Mark on Monday: Making Triathlon Easier

Photo: Vox Efx on Flickr

By Mark Cathcart

With the race season well underway, and hopefully a few more races ahead this year, you’ll have gained a lot more experience. No doubt you’ll have had a chance to put to the test some of the tips you’ve heard from other triathletes, and read here on 303 Triathlon.

In this month’s Pragmatic triathlete, I’ll pass on five less well traveled tips aimed at making the remaining races of this season, and your training a little easier.

MAKE IT EASIER… on your head
No more chaffing! After a couple of months of sweating your helmet straps will start to get stiff. The best and easiest way to clean your straps is simply to get a bowl or dish that is narrower than the width of your helmet. Fill the bowl with hot (not boiling) water and add a tablespoon of vinegar. Sit your helmet on the bowl, allowing the straps to hang in the water. Leave it there overnight; capillary action will draw the water up the straps. Next morning throw the water away, rinse the straps under the cold tap, dry the straps with a towel and leave to dry. Then give a light coating with olive oil or similar, making sure you include the plastic retainers etc. which will aid in stopping them from cracking.

MAKE IT EASIER… on your feet
Clean shoes, clean mind! Many people regularly throw their running shoes in the washing machine with a load of towels to get them clean(1). You probably shouldn’t do the same with cycling shoes; even though these days few cycling shoes are leather, they have lots of other components and screws for cleats that you wouldn’t want to submerge in water and soak with soap.

You can overhaul them in a more traditional way with shoe cleaners and polish, but this can be tricky. One of the simpler ways to protect and clean cycling shoes is to get them a wipe down with a wet cloth, then a light spray with WD40. Once you’ve sprayed them, give them a wipe down with a soft dry cloth (old non-tech race t-shirt?)

This will both revive fading and grubby leather/pleather; it will also polish up and help protect any synthetic pieces and give the shoes a coating that will help protect them.

MAKE IT EASY… on your back
Core strength! Now your cycling and running are up to speed, doesn’t your lower back feel stiff from time to time? Try some specific stretches for your hamstrings, shoulders and lower back. The lower and upper halves of your body and anchored in your lower back and the more flexible and strong it is, the more fluid you will be.

Learn to love a foam roller, Boulder Bodyworker has some videos to help you get started.

MAKE IT EASIER… on the bike
Less rattle, more roll! You don’t need any special mechanic skills to keep your bike chain clean and lubricated. Even if you only use your race bike in the summer, when it’s dry, your chain will still pickup dirt and dust from the road which will make you less efficient. You should probably give your chain a quick clean weekly, and definitely after any ride where there was a lot of dry dust.

Serious cyclists will recommend buying expensive chain specific tools and brushes, and even removing the chain. You can do a basic job with it still on the bike. Use an old toothbrush or other stiff brush; use an old rag doused with some white spirit to remove old oil and dirt. I use bleach wipes for simplicity and speed; change the rag, drip oil around the chain and then gently remove any excess oil. The real trick is NOT to oil a dirty chain, it will make things worse, any dirt will just stick to the oil.

Don’t use WD40! Specialist oils are best, but if you don’t have any, you can use almost anything, baby oil, cooking oil, olive oil, just don’t over apply, wipe off the excess, and make sure you clean it thoroughly next time.

MAKE IT EASIER… in transition
Less stuff, more speed! Over recent years there has been a huge increase in the amount of “stuff” people take into transition. Athletes regularly tote huge plastic boxes into transition full of stuff, most of which they won’t need. To me this just says, “Novice: lacks confidence in race plan.” Take only the minimal stuff you actually need and will use during the race(2). Arrive early, set-up transition, and take everything else back to the car. With less mess, you’ll be faster in transition, no matter how orderly your stuff is, it will become a mess, it takes up valuable space and will slow down decisions.

Enjoy your upcoming races, next time I’ll take a look at some challenges to change things up.

1) Both cycling and running shoes will benefit from having their insoles removed and washed, especially running shoes, which will potentially have grit and talc after races. Pay attention to wear and tear of insoles, you can replace them, but they are also a good indication of the overall condition of the shoes themselves.
2) When you are out on the bike, the only things left in transition are swim googles, wetsuit and cap; and the equipment you’ll use on the run.

Mark Cathcart took up triathlon in the late 90’s to get fit for adventure racing, which to this day he has never done, and has since taken part in 170+ events. His pragmatic approach to training, racing, and life have lead in from being the Chairman of one of the bigger UK Triathlon clubs 15-years ago; British Triathlon volunteer of the year; a sometime race organizer; The organizer and ride leader for Austin Texas award winning Jack and Adams triathlon shop; doing sometime Sports Management for development and professional triathletes; he has attended all the Triathlon Business International, and Triathlon America conferences, where he usually asks the questions others won’t; moved to Colorado in 2016 and is a co-owner of Boulder Bodyworker

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