The image of hundreds of triathletes piling into the water in a frenzy of splashing at the start of a race is one we are all familiar with. If you are new to racing, this can be a very daunting prospect, but don’t be put off. Follow our guide to get yourself standing on that start line feeling confident and raring to go.
Irrespective of distance, triathlons fall into two main categories, those with a swim in a pool, and those in open water. The change in dynamics of the event because of this small detail should not be over looked.
Those who haven’t done an open water, mass start, BIG triathlon may be wondering what the difference is? Well, here are a few key ones:
Approaching open-water swimming could be a whole article on its own, however here we are going to deal specifically with the dynamics of racing in a group. So a few key pointers are:-
Be realistic about your level. Try to start around people you think are at your standard. This will make the swim smoother as you are all going to be going at roughly the same pace.
Ensure you have planned the route to your bike. There is nothing worse than running around looking for your spot; this increases anxiety, adrenaline and will inevitably lead to over exertion and you get a double whammy on your time (time lost looking for the bike and over exertion)
Same on the way out: know the fastest way to the exit.
If the exit of T2 is tight it can be a bottleneck with people trying to get on bikes. Run around them and mount in clear space. Keep calm and efficient.
Drafting is illegal, but know the rules. Different events have different rules. Being penalised for drafting, especially if you thought you were not is very frustrating. and can ruin your rhythm. It is very easy to get busted in big races, with lots of people around.
Sometimes the rules are not practical, particularly when leaving T1 en-masse and on small roads, so don’t panic about it, just try to be fair and make an effort to avoid obviously drafting and common sense should take over.
If there are lots of people around when it comes to dismounting you need to be very alert and in control. There are many ways of getting off, and some people are better at this than others. Most crashes occur around this point, usually not serious but a few bumps as people stop suddenly.
Group running is great, it keeps you motivated at a time when you are probably getting tired. BUT the group must be going at your pace. If you try to run too hard too early because you have got caught up with the fun of being in a run pack, you will eventually pay.
If it is windy there is definite advantage to being in a group and being sheltered. It reduces your effort and saves energy for later.
Big races have a great atmosphere, usually because there are loads of people about. That energy can be a great motivator and push you on. It also means awareness and confidence are key to keep you safe and enjoying the experience, and most important going FAST!
The Intelligent Triathlon Training website aims to give you all the knowledge and understanding you need to make your triathlon training effective and your racing successful.
It is run by husband and wife team Rhona and Mark Pearce. Both have undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in sports physiology, and 12+ years of working with triathletes. Mark is coach for the British Triathlon Olympic Development Squad which includes Lucy Hall, 2012 Olympian. Rhona is a sports scientist providing physiology testing and support to triathletes of all levels.