Triathlon Tips: Simple Steps To A Faster Finish

Triathlon tips is a segment that I am going to implement on a quarterly basis.  Now that I am not training 18-20 hours per week I am able to do quite a bit of reflection of what my training has consisted of, what it will include and topics of discussion between Maria and John of No Limits Endurance Coaching and I. Triathlon is a sport consisting of 3 disciplines and each one plays into the next.  With having to 'master' all three of these events there is a lot of opportunity to leave time on the course and whether you are a World Champion, an Age-Group Elite or just getting ready for your first Sprint Triathlon then these simple steps will help you get faster.  Keep in mind that these triathlon tips do not involve gadgets such as disc wheels, aero helmets or power meters.  These triathlon tips are ones that anybody can employ to get faster and these are all tips that I have either been practicing or have implemented in training and races and have seen the benefits.

5 Simple Triathlon Tips To A Faster Finish

1- Recover / Taper Properly.

This may seem like the most obvious of triathlon tips but it is one that I realize I failed to execute properly over the past 18 months.  Since I started my journey to Ironman I have been training and or racing for 18 months straight.  This schedule included 2 Ironman, 4 Half-Ironman, and 2 Olympic  distance races amongst other events mixed into hours and hours of training.  How much recovery could I be doing from these events when there was another one coming up.  As much as I believed I was recovering I wasn't truly recovering as I had another block of training just waiting for me. In the past 5 weeks I have done a lot of whatever I want in terms of training.  I would get on my bike for 30 minutes and call it a day. I might plan a 40 minute run and stop after 15.  This past week I had my first 'structured' block of training but no workout exceeded 2 hours straight.  These were all done in Zone 1 or Zone 2 with nothing being in a steady Zone 3.  You know what has happened?  I have gotten faster at the same exertion level. The bike route I have been doing for the past 6 months I know like the back of my hand.  It takes me 28-30 minutes to reach checkpoint #1, that is until it took me 23 minutes.  The second checkpoint took me 42 minutes one week ago and this past weekend I was there in 38 minutes.  My heart rate has stayed at the same level and is proof that I am more efficient than I used to be.  As for running I am putting down sub-9:00 miles and barely touching Zone 2 when that time used to be Zone 3.  I have fully recovered and the data is showing so.

2- Train In Race Conditions.

At Ironman Texas I ran the 15th fastest marathon of M40-44 and I didn't have any special secret. I did not have a fan cooling me off as I ran.  I did not have an electrolyte IV running through my system.  What I had was experience.  Ironman Texas takes place in mid-May and for a large part of the country, including Texas, the peak training volume is in January and February and the weather is not always conducive to heat acclimation training, but there is a simple solution for that. Get into your garage or an enclosed room and wear plenty of layers.  I would wear anywhere from 5-6 shirts plus a sweatshirt and peddle and peddle and peddle.  I would be a sweaty mess when all was said and done but it helped me get ready for the 90*+ day that we would face at Ironman Texas.  When others were faltering I kept a strong and steady pace that allowed me to execute the race strategy that was laid out before me.

3- Know Your Race Strategy Inside And Out.

I cannot stress this enough.  Your race strategy is your go to spot when all hell is breaking loose and trust me all hell will break loose.  You will forget something or you may drop your nutrition on the run.  Something is going to happen but having your race strategy either memorized or written down on your hands will help center you. When I raced 70.3 Puerto Rico I wrote down the zones that I was to race in for the bike on my left hand and for the run on my right hand.  When the skies opened up and the rains started coming down the anxiety of the race changing went up.  I simply looked at my left hand, while in aero, to see where I was supposed to be and where I was by looking at my watch.  An adjustment and I was back in the race mentally and the rain did not affect me. At each point of the run (there are 4 since it is a 2 loop out and back) I would look down and see where I was supposed to be in terms of running zones and where I actually was.  At one point as I passed my wife I yelled to her to text Maria that I was executing the sh*t out of the race.  I was hitting every zone that was laid out before me and holding true to my race strategy.  As the heat/humidity climbed I was undeterred because I knew where I was supposed to be and when. This might be my favorite of all the triathlon tips I have seen or written because it takes away the guessing and allows you to focus.  There is no where should I be and what should I be doing.  You have put in hours and hours of training so you know what you are capable of and this simple reinforcement of that will let you enjoy the race knowing that you are going to execute a race strategy that you trained for.

