303Beginner Tri Project: Race Day 101

 

by Coach Alison Freeman

You’ve been training for weeks and weeks, and the big day is finally just around the corner! Here are some tips to help with race day … starting a few days ahead of time.

 

One Week Before the Race

– Stay on top of your hydration levels from now all the way until race day.

– Trust your training! You’ve worked hard to prepare for the race, and at this point you’re not going to add any fitness that will benefit you on race day. Resist the urge to squeeze in an extra / long workout and just rest up for race day.

– Check your bike over to ensure that key components – tires, brakes, and shifters in particular – are functioning properly. If you come upon some items in need of repair, or don’t feel comfortable doing the assessment yourself, your local bike shop is typically happy to help! They may need to keep your bike for a day or two, so make sure to head there earlier in the week rather than later.

– Review the USAT Race Day Checklist – download here – and confirm that you have everything you need for race day. If not, now’s the time to go get it!

 

Two Days Before the Race

– Don’t do anything too strenuous – no big hikes, re-landscaping your yard, cleaning out the basement, etc. Just rest!

– Get a good night’s sleep! This night is actually more important than the night before the race.

 

The Day Before the Race

– Stay off your feet and out of the sun as much as possible. Rest, rest, rest!

– If available, pick up your race packet today rather than waiting for race morning. Review everything in the packet and make sure you know what it’s all used for.

– Referencing the USAT Race Day Checklist, pack all your gear for race day – a duffel bag or milk crate works well for packing. If you have them, put your race numbers on your bike, helmet, and t-shirt / race belt. Lay out your clothing for race morning.

– Review the race course and other provided race information, particularly the race start time, swim waves, and when transition will close pre-race.

– Create a schedule for race morning (see below). Prep your breakfast ahead of time.

– Eat some good carbs throughout the day, but eat a moderate sized dinner.

– Pump up your tires.

– Go to sleep early, but don’t panic if you don’t sleep well. That’s normal! And why you got a good night’s sleep two nights before the race.

 

Race Morning

– Eat a nice breakfast, ideally 3 hours before race start: carbs and a little protein is perfect.

– Leave for the race in time to arrive at the race site approximately 90 minutes before race start. Even earlier if you need to search for parking and/or pick up your race packet.

– Park, grab all your gear and your bike, and head to transition. Get body marked – typically: race numbers sharpied on your arms and your USAT age (age as of 12/31) on your calf – as you enter transition (so cool!).

– Find your transition spot based on your race number, and set up transition – all the info on transition can be found here.

– Scope out the transition layout – find swim in, bike out, bike in, and run out (exactly what they sound like!), and locate your transition spot relative to these entry and exit points. For many races, you can mark your bike rack and/or transition spot with a helium balloon or sidewalk chalk.

– Visit the port o’ potty! For real, include this in your race morning timeline – you’ll need to hit the potty, and there’s usually a 10 minute line for them!

– Put on your wetsuit AFTER you’ve hit the port o’ potty. Allow about 15 minutes to get this done, it’s a workout in and of itself.

– If you’re able to get in the water, warm up for 5-15 minutes.

– Plan to be finished with your “race morning routine” 15 minutes before the race start. There is often a pre-race briefing that you’ll want to listen to.

 

Race Execution

THE SWIM

– Place yourself appropriately at the swim start based on your swim ability and comfort in open water. If you’re a strong swimmer, place yourself up front so you have a clear line to the first swim buoy. If you’re more moderately paced or uncomfortable in open water, I recommend an outside corner start location.

– The beginning of the swim usually involves a little contact! Try not to panic – tread water if you’re flustered, and look around for some open water where you can swim cleanly.

– You may start really fast due to excitement and quickly get out of breath. Again, don’t panic! Switch strokes for a bit if that’s helpful, focus on getting your breathing under control, and “just keep swimming.”

– The fastest way to finish the swim is to swim straight! Sight the next swim buoy every 8-10 strokes, and make sure you find the next buoy after completing each turn.

TRANSITION (T1)

– Stay focused and methodical: wetsuit, cap, and goggles off; helmet, sunglasses, shoes, and socks on. Grab your bike and go!

