I’ve done 50 sprint triathlons. I was a sprint swimmer growing up, so the short stuff took my fancy from the get-go. I’ve raced a large chunk of my triathlons in the sprint category (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run), but have also completed half Ironmans (1.9km swim, 90.1km bike, 21.1km run).
Have a plan. So many guys try to just swim more, ride the race distance they’ve signed up for, and add a few runs to their training each week. This is ineffective and will almost always lead to failure on the day, especially in longer-course racing. Finding a good coach who can provide a tailored training plan will set you up for success. It’s important to follow the plan too, and not get carried away. If your programme says, ‘Easy 45-minute jog’, then do exactly that. You have to pull yourself back as the volume can become addictive.
Think about the time you have. When building a training plan, think about your availability to train and any restrictions. For my half Ironman training, my week would include two swims, two or three rides, and two or three runs. These would be broken down into interval-based training throughout the week, then long swims, rides and runs. I would also include two strength/mobility sessions to focus on specific areas.
A good pair of trainers is essential. It’s worth investing in quality training kit – a decent pair of runners was my priority item. I borrowed a friend’s time-trial bike first to see if I enjoyed it, and only bought one once I knew I wanted to invest. A decent triathlon suit is also a must. Tri-Fit’s Evo Tri Suit has additional pockets on the legs for loading up on race nutrition and carefully chosen fabrics strategically placed for comfort and speed.
Looking after your body is key. I’ve experienced overuse injuries during triathlon prep several times – sadly, these are almost inevitable when pushing yourself to the max. Running takes its toll on my knees so I’ll often switch to a cross trainer. It’s important to look after your immune system too, as intense training can take its toll. Stay hydrated, rest well and think about nutrition – these will give you the best chance of staying in the game.
Eat more carbs. One hour prior to a race I’ll eat porridge or bircher muesli, which contain low-GI carbs for sustained energy release – this will fuel you for the first 60-90 minutes of racing, but if there are strong headwinds, you’ll burn more calories and will need more fuel. After this, the general rule is to eat 30g of carbs every half hour until you finish.
I’ve learned several tricks of the trade. First, elastic bands off a bunch of asparagus are the perfect way to hold your shoes level when pre-clipped onto your bike. As you jump onto your bike and start pedalling, they snap and you slide your feet into your shoes. Secondly, try cutting a small section of your right wetsuit leg so it slides off past your timing chip when you’re frantically trying to rip off your wetsuit in transition. Finally, remember to run your race and not someone else’s. Respect the sport and you’ll have a great day.