303 Beginner Tri Project – Training 201: If you Want to get Fancy

by Alison Freeman

Have you completed your first tri recently? Or maybe it’s still on the horizon … but you’re already thinking about the next one. When triathletes are thinking about their next race, it’s usually with an eye toward how they can improve upon the last one. In fact, I’m convinced that the elusive perfect race is what keeps triathletes coming back to the sport year after year.

As a newer entrant to the sport, one of the fastest ways to improve on race day is to improve your approach to training. For your first race, you may have simply focused on ensuring you were able to complete the full swim-bike-run distances. Which means that for this next race, “getting fancy” with your training regimen will surely yield improvement.

The five key workouts outlined below will build both endurance and speed, and set you up for great results come race day:

The Long, Endurance Workout

What It Is
This is your weekend long bike and long run, which build to at least 120% of race-day distance for sprint- and Olympic-distance triathlons, and is the the fundamental component of training. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you shouldn’t train at your endurance effort level because you’re going to be racing at a faster pace. The long, endurance workout is critical for building your aerobic engine, which is required regardless of race pace.

These workouts should be done at your endurance effort level – your all day, conversational pace. By conversational, I do literally mean that you can hold a conversation while running or cycling at this effort level. Often athletes run faster than their endurance pace on their endurance runs. If you can’t get out a full sentence (10+ words) without needing a break to breathe, then you’re running too fast. Don’t be discouraged if your pace feels unbearably slow at this effort level – it will increase over time with discipline and patience!

When To Use It
Every week, without fail. In fact 80% of your training each week should be done at endurance effort.

 

Hill Repeats

What They Are

Yup, these are just what they sound like: short but intense bursts of effort going up a hill, that you repeat several times.

FOR THE RUN: Start with a ten to fifteen minute endurance-effort warm up. Then hit the intervals: four to eight repeats of 30 seconds running hard up the hill, and recover by walking or jogging back to the bottom of the hill. You should just barely be able to maintain your pace for the entire 30 seconds, and for the entire set of four to eight repeats. (Yes, they should be that hard – lots of huffing and puffing involved in this one!) Finish the run with an endurance-effort cool down of five to fifteen minutes.

As you get stronger, you can lengthen the hill repeats up to 45 seconds, then a minute, 90 seconds, and even two minutes. Keep in mind that as the length of the hill increases, your sustainable pace will decrease; adjust your pace but follow the same principle that you should just barely be able to hold that pace to the top of the hill.

FOR THE BIKE: You can either find a short, relatively steep hill and repeat that four to eight times, or you can ride up a longer hill just once or twice, or you can ride a hilly route and work each and every hill you encounter. For any of those options, include a ten to fifteen minute endurance-effort warm up and cool down; ride the hills hard – as hard as you can sustain – and recover on the downhills.

When To Use Them
Hill repeats are great tools to develop strength and power early in your training, preparing you for the upcoming speed work. I recommend doing these workouts weekly, 8-12 weeks before your race.

 

Threshold Intervals

What They Are
Threshold intervals should be done at your lactate threshold, which can be thought of as the pace that just barely keeps that burn from taking over your legs before the interval concludes.

For both bike and run threshold intervals, start with a ten to fifteen minute endurance-effort warm up. Then complete three to six 3-minute threshold intervals with 3-minute very, very easy recoveries; the effort level should be very challenging but repeatable. Finish the workout with an endurance-effort cool down of five to fifteen minutes.

Each week, either increase the number of repetitions, add a minute to the interval duration, or take a minute away from the recovery duration. Unlike with increasing durations for hill repeats, as these workout gets harder, your effort level should remain the same – or even get stronger as you adjust to the demands of the workout.

When To Use Them
Threshold intervals are the best way to build speed at all effort levels. I recommend doing these workouts weekly, 4-8 weeks before your race.

 

Anaerobic Intervals

What They Are
Anaerobic intervals are executed at a similar effort level as hill repeats, but they’re about going fast versus building strength and power. Intervals at this effort level should produce a “burn” in your legs after the 3rd interval, but should be repeatable with sufficient rest.

For both bike and run anaerobic intervals, start with a ten to fifteen minute endurance-effort warm up. Then complete five to ten 30-second anaerobic intervals with 30-second very, very easy recoveries; the effort level should be extremely challenging but repeatable. Finish the workout with an endurance-effort cool down of five to fifteen minutes.

Each week, increase the total number of 30-second intervals up to twelve, or two sets of eight to ten. Alternatively, you can lengthen the intervals up to one minute, starting with four to six intervals. As with the threshold intervals, your effort level should remain the same as the workouts get harder.

When To Use Them
Anaerobic intervals serve to give a final nudge to your top speed. I recommend doing these workouts in the four weeks before your race.

 


Race Pace Tempo Intervals

What They Are
Race pace tempo intervals are singular, sustained intervals executed at your expected race pace. Your race pace is typically somewhere between your endurance effort and your lactate threshold, based on your fitness and the race distance. As you do these workouts, try to find an effort level that you can hold for the entire race duration.

For both bike and run, the single race pace intervals is bookended by an endurance effort warm up and cool down of ten to fifteen minutes. The race pace interval on the bike can range in duration from ten to thirty minutes; on the run, the duration can range from five to fifteen minutes.

Start with a duration on the lower end of the range, and increase it until two weeks before race day. After that, decrease the interval duration a bit or split it into two, shorter intervals.

When To Use Them
Race pace intervals help you identify and get accustomed to your desired race pace. I recommend doing these workouts in the four weeks before your race.

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.