Don’t burn all your matches in the first leg! Coach and Ironman pro Mark Threlfall has these tips
1. Don’t waste energy on nerves
For many triathletes, the swim is quite daunting – especially if it’s open water and a mass start. Being nervous is a sure-fire way to waste energy though, as apprehension can be surprisingly tiring and greatly affect your technique. The good news is, you can avoid this by being prepared. The more practice you can get in the open water, the more relaxed and confident you will feel come race day. Try to swim with others in the open water, and get used to swimming in one another’s slipstream. Being able to draft off other swimmers is free speed, after all, and will definitely help your race day endurance!
2. Pace the swim leg evenly
With the swim being first, it’s important to not burn too many matches early on. This means not going above your target race pace too many times. Instead, you should aim to pace your race as evenly as possible. That said, it can be beneficial to start out a little above your target pace to get some clear water. To help with this, you should include some speed sessions in your training. It’s important not to go absolutely full-gas at the start though, as you will struggle to recover for the rest of the race.
3. Get your body ready to ride
Having powered yourself around the swim using your arms, all the blood is up top and it can be hard trying to get your legs to work! To help with this transition, start kicking your legs a little harder in the final 100-200m of the swim.
The bike leg
You’ll be in the saddle for the longest part of the race. Pro rider Matthew Bottrill helps you make it easier
4. Prepare for the challenge
Having a pacing strategy is key to ensure you don’t burn all your energy on the bike. It’s not just about putting out X power for Y hours, but making sure you avoid pushing too hard on the ascents or needlessly chasing speed and
power on the descents.
5. Mix it up in training
Practise your pacing in training when doing your endurance and tempo sessions. These should be the foundation of your training schedule, you should do both steady state rides and interval-based sessions to make sure your endurance engine is bullet-proof. Use a range of cadences to build muscular strength in addition to your cardiovascular fitness too. You can then lay top-end interval sessions on to this foundation to help bring your power up.
6. Get a bike set-up
Having your saddle height and position optimised to help with your pedalling dynamics will help conserve energy for the run. It will also help you find the balance between comfort and aerodynamics. There’s no point being aero if you can’t sustain the position and there’s no point being so comfy you’re as aerodynamic as a brick!
7. Take on some fuel
The bike is ideal to take on fuel to set you up for the rest of the race. You want to be taking on sufficient amounts not only to keep your endurance engine running for the remainder of the bike leg but also to prepare for the run.
8. Keep aero tucked
Stay aero as much as possible. If you need to sit up or stretch your back out periodically then build this to tie into your pacing and fuelling strategy. I.e. every 15 mins take on fuel, then get out of the saddle/sit up for 20-30 seconds. With this approach you’re doing everything in sync, minimising any aero losses.
9. Save time
It’s a time-effective way to train unaffected by the weather, traffic or mechanical issues.
10. Ride consistently
If your session is 1hr at tempo then that’s exactly what you can do, unaffected by pace-breakers (e.g. roundabouts).
11. Keep constant
The constant pedalling required when using a turbo often surprises some athletes. The natural ebb and flow of the road generates a lot of micro breaks.
12. Practise fuelling
The turbo is a safe environment to try things out – such as fuelling while in the aero position.
13. Mental strength
Mental endurance is a key skill – especially when taking on a 70.3 or Ironman, so use this as time to practise!
14. Learn to pace
Focus on your pacing strategy and hone it, using whatever your preferred measure is (cadence etc).
The run leg
The bad news? You can’t cheat your way to amazing run endurance, says tri coach Mark Livesey. But smart progression will see huge improvements
15. Take your time
Long-term run endurance gains take time (often years!) to achieve and this is something you can’t hack or expect to find a short cut for – and athletes should ensure all running that is done is developed progressively over time. With that out of the way, though (sorry!), the good news is that there are definitely things you can do to see improvements.
Any increase in volume and intensity undertaken should be realistic, but should be enough to elicit the best physiological adaptation for the time you have to train. Keep in mind the biggest threat when trying to train consistently for triathlon is injury, with the majority of overuse injuries occurring from running, so it’s important to be sensible here.
16. Use brick sessions wisely
The brick training session, where you practise bike to run, is one of the best ways to develop running off the bike. However, there’s a fine line between the training effect you’re aiming to achieve and the muscular/skeletal damage you experience after the brick session. You’ll also need to consider how much time you require to fully recover before you can train effectively again.
