How to overcome 8 common bike and run leg fears

Tim Heming explains how to overcome 8 common bike and run fears, which can include everything from potential kit conundrums to toilet troubles…


 01: Not having the best gear


We’ll hand this one over to 220’s resident weekend warrior, Martyn Brunt: “It wasn’t until I saw everyone else’s bikes and kit that it dawned on me how out of my depth I was, and how much of a *&S% I would look. I overcame it in my usual fashion by putting my head down and hoping for the best. The reality was that nobody minded. Those that did give me a second glance were very encouraging and I had people in the crowd exhorting me to run – and cheering when I did, God bless ‘em.”

If Martyn can style it out, then so can you, and just imagine how good you’ll feel gliding past a £15K Cervélo
on your old shopping bike.

02: Using clip-in pedals

Practise, practise, practise – in a safe place!
“I worried about using clip-in pedals, whether I could go the distance and cycling in a swimsuit,” admits Rachel Joyce, who has achieved multiple podiums in Hawaii. “To overcome this I practised in a car park clipping in and out of the pedals and only toppled over once – embarrassingly very close to a bus stop!”

03: Not being able to complete the distance

Completing a triathlon is an epic feat, whatever the distance. If you don’t think a super sprint of 400m swimming, 10km biking and 2.5km running is far, challenge one of your non-sporty friends to take part… and duck when they respond. Not being able to finish is a natural fear, but helps you push your boundaries and learn about yourself. As for practical steps, race simulations a few weeks prior to the event are a great confidence booster. You may not wish to complete the whole distance – especially if it’s Olympic distance upwards – but ticking off some element of swim, bike and run on the same day helps prepare you both physically and mentally.

04: Finishing last

Most races have a field of at least 100, so the chances of tailing in last are incredibly slim. Even if you do, you’ll have still finished ahead of the DNFs, DNSs and DNEs (Did Not Finish/Start/Enter!). Triathlons are not like running races. With competitors often starting at different times it’s more of a perpetual cycle – and celebration – of human motion. If finishing last is a genuine fear, then you’re probably more of a completer than competer at this stage. So write down your reasons for taking part. You’ll soon realise it’s a personal challenge, and as such, the only opponents you have to beat are your own demons.

05 Not knowing how much to eat or drink during the race

You can practise with sports nutrition products, (either liquid, solid or something gloopy) in training. Or perhaps be really cutting edge and try real food. This should give you a sense of what you like to taste, and what your gut can handle when exercising.

Come race day, you won’t go far wrong by drinking when thirsty and eating when hungry. For shorter races err on the side of caution. Whether it’s fat or carbohydrate, our muscles are experts at using the body’s natural energy reserves to keep us going.

06 Getting a puncture or suffering a mechanical

Bike woes can be avoidable or plain unlucky. The thought of being marooned on the side of the road as the competition flies past is enough to give triathletes sleepless nights. It’s all part of racing and the sooner you accept that, the happier a racer you’ll be. But you can also prepare well. That means making sure your bike is properly serviced, with brakes and gears all in working order.

Practise repairing a puncture, and make sure you have the requisite kit to change one – and inflate a new inner tube. A puncture should not equal a DNF, it just gives you a post-race tale of overcoming adversity, and the perfect race-day excuse for why your key rival pipped you.

07 Cramp during the run

There’s no proven cause of cramp but if you’ve never experienced it when running previously, there’s no reason why it’ll happen on race day. If it does, stretch it out and ease yourself back into the race. Getting out of the saddle on the bike occasionally could also help loosen you up for the run.

08: Toilet troubles

While the queues for the mobile toilets are longer than those for a free trolley dash around Harrods, most find once the race starts any call of nature tends to subside. Of course, when everything is jiggling about you can feel the need to go – particularly on the run. If you’re of a delicate constitution, make a mental note of where on the course you can nip away for a comfort break, and perhaps stash a little loo paper in the spare pocket of your tri-suit

My first race: David McNamee, fastest Kona Brit to date

“There were so many things I had no idea about: What the heck do you do in transition? If I puncture, what happens? And people do this in one piece of Lycra? But asking people for advice really helped. And competing in races with a high percentage of first-timers – confidence in numbers!”