Monday, July 29, 2013

Race Preparation - The Final Phase

Early on in your training preparation you can be pretty laissez-faire and non-specific in what you do training-wise.Your swims can have a good component of body surfing in and out of the surf rather than lap after lap in a pool. There’s no reason you can’t get out on the mountain bike and go off road when cycling and there’s nothing wrong with hiking, cross country skiing, etc., thrown into the mix to supplement your run training.
However, at a certain point, the notion of ‘specificity’ (being highly specific in what you do) becomes more and more important. This was really hammered home to me 20 odd years ago in Hawaii. I remember being out on the bike course, about 35 miles out of town and catching initial race leader, Kiwi Rick Wells, on the bike.
Wells was a freak of a swimmer, a machine on the bike and a serviceable runner. He actually won the then Olympic Distance World Championships staged in Perth and prior to coming to Kona he’d just won the famous Nice Triathlon on the Cote d’Azur in France over 4km/120km/30km – so he had the miles in his legs and knew how to put it together over longer distances on race day.
Problem was he’d just had a full summer training and racing in France and while he was race-hardened and fit, the vast majority of the riding he’d done in training and racing had been completed on a standard road bike with a set of clip-on aero bars to accommodate some of the brutally hilly mountainous courses served up in France. Kona, on the other hand, which has a bit of up and down, is, in comparison, a relatively flat course where you sit for hours on end in a TT position and thump a big gear.
Wells simply wasn’t used to doing this. He’d tweaked his bike position just before arriving in Hawaii and wasn’t prepared for the rigours of sitting and grinding. After leading out of the water and setting off on the bike at breakneck speed, 30 miles into the race his back tightened and by the time I caught him he was going backwards at a rate of knots, and in a world of pain. He was finally forced to withdraw from the event.
A really worthy contender, in peak condition, at the top of his game, pretty much unbeatable anywhere else in the world, reduced to a blithering mess by a basic preparatory, rookie mistake.
So here’s my guide on taking some of the guesswork out of your final preparation – putting the icing on the cake if you like, which I hope helps those of you heading to an event in the next couple of months.

Practise what you intend to do during the race at race pace. Complete a full-blown race simulation five-to-seven weeks out from the competition. If you can, train over the course or at least find somewhere similar. If we use the Ironman as an example, select a distance of about two-thirds of that of the Ironman: swim 2.5 kilometres, bike 120 kilometres and run 28 kilometres. Go through about a half to two-thirds of a taper sequence, do a full carbo-load procedure, do the training session at your proposed Ironman race pace and feed yourself in the manner you intend to do on race day using the same foods/drinks.

Weigh yourself pre-session, record your nutritional intake throughout the session and weigh yourself again post-session. From this you can work out your sweat rate and do your best to match it on race day. If at the same level of effort you find your pace dropping off dramatically in the later stages of the session you know you need to up the CHO intake.
If once you’ve completed the session and you find you’ve lost a significant amount of weight from your ‘normal’ body weight (not your pre-session commencement weight as you’ll ideally be a few kilos over your normal weight), then you know you’re going to have to be even more aggressive with your fluid intake. By a significant amount, I mean one-to-two per cent lower than your normal body weight. Doing the above will give you some degree of certainty (or not) that you’re on the right path come race day.
Aside from using all of the equipment you intend to use on race day while doing the suggested simulation, start using your intended equipment in training.

1. Goggles
Do they fog, do they leak? Do they give you a headache after being worn for extended periods of time? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, get it sorted weeks out from competition. Don’t turn up to the expo the day before and see the latest pair of swish goggles Pete Jacobs is wearing and buy them there and then to be worn the next day.

2. Wetsuit
Is it the right size? Does it chafe? Is it easy to get on and off? Is it a long-sleeve suit that fatigues your arms after a long swim? Start doing some of your training in your wetsuit so that you can get used to the change in body position and turning over the rubber in the arms. Identify the chafing spots and apply a lubricant, and also practise getting the suit off – quickly.

