if you feel discomfort anywhere and tweak accordingly. Add a motivational sticker on your crossbar, to cheer you up on the long rides.
Have a proper bike fit, and whilst will need to pay for this, a good one is worth its weight in gold. Break it down to £ per kilometre and you will find by the time you hit race day that it’s 5p a mile or something ridiculous. We have found the good people at Bespoke to be second to none if you are London based, or Athlete Service for those of you near Henley. Even if you don't live nearby, they are both worth a visit. Athlete Service is a triathlete's heaven and packed to the rafters with knowledgeable staff.
4. Find fuel you like and which works for you (and be prepared to never be able to face it again after you finish!)
The main difference in longer course events from sprint triathlon is that fuelling is not an option - it is a necessity. Find a method you like, whether it be gels, bars, tablets and always always mix it with more fluid than you think, and find what works for you.
We found a little bit of a bar every 20 minutes and a sip of fluid every 10 was what worked for one member of Team THREO across a middle distance race, although this is nowhere near close to the recommended water consumption (of 500ml per hour).
What this means is that your training and your body will tell you what is optimum for you, so use long rides to figure out what works best for you now. On race day you want to be confident in your routine and shouldn’t be about to test out a new gel or bar for the first time.
5. Embrace the training.
You need to see the positive in it, and to remember why you are doing it. See the beauty in getting up when the sun rises and being able to eat a ginormous breakfast when you get to work. Enjoy being decidedly smug when someone asks if you had a good morning and you can casually respond ‘oh yes, I did a half marathon this morning - how about you?’. Enjoy sauntering back to your desk, leaving people bowing down in your wake. Okay, this has never actually happened, but at least I knew that if anyone did ask me I had a good answer. See the point above about finding a good training partner, and you will start to look forward to those long weekend training sessions which quite possibly will end in coffee, cake and a good old chat.
Good luck - train hard, race easy. Keep us posted on your progress by using #wearethreo