– Remember to place your discarded gear in your transition area. It’s a shared spaced, and fellow participants need room for their stuff too.

BIKE

– Woohoo! You finished the swim. Be proud!

– Remember to take in plenty of water, and potentially some fueling, on the bike. A reminder of hydration and fueling can be found here.

– Stay safe! Cars are present on many bike courses, and fellow participants appreciate a nice “on your left” when being passed.

– Aid stations can get a little congested – signal to your fellow participants if you’re slowing or stopping, and be mindful of others doing the same.

– Thank the volunteers! The race can’t happen without them.

– Save some energy for the run!

TRANSITION (T2)

– Once again, stay focused and methodical: rack your bike; helmet and bike shoes off; run shoes on. Grab your hat (and race belt if you’re using one) and go!

RUN

– Don’t start out too fast! This is one of the most common errors in race execution. Be very mindful of your pace for the first mile.

– Be sure to get some water or sports drink at each aid station.

– Don’t be shy about taking walk breaks if you need them. Aid stations are a great place for that.

– Thank some more volunteers!

– Encourage your fellow participants! You’ll get back twice the positive energy that you put out on the race course.

– And most of all, ENJOY THE FINISHER’S CHUTE! Smile, and celebrate what you’ve accomplished. You earned it!

303Beginner Tri Project – Hydration & Fueling 101

by Alison Freeman

 

You may or may not have given much thought to hydration and fueling (also known as water and food) during your training up to now. That’s ok! For short-course racing – sprint and Olympic-distance triathlons – faking it often can work just fine in training. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with having a little knowledge to fuel your fueling (hahaha) and on race day the knowledge will really come in handy.

 

WHAT

You’ve got lots of options when it comes to hydration and fueling:

Water. Duh. That’s hydration.

 

Gels, blocks, chews, and waffles. Things like Gu Energy Gels, Gu Chomps, Clif Shot Energy Gels, Clif Shot Bloks, Honey Stinger Energy Chews, Honey Stinger Waffles, and Gatorade Energy Chews are very popular fueling sources for triathletes. They are all easily digestible sources of quick fuel for your muscles – and are really tasty to boot! No one option is better than the other, it’s really just a matter of personal preference. So grab a smorgasbord of types and flavors and see what you like.

 

Real food. Yup, you can also just use actual food as fuel, but it requires a little more research on your part. You’re looking for food that’s easily transportable, has lots of sugar – but very little fat or protein. Believe it or not, baby food “squeezers” are a popular choice which fits that bill. Personally, I like my frosting packets and gummy bears – I mean, Energy Gels and Shot Bloks – so I just stick with those.

 

 

Electrolytes. Also knows as: sodium. Yes, you do need to think about this as well, particularly on hot days and longer workouts. Sodium is not typically found in gels, blocks, etc and is often in low supply in real food, so you’ll want to supplement with something like BASE Salt, Boulder Salt, SaltStick, Enduralytes, or Nuun.

 

Sports drinks. All this sounding really complicated? Here’s some good news: you can get hydration, fueling, and electrolytes all in a single bottle of your sports drink of choice. There are lots of choices out there: Gatorade and Gatorade Endurance, Infinit Speed, Heed, Skratch, CarboPro, and Tailwind, to name a few. So, just as with the gels, blocks, chews, and waffles, grab a few sample-size options and see what you like.

 

 

WHEN

Here are some rules of thumb to help you understand when to pay attention to hydration and fueling, and when you can really just fake it:

Before your workout, it’s helpful to have some food (fuel). If you train immediately after you wake up, a gel packet or something along those lines will help get you out the door. If you train later in the day, your normal meals should do just fine. Keep in mind that some foods will sit heavier in your stomach, particularly for running, so maybe don’t have a giant burrito and then knock out a tough run. I’d wait at least an hour after a meal to train, and two to three hours is even better.

For workouts under 60 minutes, you’re fine with just some water (in other words: faking it).