3. Bike
Position is obvious, as mentioned in my ramblings about Rick Wells. Train with the course in mind. For example, as I write this article, I am in my preparation for Ironman Melbourne. The bike course is very flat and fast. Orbea were kind enough to provide me with an Ordu TT bike to use for the race. Up ‘til now I’ve been training on a road bike, but I’ve changed across exclusively to the TT bike and had the position set by former AIS cycling/triathlon biomechanist Brian McLean (PhD). Brian was a bit aggressive with his positioning (too low in the front) for my level of flexibility. I’ve backed this position off a tad, but over the coming couple of weeks I’ll slowly try to lower my handlebars to achieve a more aero-position, as initially set by Brian. As the course is largely non-technical, the vast amount of my training will be confined to the indoor trainers. Here we can download the course profile and ‘ride the course’ in indoor safety 1600 kilometres away from the actual location and still get some highly specific training from a position and gearing perspective done. In contrast, later in the year when I take a group across to Italy to race in Ironman Italy 70.3, the bike course is far more technical and bike handling skills will become more crucial so (a) the bike being used will change, and (b) a lot more time will be spent practising descents, cornering and the like.

4. Clothing
What are you going to wear? While for some this might be a fashion statement, for those serious about racing it is functionally very important. For an Ironman-distance event comfort is a consideration, so you want something you’re going to be comfortable in for eight-to-17 hours. The only way to ascertain this is to do some longer sessions in your chosen apparel. If you’re not comfortable after a three hour ride and 1.5 hour run, chances are you’ll be less comfortable after a six-hour ride and a four-hour run and you don’t want to be experiencing that for the first time on race day. Your body is an amazing system; back in the day I can remember a large portion of the men’s field (myself included) racing Ironman-distance events in little more than a pair of budgie smugglers (no padding) and a singlet – your butt does adapt to it over time but you’ve got to get used to it in training. Modern tri-suits often have provision for you to carry gels and the like just in case you miss a feed, but they have the downside of covering a lot of skin, making your sweating mechanism less effective which, in a really hot environment, could be a deal breaker if you’re not prepared for it.

5. Footwear Bike and Run
During the course of a long ride some athletes develop hot or numb feet and/or sore knees. There could be a number of reasons for this, but the most common are (i) velcro straps being fastened too tightly, which, when combined with swelling feet, creates havoc, and (ii) incorrect cleat positioning. The best way to ascertain this – you guessed it – is long rides at race pace beforehand. If it doesn’t feel right in training you can rest assured it is going to feel worse on race day. With running shoes, if you intend to race in racing flats be sure to do some of your faster, quality training sessions in this type of shoe. Racing flats are lighter, less stable and have less cushioning, opening the wearer up to a number of potential acute injuries on race day if the body isn’t accustomed to wearing such shoes. Also, remember you’re going to be coming off a 180-kilometre bike ride, blood is going to have been sent in bucket loads for five plus hours to your legs and feet. It ‘pools’ there, your feet will have swollen, so your racing flats should probably be half a size bigger than what you’d normally choose for a straight running race. Otherwise you run the increased risk of losing toenails, blistering, etc.

6. Odds and sods
Helmets, heart rate monitors/GPS systems, sunglasses – well, you get the idea. You don’t want to be fumbling around with them for the first time on race day, so be sure to have trained extensively with this equipment before toeing the starting line.

Remember to live, work, train and race by what famed Surf Iron Man Guy Leech calls his ‘Five Ps’: Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. A mantra we can apply to various facets of our lives.

article courtesy of R.Cedaro

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Triathlon Racing Kits From The 2013 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide

Once again SLS3 has been reviewed by the editors of triathlete magazine. Check out the review here. This review is for the FX Tri Top and the Compression Tri shorts.

Monday, July 22, 2013

This Mommy Runs: SLS3 Compression Socks Review

It's no surprise that I love, I mean LOVE compression socks. I wear them on my long runs and then for recovery. I can often be found wearing them while I run errands. Always a trendsetter, ha ha.

I'm often asked why I wear compression socks. There are a few different reasons:
  • Helps reduce/delay the onset of muscle fatigue
  • Prevents post-exercise soreness
  • Evacuates lactic acid by increasing the flow rate of the blood in the venous system.

