by Helen Russell
The triathlon race season is well and truly underway and some of you may be getting ready for your first race. Some of you may have entered the Droitwich triathlon on 22 July at our Droitwich leisure centre. If you are a few weeks out of your first event then most of your training will probably already be done. During the final week before a race you should be tapering, which means reducing your training volume so that you go to a race fresh. However this taper period can be used to do some final race-skills training and preparation, which could potentially shave seconds or even minutes off your race time. I have won and lost races by just two seconds, so it really is worth trying these simple skills exercises that won’t fatigue you in the run up to race day. Here are some things you can try:
The transition in a triathlon is often called the fourth discipline and races can be won or lost depending on how smooth the transitions from swim to bike and bike to run are.
Swim to bike
If you are racing in open water, practise getting your wetsuit off. This is best done after your open water swim practice. Upon exiting the water immediately grab your zip tog and start to undo the zip, then pull the suit off your arms and roll it down to your waist whilst running. Then it is time to take off your goggles and swim cap. If you make the mistake of taking these off first your hands won’t be free to remove your wetsuit whilst on the move! The hardest part is removing the suit from your lower body. Applying some baby oil or wetsuit specific lube on your legs will help get it off.
On and off the bike
The next thing to practise is getting on and off the bike. During my race season I practise this part of transition once a week in a quiet car park, where it is safer. More experienced triathletes will have their bike shoes already cleated into their bike pedals and held level with a rubber band from the loop in the back of triathlon specific shoes. Getting on the bike and slipping your feet into the shoes involves real skill and should definitely be practised before race day. Also don’t forget to practise taking your feet out of the shoes and getting off the bike. It is also worth to try running with your bike. The fastest way to do this is to push the bike via one hand on the saddle. Getting it to go in a straight line and around bends does take practise. Key to this is pushing it assertively-the more hesitant you are, the harder it is to steer.
The final part of transition is getting your trainers on. A lot of people neglect to practise this but just a few minutes rehearsing can save seconds. Invest in some elastic laces so that you don’t have to waste time tying up your shoelaces.
As you can see, there is a lot to think about during transitions. A great way to practise and thereby save time is to visualise each phase of the transition. I find it especially useful to visualise the swim to bike phase as it is easy to loose concentration at this early stage and get the order of getting out of the wetsuit wrong.
If your race is a pool based triathlon then there are a number of things to try in your final week that could save seconds. At the end of the swim leg you will have to exit the pool and unless you are in the outside lane it won’t be via the steps! Make sure you practise pushing yourself up the pool wall and out the water. Too many novices take a couple of attempts to push up and out, due to never having tried it before.
During a 400m swim in a 25meter pool you will have to turn around 15 times. Improving your turnaround could save 15 seconds and maybe more. Whether you are going to tumble-turn or just push off the wall each time make sure you practise. Do reps of 10 meters fast swim towards the wall with a perfect turn. However you turn, keep your arms straight ahead with your hands over each other and your head in between your arms looking to the bottom of the pool. Stay under the water and use a butterfly kick for as long as you can. It is worth practising pool turns at least once a week during the race season.
Being acquainted with the race route, especially the bike leg can save a lot of time on race day. Courses will usually be sign-posted but you can attack the route more confidentially if you know what to anticipate. If you live close to the venue then it is a great idea to ride the route beforehand to find out if there are any confusing turns or tight corners etc. If you have entered a race far from home then Google Earth now means that you can at least get some idea of what the route looks like. Not only does this help to be able to ride confidently it also helps you if are going to use pre-race visualisation.
There is such a lot of equipment involved in a triathlon, which means that it is easy to forget something. Nerves will start to make an appearance in the week before a race, which increases the risk of forgetting an item of kit. Therefore I always use a kit-list when packing, so that it is only once every item is ticked off that I know I have everything. To help you, here is my list which you are welcome to use.