For workouts 60 minutes or longer, you’ll want to get your fuel and hydration going (food and water). You want to aim for one standard bike water bottle (20-24 oz) per hour for hydration. If your fueling source is liquid, that counts as your hydration too. Bonus! If you are going with gel, blocks, or a food-based fuel source, shoot for 250-300 calories per hour on the bike (especially if you are running after!) and up to 200 calories per hour on the run. In terms of electrolytes (sodium), individual needs vary widely, from 300-400mg per hour to upwards of 1500mg per hour; for short-course racing, default somewhere in the 300-600mg per hour range and/or whatever is in your sports drink.

 

HOW

On the bike, you can bring a bottle or two depending on how many bottle cages you have on your bike frame. I recommend a bottle of water and a bottle of sports drink if you have two cages. If you don’t have a cage on your bike, go get one now. You really, really need to be able to carry at least a water bottle while you ride.

As for bringing along gels, waffles, real food, and/or salt supplements, you can plan to stow them in your bike jersey or tri top pockets (yup, that’s what they’re there for) or you can rig your bike with a “bento box” – a little storage compartment that you strap to the top of your frame, right behind the bars – and stow all your fueling in there.

 

On the run, it’s simplest to just use what they have at the aid stations – water and Gatorade, typically. If you’ve gotten in the correct amount of water, fueling, and electrolytes on the bike then you don’t need to worry to much about quantities for a 5k run. If you do want to bring some water along, perhaps on a really hot day, then I recommend a handheld water bottle. It doesn’t matter if the bottle is small, because you can refill it at the aid stations, and as a bonus most handheld bottles have small zippered pockets where you can store gels or other fueling.

 

SOME FINAL NOTES

Be sure to practice your fueling and hydration plan during training! That way you know whether it’s easy or hard to suck down a gel while cycling, if you are able to reach that second water bottle, and if you’re still thirsty after drinking 20 ounces of water in 30 minutes or if you finish your ride and your sports drink bottle is still half full.

Try out different things in training, find a system that works, and then race like you train. Because, above all: nothing new on race day!

Transition: The Fourth Discipline of Triathlon

by Kim Welk, Team W Coaching

 

There is an additional discipline of triathlon outside of the swim, bike, and run. That discipline is the Transition. Transition as defined means “the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.” The transition in triathlon is used to move from swim to bike and then bike to run and is equally as important as each of the triathlon legs.

Before the race begins, it is important to set up your transition so you can move quickly and efficiently when you arrive. Find a place to rack your bike. If racks are numbered find your designated spot. If racks are not numbered, select a location that works for you. Know where you are in relation to the bike in/out and the run in/out and the fastest route to get there. Find a permanent landmark that will be easy to spot when you come out of the water so you can easily locate your bike. (Note: Permanent on the landmark – cars move!) Rack your bike. Your bike should hang on the transition rack by your seat. If rack is numbered your front wheel should be facing the same direction as the number.

Here is a list of items that are helpful to set up transition:
*Transition Mat/Towel – This will be your staging area
*Bike Pump – Check your A,B,C’s when you arrive (Air, Brakes, Cassette,Chain)
*Gear – Check your bike gear. Are you in the right gear for the terrain at the mount line
*Flat Kit – Should be on your bike (Tube, CO2 cartridge, CO2 adapter, tire lever, tool)
*Hydration/Nutrition – Should be on your bike
*Swim Gear – Body glide to help with wetsuit, items below to take with you to start
*Bike Gear – Layout items below in orderly fashion so you don’t forget anything
*Run Gear – Layout in separate column from bike gear so you don’t mix them up

Once your transition is set-up, take a look at your location. Confirm that your landmark is still relevant, gather your swim gear and head to the swim start.

Here is a list of items that are helpful for the swim:
*Tri Kit/Swimsuit
*Wetsuit
*Watch/Heart Rate Monitor
*Cap (typically provided by the race)
*Goggles (bring lens options depending on light)
*Earplugs (if you use them)
*Timing Chip

 

As you arrive in transition the first time – known as T1 – you have just exited the swim. In this transition your goal is to move from the swim to the bike.