4- Shut Out The Outside And Focus On Yourself.

Racing triathlon is certainly one time where you are going to be selfish and it is ok and acceptable.  In this world of the constant connection we may have our minds wander to what Twitter or Facebook may think if I am not executing and racing as fast as I had projected.  What are my coach's thinking of my performance?  All of these things add anxiety and anxiety will cause your ability to race to your potential to change.  You will lose focus of what you are supposed to be doing at that moment of the race.  The moment you lose focus, you lose form and when you lose form you lose speed. Next time you go to the pool instead of thinking about your form think about what you are making for dinner and keep that thought process for 100 meters or yards.  Was it as fast as the 100 meters you swam when you thought about high elbow, proper catch, breathing?    Try the same test on the bike or the run.  What happened? Did your loss of focus force you to push harder once you realized where you were?  That extra expenditure of energy will cost you.  Triathlon can be a long day if your focus wanders for just a bit so staying in the moment (one of the 22 Tips I Wrote For No Meat Athlete) will allow you to reach that finish line faster. [caption id="attachment_8382" align="alignright" width="275"]triathlon tips - racing - ironman Knowing How To Legally Draft Can Save You Precious Time And Energy[/caption]

5- Legal Drafting

Nobody likes seeing the pack of riders go by or that one rider who just sucks the wheel of the person in front of them for miles on end.  You see them and hope that there is a referee near by to flag them down and hand out a penalty.  That doesn't mean that you cannot legally draft though and legally drafting can be the difference between setting a PR and missing by a few seconds. What is legal drafting?  How about getting on the feet of a faster swimmer and swimming in their wake?  You can get in right behind them or have your head placed near their hip and enjoy the benefits of them setting the tone for you and allowing you to swim faster than you normally would on your own.  Legal drafting in the water is a tricky scenario to play as you don't want to be drafting off of a slower swimmer than you nor off the feet of a person that is exponentially faster than you.  If you find yourself not holding a steady pace but instead an easy one chances are that person you are drafting off of is slower than you. If you are really pushing it and don't think that you can hold the pace for 2.4 miles or whatever distance you are racing then let those feet go and find another pair.  Going anaerobic to hold feet isn't going to help you. On the bike you can legally draft as well.  Each race will have a different rule regarding passing but each race allows you a certain amount of time to do so and you should take advantage of that.  You may not think that 10-15 seconds of drafting is going to help but if you do it enough your legs and your PR will thank you.  Executing the proper legal draft pass takes some experience but once you have it you will be thrilled with those precious seconds.  If you have 20 seconds to pass and it takes you 5 seconds to get to the wheel in front of you once you enter the passing zone then spend 10 seconds drafting and getting pulled. After 10 seconds go around them using the slingshot effect that is created and pass them within that 20 second passing zone. Easy peasy but know the rules of your race before attempting. The same can be said for the run.  Now you may not gain speed the way you would with the bike or the swim but you can certainly aid yourself in terms of blocking from the wind as well as gaining confidence that you can hold a pace.  At Ironman Texas there was no wind on the run but I drafted off of Chelsea Tiner who is an elite age group triathlete in the Dallas area.  I stuck with Chelsea for a mile or two and I found myself comfortable and knowing that I could handle that pace for the remainder of the race. None of these triathlon tips require you to have a Black American Express card but they do take time to get comfortable with.  Knowing how to train and recover properly, knowing how to legally draft takes time and experience but once you have understood how to execute them you will see the times of your races come down.  Then you can invest in a great set of race wheels, an aero helmet and the most expensive power meter you can find.

Do You Have Any Triathlon Tips You Want To Share?

Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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