Race tips: Bala Standard Tri

With the ETU Championship qualifier coming up at the weekend, last year’s winner Vicky Johnston and 2012 victor David Bishop tell us how to perform well in Wales

Bala Triathlon 2013

Are you racing Bala Standard Tri this weekend? Then read on for the inside track from two previous winners, Vicky Johnston (2013) and David Bishop (2012).

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Vicky and David share their tips on how to make the most out of your performance, including how to navigate the lake and make the most of the fast course, scattered with a few hills and – new to this year – some promises of sunshine.


“With the swim at Bala being in a large lake, it is very important to navigate the course well,” says Vicky. “Regular sighting whilst racing is crucial to avoid going off track and losing valuable time. I would advise wearing tinted goggles to prevent the sun from dazzling your eyes and restricting your view of the course.”

“As with all triathlons, the transitions are where you can gain or lose valuable time. Make sure you are well practiced at removing your wetsuit quickly. I race in Huub which always allows me to have a fast T1.”

Swimmers at Bala Standard Distance Triathlon

David adds: “It can go one of two ways and it is all dependent on the weather! You will either get a pleasant swim along the lake or you will be battling waves all the way to the far buoy (which you won’t be able to see).

“The one bit of advice I can give is make sure that you get your sighting right, it is quite easy to swim off course despite the fact you have buoys guiding you up and down the stretch of water.  The swim feels long as it is, so you don’t want to add on a couple of hundred meters by zigzagging along the lake.

“The swim exit is very rocky so be careful, it’s better to lose a few seconds taking care than rushing, resulting in an unfortunate slip.”


On to the bike course, which is fairly flat with a few rolling hills – perfect for a fast TT bike, says Vicky. “Using a time-trial bike is preferred but [last year] I raced on a road bike with clip on tri-bars so as long as you are able to get in a comfortable aero-dynamic position then either are a good option.

“Make sure you use the bike to refuel and keep the energy levels topped up ready for the run. The out-and-back nature of the course also means that you are able to see where your competitors are on the course, meaning there are always people around you.”

“The bike isn’t too challenging navigationally wise,” says David. “It is simply out-and-back along the lake and a gentle climb up the Valley. It is generally undulating for the first 10-15km with a long descent to the turnaround point. You will be able to see your fellow competitors for the majority of the bike leg, as there are several long stretches of open road. This will give you a good opportunity to keep an eye on any rivals!

“Make sure that you have not wasted all your energy on the way out because you felt good with the downhill! When you get back to the undulating section, and you can see the lake, you know you haven’t got long to go. One thing is for certain, you will get a head wind at some point so make sure to pace your self accordingly.

“Transition is a busy affair with Bala being such a popular event. Make sure you know your transition entrances and exits. The first time I raced Bala I lost thirty seconds in T2 not knowing which side of the transition run exit was.”


Vicky Johnston racing

“The final point is just to enjoy it! The support of the spectators and marshals make the atmosphere amazing. Bala was truly one of my favourite races of my season last year!”

David concurs with Vicky that the run is very similar to the bike, with a run along the same road and along the lake. “This again provides a good opportunity to see where your competitors are. There is a long decent on the run towards the turn around point which is located in a near by campsite.

“This may be a good point to get your legs turning over faster and try and get rid of any fatigue from the bike. The second half of the run is the hardest part, so dig deep – you are nearly there. Make sure you look good for the cameras as there are lots of spectators lining the roads at this point!”

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Are you racing this weekend? Do you have any last minute worries? Let us know in the comment below!