With the Titan Brecon middle distance triathlon just around the corner and our Portishead sprint soon after, we wanted to share some handy tips for you beginner triathletes out there.
1. Lay your kit out 48 hours in advance.
Unlike the simple sport of running, there’s a lot of kit admin to be dealt with in a triathlon! It can be a right faff getting everything together, but we’d strongly recommend you lay all your kit out a couple of days before the event. Even if you’re totally convinced that your trisuit is in the bottom of the drawer, get it out just to be sure.
Don’t be that person on the startline who’s forgotten their wetsuit and is facing a chilly swim!
2. Don’t forget to pack the ‘extra bits’
It took me years to remember to take these extra bits, but they will come in handy someday. Spare goggles, towel, talc (to line your bike shoes with to help your feet slide in), anti-chafe lube and sunglasses.
3. Walk through transition
On race day, once you’ve laid your kit out in transition it’s worth walking the whole route from swim exit to bike mount to visualise the order in which you’re going to do everything. Hat and goggles off, wetsuit off, shoes and helmet on, shades on.
It can be a hectic moment when you emerge from the water and it’s easy to lose your bearings. A little walk-through will help you do it on autopilot on race-day.
4. Finish your pre-race meal 2 to 2.5 hours before the start
Yes, some triathlons do start early which does mean you might be chewing breakfast at something like 4:30am, but your gut will thank you later. Keep it simple and only eat what you have before and make sure you hydrate with your meal too.
5. Warm up!
The swim instils fear in most of us. All those people to negotiate around, it can lead to a panicky, stressful first few minutes. But it doesn’t have to be this way! The cause of panic in the first couple of minutes is often due to a surge in heart rate, after all you’ve suddenly gone from standing still to swimming fast.
Warming up is a key factor in reducing this heart rate spike. If you can swim before the start, then take the opportunity. If you can’t, raise your heart rate with dry-land movements. Swing your arms, use stretch cords, jump on the spot. This will warm your body and create the expectation that you’re about to swim, resulting in a less-defined spike and increased perceived effort.
6. Rein it in on the run
At least to begin with, anyway. You will (hopefully!) feel great jumping off the bike, if for no other reason than you’re delighted to get off that saddle, so it’s easy to start the run too fast. But this is the biggest cause of melt-downs in the second half of the run. Aim to run a negative split (where you run the second half faster than the first) and you should find your pacing is much steadier throughout the whole effort. It should feel easy to begin but it’ll creep up, trust us!
7. Focus on the process
If you find yourself stressing about the outcome, worrying about the competition or concerning yourself over what your girl/boyfriend might make of your performance, stop! You’re focusing on the performance and outcome of the event, which is often out of your hands. Instead, focus on the process of how you’re going to get through each phase. Don’t look at the big picture, try to keep yourself in the here and now.
During each phase, focus on what you can do in the here and now to improve the process. So, in the swim think about keeping a high elbow, strong core and controlled kick. On the bike, keep those pedal strokes smooth and your cadence consistent. During the run get those knees up, don’t over-stride and focus on standing tall. Keeping tabs on these things will ensure you’re focussing on the controllable factors of the process which will ultimately lead to your performance outcome. Worrying about the outcome itself is often fruitless.