How to get race sharp – fast

With races now starting to appear on the tri calendar, you'll need to get race sharp double quick - here's how...

how to get race sharp quickly

With tri season’s the green light now starting to flash, you need to reach peak speed in double-quick time if you want to make the most of the 2020 season.


How do you elicit this speed sensation? Many ways, of course, but core should be interval training. As Ross Edgley cited they’re essential for a strong mind and body. They’re also essential for speed. Studies put the performance benefits at 6%. Applied to Olympic-distance triathlon, that means lowering your 2:30hr best to 2:20hrs. Or dropping your 10hr Ironman to 9:24hrs.

How do you devise your intervals? Joe Friel, author of the acclaimed Triathlon Training Bible, says you should manipulate effort and rest time based on race distance. “For a sprint-distance bike [20km], you’re looking at a work duration of 3mins at a high intensity [around nine out of 10 on the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale] followed by a 3min rest interval. Do five of these. For the 180km Ironman bike, you’re looking at 30min intervals but at a lower intensity of around five to six on the RPE scale.” If you can afford the time and are strong enough, aim for at least one interval session a week in each discipline.

Build in brick sessions

Brick sessions should also be a staple. For new triathletes, a brick session is training in two disciplines – plus transition – in the one session to replicate racing. Practicality means bike-to-run’s the most common but if you can squeeze in a swim-to-bike, that’s great, too. And if you can take things a step further and enjoy a total race run through, more’s the better. Just ensure you don’t wipe yourself out.

When it comes to the bike/run brick it’s all about acclimatising, and then banishing, that heavy-legged feeling. Like intervals, these are distance dependent but a proven suggestion is: a 30min fartlek cycle where intensity fluctuates between 65 and 85% of your maximum heart rate followed by a 15min fartlek run; and a 15min bike where you cycle at your highest sustainable speed (around 90% of max HR) followed by a 10min threshold run. Both of these are for sprint distance. Duration and intensity varies as race distance grows.

A couple more race sharpeners are self-talk, where you encourage yourself to race faster, and training to the beat. “Music helps you take your mind away from the pain,” says Edgley. “Studies show that it acts like an analgesia.”

These strategies will physically and mentally prepare you for racing. Just remember that lockdown has impacted training and raised stress levels, so ensure higher-intensity training like intervals don’t result in illness and injury. Do that and whenever the race Tannoy sounds, you’ll be in prime position for a fine race