Triathlon race-day: How to do a course recce

Knowing the course can mean the difference between success and failure. Kirsten Howells of TCUK, explains how to do a course recce to give you the best possible chance come race day...

What's the right crank length?

So, what’s the best way to do a race recce? Here are a few tried-and-tested tips from Triathlon Coaching UK...


1) Pre-race swim practice: Many half- and full Iron-distance race organisers will schedule one or more ‘practise swims’ the night or day before the race day itself. Make sure you complete at least one of these swims so you can get a feel for the course, work out where the swim exit is located and find out what water temperature you can expect. It’s also a good opportunity to check your wetsuit, practise taking it off after the swim, and checking out the specific route to T1. T1 can often be located quite a long way from the swim exit so be prepared to find your run legs straight away.

2) Open-water experience: If there isn’t a pre-race swim practice planned, in the weeks leading up to your race head to your local open-water swim venue and swim the full race distance as one continuous swim, focusing on sighting, open-water technique and working to race pace throughout. Think about kicking your legs hard in the last 50m or so to get the blood circulating ready for the run to T1 – wobbly legs out of the swim might amuse spectators but it’s not funny when it’s happening to you!

3) Go ride it: The bike course is always the longest part of any triathlon so you’ll really reap the rewards come race day if you’re familiar with the course. The only way to fully understand any bike course is to actually ride it. If you and your club mates are doing the same race, pick a weekend when you’re all free, download the course onto your Garmin or Strava, pack up your bikes and go ride. If you can, complete the full course and flag it as a key training session in your training programme. Make mental notes of any technical parts, sharp turns, hazardous downhill sections and brutal climbs. Work out the best places to take on fuel, and where you think you can really push the pace on race day.

4) Or drive it: If you just don’t have the spare time to ride the bike course before the race, consider driving the course in advance of race day. While not the ideal option, driving around will give you a basic idea of where you’re actually going and what you’ll have to tackle on two wheels.

5) Brick session: If you’re able to recce the bike course in person then it makes sense to preview the run course too while you’re there. Even if you just complete one lap, you’ll give yourself a valuable insight into what to expect on race day. As with the bike course, you’ll be able to identify any areas where you’ll need to work harder and sections where you can go flat out.

Why not make a full training weekend of it? Ride the bike course on Saturday and run straight off the bike for a lap of the run course – the perfect chance for a race-pace brick session right there. On the Sunday, complete the full run course if it’s a half-Iron distance race or plan in your ‘long run’ of between 15-20 miles if you’re racing the full Iron distance.

Kirsten Howells is a coach with Triathlon Coaching UK



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