Here is a list of items that are helpful in T1:
*Small towel – your feet will be wet and may have debris
*Check to make sure you still have your timing chip (DO NOT REMOVE)
*Socks (optional) – don’t make race day the first time that you cycle without socks
*Cycling Shoes or Running Shoes if flat pedals
*Helmet – mandatory to race
*Sunglasses (store them in your helmet so they don’t get crushed!)
*Cycling Gloves (optional) but if you are used to riding with them, bring them

Remove your swim items. Place to the side of your transition area so they don’t interfere with what you need access to. Get your biking items on. Make sure your helmet is securely fashioned and head to the bike mount line. Do not get on your bike before the mount line. Enjoy the ride!

 

Welcome to T2. You have just completed the ride, dismounted at the dismount line and are now walking/running with your bike to your transition spot. Remember your landmark! When racking your bike after the ride, it is most efficient to rack by your handle bars. Hang your hoods over the rack. Remove your biking gear and prepare to run.

Here is a list of items that are helpful in T2:
*Socks (you may decide to change socks between bike & run)
*Running Shoes
*Check to make sure you still have your timing chip (DO NOT REMOVE)
*Race Belt/Race Bib
*Hat
*Sunglasses
*Handheld hydration/nutrition (if necessary)

Once you have switched out your bike and run gear. Head to the Run Out and begin your run! You have reached the final leg of the triathlon. Enjoy the run!

After the race is over, take time to reflect on your transitions. Did you have everything that you needed? Did you forget anything? What adjustments can you make to gain efficiency and time at the next race? Build transition practice into your training and develop habits that will allow you to use autopilot on race day. Attend a transition clinic to gain additional tips! Do not hesitate to ask questions. If you have the question, someone else does too! Enjoy the race!! It’s Time to Tri!

 

About Coach Kim Welk

As a lifelong athlete, I believe health and wellness are achievable for anyone through coaching.

From children to adults, helping people achieve health and wellness goals while embracing their lifestyle journey is my passion. I love to observe the impact that owning your health and wellness has on all aspects of your life. I have helped children reached the targeted finish in running and triathlon, and helped adults reach the finish of their first 5K, 10K, 1/2 Marathon, Marathon, Triathlon and more. The support extends beyond the finish line to focus on work-life balance, home-life balance and the ability to see the impact on your day to day performance. I incorporate a “one day…one step” mentality and follow the same philosophy in my daily life.

303Beginner Tri Project – Training 101: Bare Essentials

by Alison Freeman

 

I firmly believe that ANYONE can do a sprint triathlon. And you don’t necessarily need a coach, a training plan, or 10 hours a week to prepare for it, either. But you’ll have a more enjoyable experience if you do some training prior to race day. Here are some general training guidelines that will set you up for success at a sprint triathlon:

 

– Whatever your starting point – the couch, the peak of fitness, or somewhere in between – start your training exactly there and build up your workout frequency and duration gradually. Jumping into a six-day-a-week training plan if your most recent marathon was Netflix-related is not the road to success as much as the road to getting injured.

 

– Endurance is built on consistent training, week after week, so build up to a training frequency that includes two swims, two bikes, and two runs each week.

 

– Increase your longest swim, bike, and run distances with the goal that your longest swim, bike, and run are at least 20% greater than the race distance. For a standard sprint triathlon, that means swimming 950 meters, biking 14.5 miles, and running (or walking or jogging) 3.75 miles.

 

 

– Make sure to include recovery in your plan! You need to give your body time to “absorb” the fitness that you’re building. Even when you’re firing on all cylinders, make sure to have one workout-free day each week. (And that does not mean go ahead and climb a 14er. That means sit on the couch.) Additionally, every 3-4 weeks should be a recovery week that has 20-30% less overall workout volume than the weeks prior.

 

– Give yourself several opportunities to run immediately after biking, even if it’s only for five or ten minutes. Your legs will not cooperate the first time you try this – which is why that should not be on race day. The more often you do it, the easier it will feel. (By the way, this type of workout is typically called a “brick,” which comes from BRC: bike and run in combination.)

