As some of our readers are relatively new to triathlons and biathlons, here is an article that my coach, Craig ‘Fox’ Holland wrote. We have members in our triathlon group (Eastern Night Riders) spend more than 10 minutes during Transitions 1 and 2. Fox asks: ‘Are you having chicken rice?’ This amusing, but poignant term has stuck with us especially when we discover that one of us exceeds a reasonable amount of time in the, often, chaotic changing-tent. Enjoy.
Would you like to take at least 10 minutes off your next race? How about a 2 km head start on the run over your competitors? It is achievable with practice and refinement of specific skills.
Learn to master the skills involved and you will get to the finish-line a lot quicker. Do not let your body down on race day by missing the little things that make the big difference. Train smart, and race smarter.
Below are three specific areas that can make or break your race depending on how well you tackle them. There is no reason why you cannot perform these skills as good, or as better than the professionals.
Rate yourself out of 10 in regards to the statements below. Be honest, have you really mastered these skills or is there room for improvement? Rank the following from 1 through 10 - 1 being poor, and 10 being excellent.
1. I always have a race plan and stick to it. /10
2. My fluid and food intake works well for me under race conditions. /10
3. I am very efficient through the transitions and food/drink aid stations. /10
1. Race Plan of Attack
Do you go into a race with a specific plan of attack or do you head off just hoping to finish? Do you know your machine (your body) and how well it will stand up under racing conditions? What limits can you reach before it breaks down? Have you placed yourself under similar extreme conditions during training?
If not, do not expect to maintain the same intensity without suffering the consequences later in the race. Be prepared by learning what works best for you and race within your machines’ ability. Simulate race conditions in training so your body will be ready to perform on race day. Race smart by keeping a constant watch on your nutrition, heart rates, and drive the machine within its capabilities.
2. Nutrition: Fluid and Food Intake
Many athletes spend hour upon hour refining their swim, bike and running but pay little attention to their nutrition and the refueling of their bodies. You can have the best racing car on the day but if you do not refuel it and maintain the oil levels, it will seize up.
I have been guilty of it myself. The majority of races that I have failed to meet my expectations in, have been the result of my ignorance, either over-stressing or not refueling my body correctly.
A large percentage of athletes suffer on race day because they fail to fuel their body correctly and simulate race conditions during training. Do not let your body down each time you go training or racing. Know exactly how much food and fluid your body requires before, during, and post-activity.
If you are feeling flat towards the end of those long rides or runs, you may be starving yourself of important nutrients; such as carbohydrates, protein, potassium, sodium and fluids.
Depending on the conditions of the day and temperature, you need to be consuming at least one gram of carbohydrate per hour for every kilogram of your body weight and at least 750ml to 1500ml of water per hour.
Getting nutrition right is not easy and what works for your mate Tee or Clifford will not necessarily work for you. So learn what is best for you and give yourself a fair chance every time you expect your body to step up and perform. Start feeding it right. You can do this as good, if not better than the Pros.
How quick do you get in and out of the transitions? On average, most triathletes spend between 12-18 minutes in transition during an Ironman. Transitions are not the time to be having a feed of chicken rice. Save it, until after the race.
Have a look at the quickest athletes who are spending no more than 5 to 8 minutes total. They have refined every step and eliminated all time wasting. Do not do in transition what you can do on the bike, or on the run. Get in, get your gear on and get out as quickly as you can. Familiarize yourself pre-race with the entry and exit points and find the quickest path.
Minimizing time spent through these stations can save you energy at the end of the day. Pre-race, identify the distance between all bike food/drink stations and develop a plan for the day. Be prepared for the stations as you approach them and ensure you have consumed your fluids. Get rid of the empty bottle and position yourself strategically, so you can safely get new supplies and get back to top speed again.
These aid stations can impact heavily on your daily average. Keep them as efficient as you can. Get in, get your fuel and get out of there as quickly as you can.
On the run, how many of the food/drink aid stations do you stop at? There are, on average, about 20 such stations on the run-course. If you spend 30 seconds to a minute at each one, you would now have accumulated 10-20 minutes standing around.
Yes, you do need to stop at the stations and take on fuel but you can minimize your pit-stop time by always moving forward. Even if you set yourself a goal to walk/jog every second station you will save a lot of time.
There are many other aspects in becoming a good Triathlete and we will never be able to swim, ride or run as good as the professionals. However, we do have the ability to be the best in the field when it comes to applying the above principles.
So for your next outing, have a “Realistic Plan of Attack,” be diligent with your “Nutrition” and mindful of the time wasting whilst visiting Transitions and Aid Stations. It will put you several kilometres ahead of your usual pack. May the winds be with you!
Fox is available for personalised, online coaching. I strongly recommend his service.