is PLANNING.  Whether you want to run a business effectively, lose weight or compete in any sporting event, your success will be down to your planning. The saying “failing to plan is planning to fail” says it all. We’ve all heard people boasting that they competed in such and such an event with no training. If that’s your approach then this blog probably isn’t for you.

Everyone’s plans go off track thanks to life but if you’re determined to succeed you’ll find a way around them. Barriers are there to be climbed over!


The key things you need to plan are:

  • What race(s) you’re aiming for
  • Training – what, where, when
  • Nutrition
  • Read the instructions
  • The week before – tapering and planning
  • The day of the event – it’s more than just turning up
  • After the event.

What race(s) are you aiming for

Be realistic in your choice so if you’ve never done a triathlon or endurance event, or haven’t in the last 20 years, starting with an Ironman may not be the best place to start. Ask around – what have other people entered, enjoyed. If you’re on a budget don’t forget that many events start when most people are still in bed so if it’s a 2 hour drive you’re either going to need to stay over the night before or arrive at the start struggling with sleep deprivation. Race entry fees can be expensive too so before you set your heart on something make sure you can afford it.


There are loads of training plans that are published in the triathlon press, available free on-line etc. Take a look at some of the training plans before you enter a race so you know how much time you’ll need to commit to training each week. Most training plans work on a 12 week programme. You may need to adapt these plans according to the equipment you have, for example, if you don’t have a turbo trainer you can either go to a spinning class or follow the programme using a spinning bike in the gym. Whatever training plan you choose remember that strength and conditioning essential to effective training so either do a separate session once a week or build these exercises into other sessions during the week. I occasionally train with a friend who’s a personal trainer and she’s a demon for finding park benches, fallen trees etc for tricep dips, press ups etc when we’re out running. It makes for varied running sessions. Pilates classes are great for developing stability, balance and good breathing skills.

If your posture isn’t great it will hinder you in any sport you do. Learn to sit up and stand properly and be conscious about your posture and your breathing. Learn to breathe from your diaphragm. If you can’t do it when you’re in the comfort of your own home it won’t happen when your train and race.

Remember to practice your transitions – mounting and dismounting your bike. In my opinion T1 is the most difficult and potentially frustrating part of any duathlon or triathlon. You can plan and practice all you like but if you aren’t careful your event can be ruined by another competitor falling or crashing into you. You need your wits about you and to know that you’ve practiced mounting so you’re able to keep a good watch out for other competitors.


Rubbish in rubbish out! If you don’t put good fuel in the engine you can’t expect it to perform well. There’s masses and masses of information about nutrition from people qualified to give advice, but my golden rules are:

  • Plan what you need to eat and shop for it. Leaving it to chance limits your choice.
  • Don’t eat pre-prepared meals – they’re expensive, tasteless and contain crap your body is better off without. Cooking from fresh can be quick and it’s far nicer.
  • Eat lots of fresh fruit and veg
  • Avoid processed foods especially those with lots of sugar
  • Take a pint of water to bed and drink it first thing in the morning
  • Everything in moderation
  • Listen to your body
  • Plan whether you need to eat and drink before and/or during training.
  • Don’t ever try anything new to eat or drink the day before or on the day of a race.
  • Work out what you’ll take with you on the day of the race for before, during and after.
  • It’s cheaper to shed a few pounds from your body than to keep investing in kit and gadgets to shave seconds off your time. On a run you can save 2-6 secs per km for every 1kg of weight lost (within reason!)

Read the instructions

Read the race instructions CAREFULLY and if you’re not familiar with the BTF (British Triathlon Federation) rule book read it. It doesn’t take long, gives you a flavour for the event you’re about to do and means you want get penalised for failing to pick up a dropped water bottle because you didn’t know you had to. Make sure you’re familiar with the drafting rules.

The week before the race – tapering and planning

Tapering:  is the reduced level of training one does in the run up to an event an event. The time over which you taper depends on the length of the event. For a sprint or standard distance triathlon most people taper for a week so you do 40-50% of your . Don’t forget that if you’re training less you may need to reduce your food intake too.

Carb loading – good quality (low GI) carbs. Bingeing on Mars bars or pizza isn’t the answer.

Planning: In the week before the event you need to prepare your kit, plan what to take to the event, what you’ll need in transition, what you’ll do on the day in the run up to the event and the race itself. It includes giving your bike a thorough once over and proper clean.

Decide what you’re going to wear for the race. I always check the detailed weather forecast for air and wind temperature as if it’s cold I know I’ll notice it on the bike so will wear a thin gilet and arm warmers. The gilet keeps my front warm and the mesh back means I don’t overhead running and arm warmed can be rolled up or down. Whilst I feel the cold and have often been teased about the amount of clothing I wear for Saturday cycling in the winter, I’m amazed how little I need to wear in a Duathlon. If you’re travelling by car you can take more with you and decide when you get to the event what you want to wear. Don’t forget body glide/Chamois Cream/butt glide for your neck (open water swim) and delicate bits, sun cream and hat if it’s hot and sunny.

The day of the race

I’m a list person so I’ve developed list of what I need to take to an event and I also have a time plan to list what I do between getting up and the race start. Again, you need to plan your time. It’s a good idea to work back from the pre-race briefing to getting up. This is the sort of thing I do:
06.15 alarm
Get up, shower, have breakfast
Pack car
06.45 leave for venue
07.05 arrive at venue. If you haven’t driven or cycled around the cycle route then do it now, before you park.
07.30 After checking bike route, park car
Register then find loos
08.15 test ride bike (really important as things get moved about when you transport a bike and you may need to adjust.)
08.45 get all bike kit ready, put numbers on bike, helmet etc and check tyre pressure.
Rack bike. Make sure you lay out your gear so it’s easy to put on and not in the way of other competitors
Check transition: Walk the run into T1, run out with the bike, run into T2 and run into the finish routes. I always pace backwards from the finish so if I need to put a spurt on to get past someone I know how far I have to go.
Return to car and change into running gear with a top if it’s cool.
09.20 – 09.40 warm up for the first run.
09.40 leave top in car and head to race briefing.
09.50 race briefing
10.00 you’re off!

The final bit of planning during the week before is your race plan, ie how you are going to race. Apart from pacing yourself so you can round the run/second run, but have you thought how you’ll do it? I use heart rate as it shows me how hard I’m working. If I’d used pace I’d have flaked out half way through the second run at the recent Goodwood duathlon trying to achieve my normal pace in a strong headwind.

You’ll feel nervous but because you’ve written a time plan you know what to do on the day you’ll feel in control so you can enjoy your race. Get out there and do the best you can.

After the race

Be pleased with your achievement. Get some food and fluid inside you as soon as you can to replenish what you’ve burned up – high quality carbs and a some protein are best. Get your results, support the prize giving and don’t forget to collect your bike and bits from transition.

At some point over the next few hours make a note of what 3 things went really well then what 3 things you’d improve. Be realistic and specific. We all want to run faster so that’s not something to improve, whereas to introduce speed sessions into your training plan is. Enjoy and celebrate your achievement.


This blog is just a few pointers I wrote down to help some of the members I coach at Petersfield Triathlon Club.