MF’s comprehensive guide on how to smash your personal best in all three triathlon events
For anyone who’s ever run, swum or cycled, triathlon is the natural next challenge to take on. MF’s guide to the Olympic distance will help you post a PB this season
Your triathlon doesn’t start when the gun goes off. With a 1.5km swim, a 40km bike ride and a 10km run stacked on top of each other, preparation is key. Aim to get to the transition zone (where you switch between each leg of the race) at least 90 minutes before the start to set up your gear – including your bike, running shoes, helmet, sunglasses and nutritional supplements – so the crossovers are as painless as possible.
‘Make sure you have a checklist of what you need and a timetable that details every action you’ll take between leaving your house and starting the race,’ says elite triathlon coach Simon Ward (thetriathloncoach.com). ‘Take into account eating, packing your kit and any traffic or congestion you might hit on the way. Not only will it mean you arrive in plenty of time but it will also help take your mind off any race-day nerves.’
Find your position
For triathlon newbies, one of the most daunting elements is the swim start – unaffectionately known as the ‘washing machine’ – which sees athletes jostling for position in the water. The solution? Remove yourself from the scrum to avoid a kick to the head or a race-endangering panic attack.
‘If you’re a less confident swimmer, go to the side or the back of the starting line-up,’ says former British elite triathlete and performance coach Rhian Martin (rhianmartinfitness.com). ‘Don’t get carried away by everyone sprinting off in the first 50m – it’s a long race and the pace will slow down, and by positioning yourself at the side or the back you’ll avoid all the white water.’
Get into your stroke
Once the klaxon sounds, it’s time to get into your swimming rhythm. ‘Front crawl is the fastest stroke and it works well for breathing,’ says Martin. ‘It’s best to breathe every three strokes so that you alternate the side you breathe on – this is the most efficient way to swim and will stop you veering off to one side. But ultimately you have to do what makes you comfortable so don’t breathe or stroke differently from how you have in training – you’ll come unstuck.’
It’s easy to be overwhelmed during the swimming leg of the race, especially since open water is markedly different to the pool. ‘You’ll be wearing a wetsuit so you’ll be more buoyant, and you might feel restricted around the shoulders,’ says Ward. ‘The water’s dark, there are no lines to follow on the bottom and you’ll be swimming close to others, so it’s a challenging experience.’
If you start to feel stressed during the …read more