    Check out the entire review here

Transition training

These sessions help develop leg speed off the bike and are one of the most effective ways to simulate race transitions, writes G. Nugent.
In my last article I wrote about brick (or combo) sessions and I want to reiterate the importance of these sessions in your training routine. Incorporating brick sessions into your training program around eight weeks prior to a race is one of the best ways to maximise your fitness and prepare you for race day. Added to your base program, brick sessions and transition training will set you up for a big summer of racing.
To kick us off, I’ve started with a couple of simple combo sessions that involve all three disciplines – swimming, cycling and running – and included a few tips for smooth transition work. Remember, the more you put these tips into practice, and practise good technique, the better your results will be.
These sessions help develop leg speed off the bike and are one of the most effective ways to simulate race transitions. Depending on the race distance you’re training for, you can slowly build up the ride and run distances of your brick sessions.
If you haven’t yet started to include brick sessions in your training, make the effort ahead of your next big race. You will reap the rewards on race day.

The fourth leg: Transition
One of the most neglected areas of triathlon is the transition, be it swim-to-bike or bike-to-run. Most triathletes spend the bulk of their training time focused on the three race disciplines: swimming, cycling and running. But the transition between each leg also requires specific training.
If you’re new to the sport, you need to get familiar with the two transition phases of a race. Each triathlon has two transitions: a swim-to-bike (T1) and a bike-to-run (T2).  If you have never been shown what to do in a transition, it can be a very daunting element of race day. Knowing what to do in transition sets you up for a good race right from the gun, can improve your mid-race position in the field and can even save you minutes on your finishing time.
The following basic tips will help you perfect your race transitions:
Transition set-up
•    Your gear should be located on the right-hand side of your bike. Regardless of whether you rack your bike by its saddle or bars, always set your gear up to the right of your bike.
•    Line up your gear in the order you will be using it, with your bike shoes, runners and helmet on top.  Place your sunglasses inside your helmet, and always have your helmet unbuckled and with the straps out ready to wear.
•    If you haven’t already, invest in a pair of good quality elastic laces for your runners. Replace your normal laces with elastics and hey, presto – you’ll be in and out of transition in no time.
•    Dust the inside of your shoes with talcum powder. This will not only help you slide them on more easily, it will soak up any moisture on your feet.
Transition 1 (T1): Swim to bike
•    Coming out of the swim – stay calm! There’s nothing worse than not being able to get out of your wetsuit, fumbling around or dropping your helmet. You want a fast transition, but you also want it to go smoothly.
•    Don’t touch your bike until you have fastened your helmet.  It is illegal, and you could get disqualified.
•    Once your helmet is secured, pull on your bike shoes (if they aren’t already clipped onto your bike).
•    Un-rack your bike and run with it on your right-hand side, holding your seat with your right hand.
•    Your bike should be pre-set to an easy gear. Run your bike to the mount line and jump on. Remember, you can’t get on your bike until you pass the mount line. There are a number of ways to mount your bike and if you’re unsure of what to do, it’s worth joining a squad and having an experienced coach or athlete show you what to do. Once you master the fast transition mount, you need to practise.  
Transition 2 (T2): Bike to run
•    Slow down ready to dismount at the dismount line. Remember, you must have both feet on the ground before you reach the dismount line.
•    Keep your helmet fastened until your bike is racked back where you began the cycle leg.
•    Rack your bike and take off your helmet – do this first to avoid running out with it still on your head. Pull on your runners (if they’re not already on). If you don’t have elastic laces, get some ASAP!
•    If you’re wearing a hat on the run, don’t put it on in transition – just grab it and go. Put it on while you’re running and you’ll save yourself valuable time.
A good transition takes time to master, so use these tips and practise, practise, practise. You’ve trained hard and practised all the things you need for race day, so get out there and enjoy yourself – the swim, the ride, the run and most of all, the finish line.

article courtesy of  G. Nugent.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Five Mistakes Age-Groupers Make On Race Day

Learning from race-day blunders is key to removing the chance of repetition. Sam Hume is one of Australia's best age-group triathletes and he's highlighted the five commonest mistakes he sees and how to avoid them.
1. Incorrect pacing
Getting one’s pacing right on race day is probably the most important issue for the age-group athlete that will make or break their day. Far too many age-groupers, and for that matter many professional athletes, push too hard in the swim and bike and end up running well below their potential simply because they run out of gas. While pre-race and race-day nutrition will allow you to maximise the amount of energy available, in reality, spreading your effort (and hence energy expenditure) evenly across the three disciplines is the surest way to get across the line in the quickest possible time.
Why then do many athletes tear off the start line or out of T1 like a bull at a gate? A rush of adrenaline, a perceived need to maximise the gains in one’s strongest leg or minimise the losses in one’s weakest leg, or an over-estimation of one’s ability are all possible explanations. See the box for some logical pacing concepts to ensure the correct mindset for race day.

