On the air today, I was talking about using early season races as an opportunity to evaluate how your training is going. If you are a triathlete, we are now a couple races into the season in southern Wiscosnin, so you have probably had a chance to test out your training in a real-life situation. In this area there was the Lake Mills Triathlon on June 7, and the Capitol View Triathlon yesterday. Both races were on hot & sticky days | giving you one more thing to evaluate | that being, how you handle adverse situations. In particular, it’s nice to test out your nutrition plan on those hot & sticky days. I didn’t race over the weekend, but I ran the Lake Monona Loop with a friend, and we BOTH forgot to bring salt tablets with us | not good planning on our part.
These early season races are also a good time to figure out what nutrition works for you, and just as important…what nutrition doesn’t work for you. Do a little research and find out what’s going to be served at your “A” race this year and use that same nutrition in a couple shorter, early season races (and in training). Does it work for you? If so | GREAT! If not, then figure out what does work, AND figure out how you are going to carry that nutrition with you on your “A” race. That can be a trick if your “A” race is and Iron distance race | 140.6 miles is a long way to carry special nutrition (although you can stash stuff in transition and special needs bags | so that helps).
Another often over-looked area that you need to evaluate is transition. This morning, I ran into a friend who raced over the weekend in Elkhart Lake, and LOST HER BIKE in T1. I asked if she tied ballons to the rack next to her bike, and she assured me that she will do that next time! Of course losing your bike in transition is not good | but there are plenty of other things that need your attention in transition. Did you set up your transition space in a way that allowed you to flow through transition seamlessly? I always lay my helmet upside down on the aerobars, so it’s right there for me…and it’s impossible to forget to put it on. Next to my bike, I lay out a towel, and on the towel I lay out everything that I will need in transition…in the order that I will need it. So, at the front of the towel is my cycling shoes and socks, a bottle of Ensure, sunscreen (don’t forget the sunscreen), a GU and a mini-cliff bar. My water bottle is filled and already in the cage on the bike, and I have taped (with electircal tape) a bunch of GUs to the top-bar of the bike (I’m a bit nutty about this | I figure out how long the ride will probably take and base the number of GUs on that | and I tape them in the order that I think I’ll want to eat them | usually chocolate first). On the towel, behind all the bike stuff, is another change of socks (which I don’t always use), my running shoes, more GU and other nutrition, and a hat (again, I don’t always wear the hat). Some people also put a good sturdy bucket in their transition space, and turn it upside down to use as a stool when they change shoes and socks | I find that just encourages me to sit, and I don’t really want that. Figure out what works for you in transition and practice both the set-up and actually making your way through that transition area. An don’t forget the balloons!
On my run this morning, I ran into another friend who also raced this weekend. I congratulated him on a great race and he told me how badly he messed up. His mess-up was in the water, a place where a lot of us need work (although looking at his time in the water | I don’t think it’s a serious problem for him). This particular problem was not with form | but with proper sighting. He turned, and headed to shore one buoy too soon. Luckily, he eventually realized his mistake and went back and corrected it | but it cost him an extra 150 yards in the water. For many triathletes, that would be a really BAD mistake | I’m slow enough in the water, that it would knock me out of contention for the rest of the race. Luckily, he’s not that slow and was able to make up for it and go on to win his age-group. There is a real technique to sighting in the water and it needs to be practiced in the open water, where you don’t have lines on the bottom that you can easily follow. In big races, like Ironman, the buoys are HUGE and spaced every hundred yards or so | so it’s pretty easy to just sight from buoy to buoy. In smaller races that might not be the case, so sighting becomes even more important. In rough conditions, it may even be worth your time to stop briefly and make sure you know where that next buoy is and when to turn back into shore.
While it’s important to evaluate the above areas | transition, nutrition and swim, don’t forget about the areas that come most naturally to most of us | the bike and the run. These are probably your strongest areas in triathlon | there is probably a huge up-side in these areas, so don’t ignore them just because you did well here compared to the other areas. Did you get off the bike with enough left in the tank for a strong run? Or were you so excited to be out of the water, that you went way too hard on the bike and had nothing left for the run?
Take a look at how you did in each of the areas | your strengths and weaknesses | and give yourself a grade for each of them. What do you need to work on? And by the same token, what areas are really strong for you? What areas can you count on in future races, to help make up for weaknesses?
For me, I know I’m slow in the water (but excellent at sighting), I’m just o.k. in transition, I’m strong on the bike and on the run, and I’m usually really good with my nutrition (when I remember my salt-tablets).