Triathlon: Training to race


You’ve started training and entered a triathlon. Now what?

A key element of getting to the start line is consistent and progressive training. Consistent; having a programme and sticking to it. Clocking up those training miles. Keeping at it.

Try to avoid the trap of going really hard one week then being too tired/ sore/unmotivated to train for several days or a week after.  You are better to have a load you can tolerate and train consistently.

As you continue you will improve and be able to gradually increase your training load and in doing so, hopefully avoid too much soreness and injury.

Some days you may struggle to find the motivation to get started. You may have had a busy day with work, kids or home life.  Sometimes getting out the door is the hardest part, but once you get started you will often feel better, get into a rhythm and be glad that you went. (Don’t worry if you miss the occasional session, stuff happens. But try to keep it occasional rather than a regular occurrence).

Training partners, groups or squads can be beneficial.  These can help with motivation and make training more enjoyable.  In saying that, however, it is my belief that you need to have the motivation within to train.

If it happens that your running buddy can’t make a session you don’t want to pull the pin because they’re not going to be there. You need to be happy to go by yourself and do it anyway. Remember the reasons you have embarked on this path and also remember, it is up to you alone, on race day.

wetsuitRace week
Leading up to race day, you will enter a tapering phase in which your training load will lighten to enable you to freshen up and get race-ready. The taper will depend on the training load you have had and the type of event you have trained for.

For example, the heavy training load required to compete in an Ironman triathlon may require a taper of up to three weeks.

For shorter events such as 3-9-3, sprint or standard course, you are likely to register the afternoon before the event (although there are often facilities for race day registration).

Here you will go to a tent at the race venue, register and pick up your race pack. This will likely contain a timing chip, (to be strapped around your ankle), a swim cap (to be worn on race day), plus course information and a few sponsors’ goodies.

It is worthwhile having a short swim on the course the day before to familiarise yourself with the course and landmarks to sight when swimming.  You may also opt to have a short spin on your bike around the course as well.

Bikes will be racked the day before a half ironman or Ironman triathlon, but on the morning of the race for shorter events.

Hopefully you will have cleaned your bike, oiled the chain and had a bike service.  Your tyres will need to be in good condition.  For longer events I always fit new tyres the week before.  An expensive exercise, but after all that training you want to minimise the chance of a puncture to derail you on race day.

The night before the triathlon, lay out your gear so it is ready to put on first thing in the morning and you don’t forget anything.  Have a good dinner and go to bed early.  I am quite particular about what I eat the night before a race so that it doesn’t upset me the next day, i.e. give me gastric problems. I never have a high fat or spicy meal.  Most people find what suits them and stick with it.

For the 3-9-3, sprint and standard triathlon events you turn up at the venue with your bike, usually wearing your helmet, to show it is safe and fits well. Often there will be officials giving your bike a quick check for safety as you enter into transition.

If you haven’t already pumped up your tyres you will need to at this stage.  Also put your water bottles on your bike and any nutrition you need.  (Remember, water bottles add weight , only take what you need. You will have practised this in training.  There are aid stations with extra bottles to be had on longer events).

Lay your shoes/cap etc beside your bike, being mindful of how much room you take up. There is only a wee space between each bike, don’t hog all the space of the person beside you.  Put your wetsuit on in transition, get your goggles and cap and head down to the water for a warm-up swim.  You will have to leave the water before the first wave of athletes start.

While waiting for the race to start it is a good idea to check out all the buoys and the lay of the course.

Also, do whatever it takes to relax a little. Race day nerves are usual. Some people like to use visualisation of their race, others chat and laugh, others remain quiet.

I always remind myself that I have done the training and to have faith in that.  I focus on each bit of the race and just try to do my best at each stage.

If you have done the training, you will be fine.  Racing is the fun part!


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