17. Training for short course…
In conjunction with some consistent 45 to 75min steady state runs (SSR) and interval work, the short brick session should aim to reduce the run distance/volume with reps of 400m/800m or 1km efforts, the aim being to run faster than current 5km or 10km pace. This reduced distance will help ensure good run form is kept and will also mitigate the chances of injury, but still allow
for sufficient adaptation.
18 …and for long course
Running negative splits – especially over Ironman distance – very rarely happens, it’s usually a case of who slows down the least! Sarah Piampiano was the only pro athlete, male or female, to run a negative split at Kona 2016 (Triratings.com). Introducing functional running strength into your already consistent run schedule will help you achieve this. Additional balance and proprioception work, including single leg strength work can help your functional running development, basically by keeping you stronger for longer. You can incorporate these exercises as part
of a running circuit.
Eat for endurance
What you scoff can make a difference to speed and recovery, says dietician Renee McGregor
19. Don’t fear the carbs
Contrary to what you may have read, carbs are essential for fuelling endurance training. Carbohydrate is the body’s preferred fuel; the harder you work, the quicker you drain your stores. So don’t ditch the carbs but be smart with them, tailoring them to your daily workouts.
20. Get protein from milk
With so many sports nutrition products on the market, you would be right in thinking that you need a special product for each stage of your training. However, don’t be fooled into thinking expensive is better. One good example is the use of milk as a recovery drink. In most cases, this is a better and cheaper choice than a protein shake.
21. Pop your Cherry (Active)
During high intensity or volume training blocks, one product that does seem to have some staying power as well as evidence to support its use is Cherry Active. Studies have demonstrated that it can prevent soreness and improve recovery.
22. Get some beets
Beetroot has been proven to improve oxygen uptake and delivery to muscles. Studies found that it needed to be taken as a shot containing 5mmol nitrous oxide 1-3 hours prior to training, 5 days leading up to a competition in order for it to be in the right dose to have an effect on performance. It seems to have most beneficial effects in events that last up to 40mins.
Rest and recovery
23. Understand your needs
Sadly rest and recovery can often be seen as ‘being lazy’. However, without structured periods of R&R your body will not be able to absorb the training. When we train, the body will break down its own muscular structure in order to create energy. The recovery process starts by resting and allowing your muscles to repair by laying down new fibres, which in the long term will mean stronger, more powerful muscles that can cope with more.
24. Catch some Zzzzzs
Sleep is the easiest and cheapest form of recovery, but many of us do not get enough. We all have slightly different sleep needs in order to recover optimally, but I would suggest that an athlete should be aiming for a minimum of 7hrs per night. Plus if possible, take a 30min power nap during the day!
25. Heed the warning signs
Looking out for key warning signs can help you be proactive with your approach. Examples include a drop in performance that is unexpected, a lack of appetite, susceptibility to infections and viruses that you struggle to overcome or a change in general mood and attitude. It’s always better to be cautious than to keep on pushing through.
26. Think beyond training
A well thought-out training plan should include daily processes that improve recovery. This may include the use of protein-based drinks or foods taken within 30mins of training, such as milk. Active stretching post training is a must and can be a huge factor in offsetting DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), plus I’m a believer in the use of compression wear, such as tights for recovery.
Strength and conditioning
Okay, so it might not give you the same feeling of satisfaction as beasting yourself over a long run or bike, but a focus on S&C is key to endurance, says Dermott Hayes
27. Quit avoiding it
As a coach, I would comfortably say that the most overlooked and underestimated area of endurance training is the time spent on strength and conditioning. So often athletes say they ran out of time (usually meaning they’re bored by strength and conditioning!) but it comes back to haunt them if their races don’t go as planned. Quite simply, an effective S&C plan will improve the body’s ability to cope with the demand of endurance training and racing.
28. Avoid the iron shuffle
You should think of S&C as being the foundation that holds the body together – and when it’s weak the whole body will crumble. You know the carnage you see at the end of any iron-distance race marathon, with runners shuffling and hunched over? This could all be prevented with proper S&C training.
29. One good, two better
I encourage my athletes to complete at least one strength and conditioning session each week but ideally two is preferred. Plus you can opt for yoga or pilates as these are great alternatives and help to build excellent functional strength.