 

– If you can find a good location for it, do a race simulation day – swim then bike then run – three weeks before the race. A metric version of your race distances (about 60% of the actual distances) is a good approach. This race day simulation will provide some good experience, like how it feels to bike when dripping wet, and will also give a great confidence boost before race day!

 

– Your biggest training week should be three weeks prior to the race (the week that concludes two weeks prior to race day). After that, you DO want to continue training so that you don’t lose all the fitness that you worked so hard to achieve! Two weeks prior to the race decrease your overall training volume by 40%. The week prior to the race, do a short swim (or two), bike, and run, and stay off your feet as much as possible.

– Be sure to incorporate training on terrain that is comparable to your race location. If your race swim is in a lake or reservoir, be sure to find some opportunities for open water swimming. If your bike and/or run courses are on trails or have some big hills, hit those up in training as well.

 

 

If reading all of that gave you a headache, and you now feel more confused about triathlon training than you were this morning – just swim, bike, and run. You’ll be fine!

 

303Beginner Tri Project: If I Wanna Tri, What Do I Need? What DON’T I Need?

by Alison Freeman

 

If you, your friend, your sister, your neighbor, or your mom is thinking about doing their first triathlon, here’s everything you need and everything you don’t:

1. You DO need to pick a race! And you need to sign up. Don’t think; just do it.

The 303 Beginner Tri Project recommends five beginner-friendly races:

The Longmont Tri / Longmont Try-a-Tri on June 2nd/3rd (pool swim!)
The Lookout Mountain Tri on June 30th (pool swim!)
Tri Boulder
on July 21st

Bounder Sunset
on August 25th
The Oktoberfest Sprint on September 23rd (fair warning: this one can be chilly!)

2. You DO want to find a person or a community that you can turn to for encouragement, accountability, questions, and support.

Join the 303 Beginner Facebook Group ! The group is for those new to triathlon, and is a place to share encouragement, whining, setbacks, and accomplishments. Coach Alison Freeman of D3 Multisport will be providing training guidance for the races listed above and is available to answer questions and provide guidance along the way.

3. You DO need to know how to swim; you DON’T need to know how to swim freestyle. Any which way you want to get though the swim portion of the event is just fine: freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, sidestroke, doggie paddle, whatever. Sorry, those little arm floaties are not allowed (that’s why they make wetsuits – they’re practically flotation devices).

4. You DO need a swimsuit (for training) and goggles; you DON’T need a wetsuit … although it’s worth thinking through how much you enjoy cold water. If you’re not partial to it, your local multisport shop likely rents wetsuits, and there are bargains galore online for purchasing one if you don’t want to think about what the last person to rent the wetsuit might have done in it. (Don’t judge, though, everyone does it.)

5. You DO need a bike and a helmet; you DON’T need a “tri bike” or clip in shoes. Absolutely any bike will do: road bike, gravel bike, mountain bike, cyclocross bike, your standard cruiser with a basket and tassels, your kids’ bike, whatever. Just no e-bikes, cuz: really.

6. You DO want a way to carry water while on your bike, and you want to be comfortable taking sips of water while you’re riding.

7. You DO want to train so that you’re in shape enough to swim, bike, and then run or walk the designated distance. You DON’T need to be fast. (That should have been obvious when I said “run or walk.” Really, you can walk.)

8. You DO need something that you can wear from start to finish, cuz they don’t approve of public nudity in the transition area (that’s where you “transition” from swim to bike and then from bike to run); you DON’T need a fancy tri kit – an outfit that is specifically designed for swim-then-bike-then-run. You can swim in a bathing suit then pull bike shorts on top for the bike and trade for run shorts for the run. Or you can just wear the swimsuit. In which case you might want some bodyglide.

9. You DO want a bag or milk crate or duffel that will carry everything you need to the race start, and then home again after. Triathlon involves a lot of gear.

10. Finally, you DO want to enjoy it! All of it: the learning and the training and the nervousness and the excitement and – most of all – the finish line.

303Beginner Tri Project: So You Wanna Do a Tri …

by Alison Freeman

You’ve thought about it, talked about it, hemmed and hawed about it, and you’re ready to dive in. Or maybe you’re still testing the waters, sticking a toe in and seeing how that feels before you make a decision. Either way, you might be wondering: How exactly do I get started on the road to my first triathlon?

