Common Mistakes Made By Triathletes

I have been holding off on writing this post for a week and was going to use this space today to write about my race from yesterday but since the final results have not been posted I am holding off on the race report.  I am trying to calculate what my error cost me in terms of time  and possible ranking.  Since there is a correlation between my mistake and these common mistakes it was just the perfect time to post this. The original article was posted on in Competitor.com and written by Joe Friel.  You can see the entire article [HERE]

1. Poor ability to pace properly

Almost all triathletes start the bike leg of the race at much too high an intensity and then fade as the race progresses. They start the run on tired legs and generally have a poor race (except for the first 5K of the bike). The fix: Athletes must learn to negative split races. This starts with workouts. Intervals must be done with the easiest first and then progressively get harder. Steady state/tempo workouts must start under control and gradually get faster to finish strong. Athletes must learn to be patient in workouts and apply that to their races while ignoring what is going on around them. I have seen this first hand and experienced it as well.  No matter how many times I tell myself to negative split the race I always go out way to hard on the run.  The run is what got me into endurance sports and it is what I am best at so when the time to run hits I am shot out of a cannon and always seem to pay for it in the end.  Just not smart race tactics and something I need to be better at especially when Ironman rolls around in May.  Start off slower and finish stronger is going to be my new mantra.

2. Too many hard days

Going into workouts tired means poor performance and little change in fitness. The fix: To go truly hard in a workout, you must be ready. As the hard workouts get harder, the easy workouts must get easier. This means that the overall quality of training improves. And in turn, faster race times occur. You have read through this blog enough times to know that I have a coach.  Having her schedule my workouts for me allows me to not have to think about these things.  I have quite a bit going on in my life and being able to not have to think about how hard I should go saves me because I know I would be one of those athletes that presses the gas pedal and never lets up and then wonders why I don't recover well or that a workout just wasn't what I wanted it to be.  I have even gone so far as to really back off on those slow easy days.  I used to run 8:30/mile on those slow easy days and now I am closer to 9:30/mile and I think this has saved my legs to go harder in races than I ever have before.

3. Not enough base

Athletes tend to start the high intensity training much too soon in the season. If one is to make a mistake in training, make it on the side of developing too much aerobic endurance. The fix: Lots and lots of zone two and three training. The athletes I coach spend nearly 80 percent of their seasons training primarily in these two zones. When I first started with Claudia and the training called for Zone 2 paces I thought to myself....this is ridiculous as I am practically walking.  What I failed to do was combine efficiency with my running.  Now I can run an 8:30/mile pace and have my heart rate in upper Z2.  This is not just from training but also because I have become more efficient with my stride.  The same can be said for my cycling.  A few months ago I would be in the 135 bpm range and going 16 mph on the  trainer.  Now I can be 140 bpm and going close to 20 mph.  I learned how to be efficient in my pedal strokes so it takes me less energy but I go faster.  It is amazing when these things start to click.

4. Haphazard training

At best, most triathletes have vague ideas of what they are trying to accomplish in training. For the most part, they are hoping something magical happens and somehow have a good race. The fix: You must have a purpose for every workout. That purpose should be aerobic endurance, muscular force, muscular endurance, anaerobic endurance, speed skills or recovery. The higher one’s goals, the more important this becomes. Whenever I look at my training schedule I always ask what is the point of this session.  Am I supposed to recover from the previous hard workout?  Am I going hard to build my lactate threshold or am I backing off to build my aerobic capacity.  If there is a training session that I don't understand the point of it I will ask my coach.  This allows me to take the right mind-set into that days training and helps me get the most out of it.

5. Set goals much too high

People think that shooting for the stars means if they fall short they will still make it to the moon. It doesn’t work that way. In fact, this does just the opposite. If the goal is obviously out of reach there is no motivation to even try for it. It just becomes wishing and hoping. The fix: Goals must be just barely out of reach to be effective. I am a huge believer in setting my goals just out of reach so that I push myself to get there.  The majority of us are Type A personalities so we will not stop until we get there.  I have a goal for my first Ironman and I'm sure as we get closer and closer I will adjust that time based on training and my confidence in my abilities at that time.  When I first set a goal for IMCA I thought I just want to finish, then it became I want to go under 6 hours.  Then I narrowed it down to 5:39 (I finished in 5:42.)  I am racing 70.3 Longhorn in October and my goal is to beat 5:30 so I am looking at 5:29 and as my season progresses I may change that further down to a time that would seem to be just out of reach for me but that is the point.  Set the goal so that you are slightly uncomfortable in attaining it and amazing things will happen.

6. Too much emphasis on weekly miles

For the advanced triathlete, the key to race success is appropriate intensity, not how much weekly volume is generated. The fix: If your goal is to run a sub-40-minute 10K off the bike in an Olympic distance, then the key determiner of success will be how much sub-40 pace work is done—not how many miles run in a week. You may have noticed that I have stopped posting my miles from my training as often as I used to.  I will write a post every now and again about it but I have gotten to the point that the # of miles doesn't matter as much as the quality of those miles.  I am more focused on how hard I go in those tempo runs, or interval training on the bike.  What are my splits during my swim?  For me I know I am capable of finishing a 70.3 race and so it is now about being faster at that distance while also preparing my body to go 140.6. Joe Friel is an elite-certified USA Triathlon and USA Cycling coach and holds a master’s degree in exercise science. Friel is the author of 10 books on training for endurance athletes including the popular and best-selling Training Bible book series. You can learn more at trainingbible.com. [caption id="attachment_3188" align="alignright" width="481" caption="Negative split your next race"]negative_split_racing_pacing[/caption]

Have You Made These Mistakes?

Do You Learn From Your Mistakes And Apply Them To The Next Race Or Training Session?

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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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