2. Carrying too much gear on the bike
Don’t buy a super-light bike and then load it up with multiple water bottles, fancy tyre inflation devices or other nice, but not essential gear. If Macca strips the handlebar tape off his IM bike, why do age-groupers think it is all right to carry 1.2-to-1.8kg of fluid at the start of the bike? In most longer distance events, the aid stations come up more frequently than you could drink 600-millitres. Why carry more than one bottle? I know occasionally bottles are dropped or athletes want special mixtures not available at aid stations, and therefore want extra capacity, but you need to consider the relative costs and benefits. Look up the details of your upcoming race and find out what is served and when well ahead of time.
3. Using unfamiliar equipment
We all do it and we know we shouldn’t. Wetsuits, goggles, bikes, wheels, race  nutritional, shoes and Triathlon suits used on race day without being adequately tried first. The consequences? Necks, armpits, groins and feet rubbed red raw. Coming off your bike out of T1 or a sharp corner. Gastric distress or a massive bonk. Try it before you race with it. Enough said!
4. Overdoing the nutrition
Think of your gut as a filter that absorbs less the faster you go. For example, say you drink a standard sports drink while running. You cannot move much of the carbohydrate out of your upper gastrointestinal tract (e.g. gut) and into your blood stream if you are running flat out because your body preferentially diverts blood flow away from your gut to your working muscles. So you derive little benefit from the ingested carbohydrate until you slow down enough that your body sends some blood back to your gut.
Also, the more carbohydrate you put in your gut (think both volume and concentration) the more blood flow to the gut you need to absorb it. So if you run at a moderately hard pace, you may be able to absorb a sports drink (with its moderate amount of carbohydrate) but not a soft drink (with a high amount). Of course you could dilute the soft drink by also drinking some water, which is why we drink water after taking a gel.
Use this filter concept to work out what you should do on race day. Too many age group athletes take a ‘more is better’ approach, however, more calories ingested does not equal more energy entering the bloodstream if you cannot absorb it. Ingest less when you are temporarily working hard (hills, out of transition, headwinds) moderate carbohydrates when you are working steadily (flats) and more concentrated carbohydrates when working less hard (long descent, tailwinds, walking).
5. Warm-up
A few arm swings and a short swim is not enough of a warm up for anything less than an Ironman. Age-groupers should understand what is an appropriate warm-up for the distance they are racing. I wrote about this topic two issues ago and think it is poorly done by many age-groupers. A short run, arm swings and gentle stretching, a swim with some efforts and a good look at the start line, first buoy and swim finish are all critical. Some effort but potentially a big payoff and therefore well worth it.