 

1. Swim, bike, and run. Just get started – or continue – with each of these activities. You don’t need a plan or a goal or an agenda for any given workout, just do something. ANYTHING. That way when it’s time to think more formally about how much you need to swim, bike, and run to complete a tri you’re not starting from the couch.

 

 

2. Talk to people! Talk to anyone you know who’s ever done a triathlon. Ask them what they like(d) about it, what was hard about it, what they’d do again in a heartbeat, and what they wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. Believe me, there’s nothing triathletes love more than talking about triathlon, and their experiences in particular, so that hard part won’t be getting them started – it’ll be getting them to stop.

While you’re at it, talk to a few people who’ve never done a triathlon. Tell them you’re thinking about doing one, and then enjoy the admiration they send in your direction. They’ll think you’re amazing, and you haven’t even done anything yet!

 

3. Read anything you can get your hands on related to triathlon. Websites (303Triathlon.com, duh), magazines (“Triathlete,” double-duh), books (“Your First Triathlon” by Joel Friel, need I even say it?), and any of the million and one blogs out there about triathlon. In fact, I bet you know someone who does triathlon and has a blog – one in every (insert very small number) of triathletes has one. Or at least publishes race reports. Hell, even I do. Read them all.

 

4. Brush up on the lingo. USAT and IRONMAN’s Time to Tri initiative has published a handy glossary which is a great place to start. That way, when you’re reading all those blogs you’ll understand what they’re talking about.

 

 

5. Once you’ve spent a little time talking and reading and doing, step back and consider what you may want your involvement in the sport to look like. Are you a one-and-done, bucket list triathlete? Totally fine, you’re in great company. Are you a five-races-a-year-till-I-croak triathlete? Also fine, you’re in great company. Somewhere in between? Guess what – you’re in great company.

 

No matter what level of involvement you’re currently considering (I use the word “currently” very deliberately – just like college majors, there’s a reasonably probability that your thinking will change over time), that thinking will inform how invested in the sport you want to be as you get started. I personally was all in from day one, as was evidenced by regular visits from the UPS man, bearing gifts of triathlon gear. But that’s how I roll. If you’re more in the one-and-done or the wait-and-see camp, then you’ll want to start backpedaling immediately when your triathlete friends launch into lists of gear you need in order to take part in the sport. YOU DON’T. But more on that next time …

 

If you, your friend, your sister, your neighbor, or your mom is thinking about doing their first triathlon, keep an eye on 303Triathlon.com for future beginner-focused columns. Also, join the 303 Beginner Facebook Group! The group is for those new to triathlon, and is a place to share encouragement, whining, setbacks, and accomplishments. Coach Alison Freeman of D3 Multisport will be providing training guidance for the races listed above and is available to answer questions and provide guidance along the way.

Tri Coach Tuesday: Announcing the 303Triathlon Beginner Tri Project

 

Inspired by the USA Triathlon and IRONMAN “Time to Tri Initiative,” 303Triathlon is excited to launch the 303 Beginner Tri Project. As with the Time to Tri Initiative, the goal of the 303 Beginner Tri Project is to attract new athletes – and new people who don’t realize that they are athletes! – to the sport of triathlon.

Alison Freeman, 303 Triathlon Staff Writer and USAT Certified Coach with D3 Multisport, will publish regular columns specifically focused on information helpful to beginners, answering basic questions about equipment, training, and racing. Alison will also be moderating the new 303 Beginner Tri Facebook Group, a community where new triathletes can post questions, accomplishments, setbacks, and encouragement.

Within the 303 Beginner Tri Facebook Group, we will focus on a series of beginner-friendly triathlons throughout the season. Alison will post workout goals and key workouts leading into select races, and group members are encouraged to work together to accomplish those goals!

If you are interested in toeing the start line of your first triathlon, or know someone who is (or should be!), please join the 303 Beginner Tri Facebook Group and keep an eye on 303 Triathlon for our first beginner column next week.