Last post was all about the great big life lessons training for and completing my first olympic triathlon taught me. Maybe you’ve done a few or you’re here for the nitty gritty on ground tips and tricks while this one is for you! Triathlon training is something else let me tell you. It’s got so, so many moving parts, literally and figuratively. I’m sure there is more for me to learn, please share in the comments if so but I did pick a few things up on the streets along the way. So here goes, if you’re triathlon training these things will help you out in training and on race day!
Pick a good plan
I’m going to go ahead here and say it doesn’t have to be my plan, but… Writing the plan I did helped me a lot right out of the gate. Virtually all of the training plans I’ve done for the last three years have been running plans. After following a couple I realized that a chart or table WAS NOT a sufficient plan. Those first few chart style plans I used had me googling for hours to glean one tiny piece of information, not efficient at all. So when people started asking me for copies of plans I’d used there was no way I was just giving them the chart and fully fit plans was born.
Triathlon people, and their plans are a little nutty, its standard practice to jam 8 workouts into a week over 6 days. If that’s what you’re looking for go for it, you do you! But look for a plan that discusses the rules, transition set ups, gear, safety and probably lingo. There is a lot to know and the whole world can be VERY intimidating, more on the culture here. Find a good plan that discusses all that, mine do, or a great blog or a coach or a club if you’re going the chart route, you’ll need it. Also if it’s your first or your fastest find one that’s at your level. A bare minimum just finish plan or a finish strong yet realistic starter plan or even a go your fastest advanced plan. I used my realistic olympic plan and I’m glad I didn’t have to figure out all that on the fly, it was all in the plan!
Mountain biking your early rides is a great thing
Mostly because I love, love, love my dirty old heavy mountain bike I did my early and medium rides on it. I got up to two hour plus fast rides on my reliable old steed and 45 km and two brick workouts. I heralded the fact that that heavy bike would get my leg muscles pumped up fast. I was correct about that. Also if you’re training for an early in the season race mountain bikes can be easier to ride if there is still a bit of snow on the trails, mud or in the rainy season. Everyone is different but at 45 km I really considered calling for a pick-up in week 6. It’s also nice when you get deeper into training to make the switch to your road bike and feel like you’re getting away with a few easy weeks on the bike!
Add an hour or so of triathlon time to each week of your plan
OMG there is so much to do in prepping for and getting ready for a triathlon. Just regular stuff like errands. You have to find and buy swim stuff, bike stuff, and running stuff. Gels, goos, caps, goggles, find wetsuit pieces, buy new tubes and so on and so on. Plus tinkering with your bike that eats up a bunch of time too. What ever plan you choose add about an hour of scheduled time into it each week for all the little things you have to do.
Beyond the brick identify your hard workout for the week
This time I did the training a little differently to cope with early spring weather realities I trained for and did a half marathon and then after a week off rolled into week 3 or 4 of triathlon training. This was not a bad plan and I would recommend it plus I pulled off a big old PR at that half. But I figured that got my fitness pretty much where it needed to be, almost on the big race day. But I didn’t push hard enough in triathlon training. I just pushed through those bricks and only completed the other workouts. Now that’s totally okay and I’ve noticed in the past that’s my pattern the first time training for something. When I do it again, that’s right I’m going to do it again, I’ll identify one workout per week, brick or the other big workout and treat it like speed work. As always you get out on race day when you put into training and this time in both I had more to give.
Consider a pro for bike maintenance
Unless you moonlight as a bike guru it’s probably with dropping some coin on a really good look over before race day. Now I had issues on race day that were absolutely not foreshadowed in training. I dropped my chain 5 or 6 times in that 40 and it never happened in training once. Now I did know the bike wasn’t dialled in, in fact it wasn’t even shifting to the smallest big ring. It’s working good enough was not close to enough and I should have said yes to that tune up before the big day. Lesson learned!
And or get someone to ride it harder than you do to reveal any hidden issues. The harder you ride a bike the closer to perfect it has to be. Pretty much no matter how hard you train your hardest ride will be race day. Get someone who is a more intense and or heavier to log a few miles on your race bike. It’s not a guarantee but it could help reveal a hidden issue before race day.
Distraction plan for taper time
I didn’t plan this one but it worked out perfectly. Taper time can be a hard time for some, raises hand. You’re less busy and focused right before race day. I happened to see a bookcase online that ended up not fitting but ten days before my race I decided to redo and organize my office right to the very back with an IKEA bookcase instead. That project filled a lot of my time and took a lot of my energy the two weeks before the big day and I even surprised with how calm it kept me. My previous predilection to junk hoarding finally came in handy! Even though I stumbled onto this one by accident it was a good thing. You might want to consider a distraction plan for that nervous taper time, plus you’ll get shit done! Is anyone else thinking of that distraction noodle kraft dinner commercial from a few years ago? Either way from now on I’ll be planning a distraction project for taper time.
And take care of your skin
I know not everyone is on board with my race day make-up and tips to look your best. But I also know there are plenty of other people that pretend not to be into it but are. If you want to read my general tips to look your best in race photos check out this post. Since this one was a triathlon and the swim in first I decided there was no point in wearing any make-up but yes I did think about it. But I still wanted to look as cute as possible in my race photos so starting two weeks before I made sure to cleanse and use nice skincare every single day and stepped up my mask routine. Sure it’s a little vain but it worked. PS after the race my skin was a complete wreck for two weeks so I stuck with the routine a bit longer too. It’s finally getting back to normal.
If it rains bring big zippies
Weather isn’t as much as a factor for triathlon since the swim is first and you’ll be wet anyway, rain isn’t such a big deal then. But it’s nice to put dry clothes on even if they’ll be wet in 5 minuets anyway. Some grocers sell extra large zippy bags that well even fit the largest of men’s shoes. It poured for me on the bike leg so I didn’t have much to change into after that but a regular zippy kept my iPod dry in my running belt.!
Dare to be different on the day and stick to the plan
If you’re going to take something this big on it’s important that you be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Then plan accordingly and have the courage to stick with your plan despite what ALL of the others are doing. I did good and not so good on this. Since I’m freaking blind without my glasses, and freestyle was never my strongest stroke, I opted for breaststroke instated. Mine is hella fast and even without my added flutter kick for speed I kept up with the pack. But as I got on the bike I opted for a bottle instead of my hydration pack totally due to peer pressure. Silly me since I really can’t take a drink from a bottle while Im biking I wouldn’t have had a drink on the bike had my chain not popped off. Even worse if I had a problem my bike kit was in there. I regretted the decision but trust me there is a lot of pressure, perceived pressure, to do what everyone else is. Stay strong!
If your race doesn’t go according to plan resolve to have fun
Since there is so much going on there is a lot that can go wrong. It’s more likely something will if it’s your first time but even if you’re at the seasoned vet stage stuff can still go very sideways. As you’re spending all that time in training try to keep that in mind. Weather, breakdowns, strong waves, wind or mud can all pop up and throw a wrench in your race day. It’s way more likely than if you’re just running. Try to keep that in mind just in case. If something does go wrong don’t let it ruin your day or you’re race. Just let go of your goals for this one and resolve to have fun. You trained for it and even if your goals are fully out of reach you might as well just have the best time you can. There is literally nothing you can do to change it so you might as we’ll just make the most of it and no one will take away your shirt if you don’t PR.
I would love, love, love to know what your tips and tricks are for tackling a triathlon. It seems I’ll be at it again in the future so share lots! If you’re interested in that realistic olympic training plan I used you can check it out here!