Welcome to part 2 of this 2-part special on completing a triathlon. Once again Chris is here to impart further wisdom and tell you of the second 5 things he feels will be beneficial to you completing your triathlon. As before, enjoy!
- Keep track
One thing I would say is a must is to record everything. I kept track of every session I completed in as much detail as possible. If you’ve never kept a training diary before, start now. Keep track of what you’re doing and the effects it has on you. If you have a coach, your diary will be an invaluable tool for them to assess your progress. This allows you to see the progress in black and white which gives you motivation. Many people deceive themselves with their ability, thinking they perform to a certain level but if you have your work in black and white then you’re able to track your progress and make adjustments if required.
- Have a game plan prior to the event
One of the key factors in me achieving my target time of sub 6 hours is that I not only set out a very specific goal, but I also calculated the timings required for each stage to achieve that goal and ensured in training I could perform to that level. For example, I estimated that the swim would take 45-50 minutes, the first transition would take 5-10 minutes, the cycle would take approximately 3 hours, the second transition would take 5-10 minutes again and the run would take just under 2 hours. These times weren’t lightning quick but based on what I believed I could achieve. With my strategy and desired times, I could calculate the pace at which I was required to perform and tailor my training accordingly. This had a couple of benefits. During the race, I was able to pace myself properly which resulted in better focus and better ‘energy management’. It also meant my training was more effective and having booked my next Ironman, allows me to set new race times to better my performance.
- Fuel up on the bike stage
One of the essential requirements for a successful triathlon is proper nutrition. This means consuming enough calories prior to, during, and after the event to keep your energy levels high. At this stage, I won’t give specific details of the number of calories to consume, or how to consume those calories because I’m not qualified to, however, I can give the following advice. Energy gels are great during the run, make sure you consume some solid food straight after the swim and on the bike (along with your energy gels) and be sure to take on board plenty of fluid. I drank 4-5 liters of water (infused with electrolytes) during the entire event which I found to be adequate although the requirements could be higher depending on the weather. The best way to establish your requirements is to practice in training. By undertaking training sessions that replicate the event itself, you can develop a proper nutritional strategy to give you maximum energy.
- Be aware of post-Ironman blues
An event such as a triathlon requires an enormous input of time and energy. If training for the full Ironman, there’s every chance you could be completing 8+ sessions per week, eating a particular diet to fuel these sessions, and using discipline to ensure you commit to the process. Not only this, if you book your place 9+ months prior to the event, it becomes a major part of your life and something for which you wait and look forward to over a long period of time. When it’s over, however, what do you do? Christmas and holidays are examples of events you build up to and experience ‘post-holiday blues’ after, however, with something such as an Ironman this is intensified. At Christmas, you simply wait for the event and prep a few weeks prior to it, but with an Ironman, the prep begins months before and is significantly more involved. As a result, when this stops and you essentially have nothing for which to train, eat well, be disciplined or focused which can lead to a mild depression that affects many athletes.
I was one of those athletes and having never experienced anything like it before, found it challenging. For nine months I had trained significantly, spent time prepping meals, purchased clothing, talked about it to people, and became involved in reading about the subject. When I completed the event, though, that stopped. I must admit the first few days away from training were refreshing. I felt more energised once I recovered and enjoyed the spare time, but I soon began to feel a bit empty and flat. Something which had been a major driving force and had compelled me in so many ways was gone, and that took a couple of weeks to overcome. For example, I had developed the habit of training each Sunday morning which meant exercising the discipline of not drinking too heavily the night before and having the mindset of ‘gearing myself up’ to train. When the need to train was removed, though, the psychological effects were difficult to acclimatise to. It’s difficult to give advice on this particular issue because I’m not a sports psychologist, just be aware this may happen but don’t let it be a deterrent. You soon overcome it but for a couple of weeks, it stays with you.
- Enjoy the race
My final tip is a very simple one; enjoy the event. Getting to the point of crossing the line represents the work and efforts of many months, many hours in training, and many days of sacrifice. It’s worth everything you go through. When you’re surrounded by the other athletes you not only feel more compelled to perform, but you also get sucked up in the wonder of it all. You feel like a real athlete and that in itself is a great feeling. I won’t say any more but instead, finish on a quote from Arthur Ashe…
“You are never really playing an opponent. You are playing yourself, your own highest standards, and when you reach your limits, that is real joy.”
Here’s a fantastic training program…