IMPROVING YOUR RACING
Women often get the competitive spirit after their first few races. After your first season you’re starting to increase your training load, but simply increasing your training alone is not the only way to improve your performance. Improving your racing technique and putting the three declines together well can cut valuable minutes off your race time. Here are some great ways women can cut minutes off your time.
“Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of. This is what we do. This is what it’s all about.” Patti Sue Plumer, U.S. Olympian
There is so much you can do to take minutes off your swim time. The swim can be the most chaotic time of a race and it’s a time when you’re personal confidence can have a huge impact on your time.
A good warm up will give you cardiovascular system time to adapt to what you’re about to do. Warm up for approximately 400-500m so your heart and lungs will be prepared for a strong start. If you don’t do a warm up you’re more likely to see your heart rate jump higher than normal and therefore more stress and build up of lactate acid in the muscles.
Don’t start the race vertical, you need to start horizontal so you’re ready to go once the gun goes off. Start with your legs behind you, wade your hands in front of you to keep yourself on the spot and when that gun goes off, you’re ready
It’s important to position yourself according to your ability. If you’re a moderate swimmer, position yourself at the front but to the side. This will give you the chance to draft off the faster people as the swim narrows. If you’re not confident to start at the front then position yourself behind someone slightly faster so you can maximize the drafting effect
You can conserve between 20-40% of your energy by drafting while swimming. When training swim behind someone so you can see the bubbles from their feet and stay there, move out from the bubbles and notice how hard it can become. Practice your drafting so it becomes easy on race day and fight to stay on someone’s feet (no punching) just confident positioning.
Enter the swim with confidence as you will be tussling for position and it’s at this time you need to hold your line and swim your best race. If you’re a strong swimmer use the first 50m to go hard and hold the feet of someone a little faster than yourself. After the first 50-100m, find your rhythm and settle into your swim race pace.
Exiting the Water
Don’t stand up out of the water until your hands touch the bottom. Often people get up too early and it can be slower to walk through the water than swim through it.
If you’re able to do all these things, you’ll be in a great position for your best swim.
Time for a Faster Transition
Be prepared by both physically and mentally rehearsing this transition. You should know the best way to get your wetsuit off quickly and how to get on and off the bike with the least fuss It’s amazing how long your competitors can spend in transition wasting valuable time. Transition isn’t for resting, it’s just to get you from one part of the race to the next
Taking wetsuit off
Practice taking your wetsuit off when you get out of the swim, you need to know the best and quickest way to do this. I see people tangling themselves up for no reason. They hold their cap and goggles in their hand while trying to get the wetsuit sleeve off and wonder why they can’t get out of their suit. Practice and visualize yourself getting that wetsuit off quickly and efficiently
You need to practice getting your shoes on and off while on the bike. You can do this up and down your street and after every ride. After 13 years of racing I still practice so I’m confident on race day
If you do your shoelaces up while in transition, now it’s time to stop. You can purchase so many quick laces. You can get elastic laces, quick lock laces and every colour you can think of. They’re cheap so practice with a few and try them out on your race pace runs
Practice Practice Practice
You should be a well-oiled machine in transition. Know what you need to do first, second third etc. It should be well rehearsed and visualized regularly. Look for shortcuts to minimize time eg. Put all your nutrition etc in your run cap so you just need to grab your cap and run out off transition. Have your number belt under your wetsuit so you don’t need to put it on in transition. Have your helmet ready (upside down and unlocked) so you just need to put it on your head and lock it.
Nutrition is a key part of racing and starts with practicing during your training and pace effort sessions. You hear all types of stories about people bonking, stomach shutting down, cramps and vomiting. This doesn’t need to happen.
Women are great at preparing their kids, workload and home life so you just need to bring these great skills to your next triathlon. There is nothing worse than doing a race and expecting a flat course to find some huge hills. Know what you’re getting yourself in for so you have surprises on the day. How many turns will you need to make on the swim so you can pace yourself back into transition. Will you need to practice descending due to huge hills on the bike leg. Is there a big hill out of transition so the gears on your bike need to be set up ready for this hill. Keep all these things in mind as they can often negatively surprise you on race day.
- Know the course, hilly or flat and what gears on your bike will you need
- Water conditions, flat lake vs salty ocean swim
- Potential weather. Is there the possibility of cold conditions or extremely warm. Be prepared
- Prepare your bike so it’s in good working condition
- Prepare and practice your nutrition
- Be prepared for any possible suprises during the race eg flat tyre – . Know how to change a tyre and be prepared for this situation, not scared of it.
Prepare for no negative surprises
If you’ve ever watched a triathlon, it’s rarely the person who wins the swim that wins the race, it’s the person who is able to put together the three disciplines the best that wins the race. I see so many people burning up the course on the first lap of the bike to be passed by everyone either on the 2nd lap of the bike or the beginning of the run. You need to race at a pace you know will get you through the entire race. I would highly recommend getting a lactate threshold test or doing a home time trial test to work out the pace you should do your races at.
You can’t cram all your training into the weeks prior to a race, your result will be an overdone athlete on race day. A two-week taper is recommended, the duration of your training should decrease with short bouts of intensity.
Time to race according to your female hormones
Women’s hormones fluctuate throughout the month and there aren’t really any clear studies that show the best time to race. From the research I’ve read it seems very personal, it’s important to watch your training and find the best time for you to race. We often can’t help the timing of the race but your local GP may be able to help you ensure your not feeling worse on race day. Manipulating the contraceptive pill often does this but you should seek advice from your GP before doing this yourself
Training – Putting it all together
You’re training for a triathlon, not 3 separate sports. You need to know how it feels;
- To get out of the water, run and then jump on your bike.
- How your legs will feel when you get off the bike and need to run.
It’s important to pace yourself so you can get off the bike and run at your best. The more you practice these transitions, the less likely they will feel like three separate sports, and the more they’ll feel seamless and your legs will feel fresh and ready to go fast on the run.
Racing well on race day comes down to two things;
1. How you trained and
2. Your mental aptitude for racing.
Winners say what they want to happen. Losers say what they feel will happen. Dr. Linda Bunker in Joan Samuelson’s Running for Women
DIG DEEP – MIND GAME WHILE RACING
After all the training is done, your mind takes over and is a key contributor to race performance.
Think of all those great training sessions you had, when you beat someone up the hill, when you comfortably ran next to a super star runner. When you cranked out some efforts that you thought you would never be able to. When the going gets tough then it’s time to recall your best moments and think of the feeling you felt and draw on these feelings.
Mental endurance in a race is just as important as physical endurance.
Have a mental plan. J Friel
Use the below links to prepare yourself mentally for a strong race.