article courtesy of

Open Water Swimming

If swimming in the open water was a magic show, superfish and Surf Ironman Champion Guy Leech would have more tricks than David Copperfield. Leech pulls some out of his swimming cap here and treats us to the best.
A few years ago, I competed in a team at the Mooloolaba triathlon event. The days leading up to the race had pumping surf and I thought, “great, I’ll feel right at home out there and hopefully give our team a head start”. 
That hopeful head start was quickly reeled in when “too dangerous” was the call made by the team at USM Events. They pulled the pin on a surf swim, opting to line up competitors along one of the local canals, effectively making it a flat water swim. Fair enough, the majority of age group triathletes probably come from non-swimming backgrounds, let alone surf swimming. 
Here are some tips to make your next open water swim a little more proficient. After all, there’s a big difference between being capable in the swimming pool compared to carving up the ocean.  
Experience is invaluable
Before entering an event, build up your experience by doing some ocean swims. Having been in the open water beforehand, you’re less likely to freak out when there are 100 other sets of arms and legs being thrown around you in the heat of battle and argy-bargy of a race. 
Get together with a few friends, head down to the beach or local dam, pick a point in the distance and swim to it. Swimming in a group will give you a little extra confidence should you get into trouble. Once you’re out in the open water you can’t really swim to the side and hang onto a wall like you can in a pool. Simply knowing others are around can be reassuring for the novice open water swimmer.
Learn bilateral breathing
Bilateral breathing means you are able to breathe on either side of your body. Firstly, this helps to balance your stroke as you get a chance to watch what both arms are doing under the water in training. In a race situation, it helps if the chop is coming in from one side, which may be your usual breathing side and you’re able to turn to the other to get a breath. There’s nothing worse than repeatedly turning to one side for a breath and getting a mouthful of water rather than air. 
Particularly given most triathlons in Australia start bright and early in the morning, if you can only breathe to one side and the sun happens to be rising on that side, it’s a pain in the proverbial to be almost blinded every time you go to take a breath. So, breathing bilaterally is a great skill to develop for a variety of reasons. 
Take advantage of drafting
Unlike competitive open water swims such as those of the Olympic Games, drafting during the swim portion of a triathlon is legal. Simply put, you’re nuts if you’re not taking advantage of this. You can cut minutes off your swim time if you get this right. 
Aim to position yourself in a pack of swimmers of similar experience and speed. There are two ways you can draft off another swimmer – both can be very effective in an open water swim. One way is to swim directly behind a lead swimmer and the other is to swim in the wake of a lead swimmer – just like Duncan Armstrong did to win his Olympic gold medal. 
When you’re swimming directly behind a swimmer and close to their feet, the result is a ‘pulling’ effect similar to that created by an outboard motor on a speedboat. 
When you’re swimming on another swimmer’s hip and taking advantage of their wake, the effect is similar to body surfing – you just keep pulling yourself over the little wave the other swimmer’s wake creates. This is a much tougher skill to master, but the effects are considerable. My only word of caution with drafting is to not rely 100 per cent on the swimmer you’re drafting off. If they swim a little off course, any advantage you’re getting from their drag will be undone by the extra distance you’re swimming, so make sure you keep an eye on sighting for yourself. 

Check the conditions
Have you ever watched the start of a Surf Ironman race? All the competitors and their coaches are at the water’s edge looking at the water – they aren’t just enjoying the scenery! When the gun goes off, the competitors often run in different directions before entering the water. Any idea why? It is because the rips and bars, created by the movement of the waves coming into shore, can provide a huge advantage in races by sweeping you out much faster than swimming in still water or more importantly, against the rip in dead water. 
Before you start the race, always check the edge of the beach before running in for the swim. Potholes and uneven surfaces are fairly normal at beaches. A walk out from where you’re starting on the line could save your ankles and the embarrassment from falling over. 
Learning how to read water movement isn’t something I can give you in a couple of paragraphs here. My suggestion is to (i) be aware of the potential advantages by learning this skill, and (ii) spend some time talking to, and learning from, those who are experienced in ocean swimming. For example, a number of years ago, I went to Hawaii and watched the Ironman. All those in the know stuck close to the pier at the start of the swim. The flow of the ocean at the pier washed swimmers out to sea from the start line much faster than 100 metres to the left of the start line and away from the pier. Experience counts, so fast-track your own by learning from those who know. It will save you making avoidable and costly mistakes.
To wetty or not to wetty?
If the water is cold, a wetsuit will keep you warm and can improve your performance by 10-to-20 percent with it’s buoyancy effect. This is particularly the case for less accomplished swimmers. 
A couple of things to remember with wetsuits: (i) above all, make sure it fits you well, and (ii) practice in the suit if you intend to be wearing it on race day as it changes your position in the water. If it is a long sleeved suit, you need to condition your arms to turn over with rubber around your shoulders. 
You’ve probably already noticed you don’t have a thick black line running along the bottom of the ocean to help guide you. You have to learn to lift your head and sight in order to stay on track. If you are out for a training swim, look for various land markers. It may be a tall tree or the top of a building, something you can see each time you lift your head to look forward. This gives you the skill during races as you sight marker buoys. 
Remember, don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation if your skill level isn’t up to it. The ocean is something that deserves respect! All the best with your next race.

article courtesy of G. Leech