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…. or in the words of Dr Stacy Sims ‘Women are not small men. Stop eating and training like one.’

This statement on the back cover of her book “ROAR” intrigued me as I felt the differences between women and men went far beyond boobs, balls and menstruation, so I read the book. It inspired me enough to write this blog.

Stacy is a nutritional scientist and exercise physiologist who specialises in the differences between men and women in terms of performance, nutrition and recovery, and how we are affected by environmental factors, particularly heat. She worked at Stanford University in this capacity for 5 years and is now partner in Grant & Sims Nutrition.  A bio that suggests she’s a bright cookie and knows her stuff.

ROAR is superb book. Stacy has a very readable writing style which combines humour with her findings and the science behind them. Don’t worry  though – you don’t need a science degree to understand her! She’s shed light on some of the things I’d observed, things that were worrying me and given me lots of new ideas about building strength and fuelling appropriately as a woman coping with the challenges the menopause brings. My menopausal symptoms started with a vengeance the day after I hit 50 and until I read this book I’d never wanted to acknowledge that it may be impacting my performance and nutritional requirements.

Earlier this year I had really serious thoughts about giving up training (for cycling time trials ) as my performance fell off a cliff which started me thinking my body was too old for the things I was asking it to do. I was trying to take my weight below last summer’s race weight, was monitoring what I ate in My Fitness Pal, eating plenty of protein (recommendations for older athletes from Dr Asker Jeukendrup), wasn’t doing no carbs but being careful.   My coach (Chris McNamara from TrainSharp) took a close look at what I was eating, suggested the problem was insufficient carbs and by altering my diet the old me, hungry for a challenge, was back, smiling.

Now I’ve rear ROAR I’ve a far better understanding of why it happened and am now embracing Stacy’s advice ‘as long as you’re eating healthily with the right balance of nutrients, your body is going to find it’s set point’.  I’ve now stopped trying to reach that weight I thought I’d like to be, am stronger, more relaxed, no longer hungry and grumpy, and have found my set point is 1.5lbs above what I thought my race weight should be.

I’ve read lots about fat burning for cyclists. In fact the UK cycling press often extols the benefits.  During the winter months I did at least one fasted fat-burning ride a week but it didn’t do much to my weight. All around me there were guys talking about the benefits of fat-burning rides and a low carb or carb-free diet (apart from Saturday’s post ride cake!) but as often being the only female rider in the group I kept my fat-burning failure to myself.  But, I’ve now learned I’m not a failure – there’s a very good reason why! It was down to my female physiology. Stacy has found that women’s post-exercise, fat-burning metabolism lasts up to 3 hours after they finish exercising whereas with guys it can last for up to 21 hours.  How unfair is that? It’s logical when you stop to think about it because the female of any species is designed to rear young so she needs to hang onto her fat reserves.  It also explains why guys can lose weight so quickly when they start, or increase, their exercise regime. And, here was me thinking that when guys dropped masses of weight from exercising it was because they’d stopped their secret chocolate/cake/crisp eating habit! 

The book is a guide having a healthy, strong, lean body whether you are menstruating, pregnant or menopausal, and if you’re exercising hard how to optimise your performance. It’s full of interesting and useful stuff.   A few of the gems that were new to me are:

  • For women it’s somewhat harder to recover. Stacy’s advice is train hard, recover harder.
  • During the high-hormone phase of the menstrual cycle (PMS time) it’s harder to hit high intensities and recover from hard exercise. Blood plasma can drop by up to 8% which impacts hydration and cooling strategies.
  • Menopausal women use protein less efficiently, so the type of protein and timing of consumption is very important for building and maintain muscles.
  • Women start sweating later during exercise and sweat less than men so it’s important to find methods to manage and cope when training or racing when it’s hot.
  • Don’t fight your genetics. Work out whether you’re predominantly an ectomorph, mesomorph or endomorph and fuel and exercise accordingly. (the book tells you how)
  • Strengthen your steering wheel, your butt, as it’s an essential part of your core and is a stabilise for your legs

… and there are many, many more. 

If this blog tempts you to read ROAR I hope you find it a useful as I have.

 

Sarah Matthews

May 2018

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Last September I went on an oil painting holiday in France with my husband Chris. Why I hear my cycling friends ask. UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1f54cWas there a sportive they’d not heard about or was I thinking ahead for the time when I’m too old to swing a leg over my bike?

No – I took a chance accompanying him when he did the same course two years ago and fell in love with cycling in the area …. and staying in a catered Gite with fabulous host and hostess Giles and Louise.  Our destination was the Ariege – a quiet part of France many people have never even heard of. It’s not a hugely developed tourist destination and it’s one of the poorest and lowest populated departments in France. With a chunk of the department in Parc Naturel des Pyrenees Ariegeoises, undulating countryside in the north and the foothills of Pyrenees in the south it’s a fabulous destination for cycling. The roads are good, unbelievably quiet and the drivers you do see are considerate.

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Stopping to enjoy the view

If you’re a cyclist you’ve probably heard of, or ridden, the Ariegeoise – a challenging cyclosportive that takes place around June each year starting in Tarascon sur Ariege, a town on the eastern edge of the Parc Naturel des Pyrenees Ariegeoises.

You may also remember the very wet Bastille Day in 2017 when the Tour de France Stage 13 was in the Ariege. The stage started in St Girons took the riders over 3 climbs – Col de Latrape, Col d’Agnes and Mur de Peguere – then finished in Foix. A finished etched on the hearts of the French with one of their own – Warren Barguil – winning the stage. Ironic as we had perfect weather for a week in September apart from the day I rode up Col d’Agnes when it was cold and wet with nothing to see save wet tarmac! Yto7CpIZRWmyJCQXYAWSPw_thumb_1f5b2The upside was that the supermarket at the base of the climb in Aulus-les-Bains did something very un-French. It stayed open at lunchtime plus it had a coffee machine.

 

The evening we arrived I only had an hour to ride before I needed to change for supper I’d been out 10 minutes before I saw my first car so I started the silly game I played on my last visit – count the number of cars I see. It’s more difficult than you think, when there are so few, but 14 in the rush hour make it pretty quiet. Because much of the farming is arable, and there are only small numbers of livestock in any one place, another massive plus for me is the absence of horsefly-type biting insects.

The undulating countryside is perfect for interval training and the foothills have some excellent climbs. Close to where I stayed the straight, flat road from Daumazan to Sabarat was great for time trial practice then taking by a left turn in Sabarat takes you up a Cat 4, 1.7 mile climb to Carla Bayle with an average gradient of 6%.  A short climb by many standards but a challenge nevertheless as it goes without saying that it’s a Strava segment.

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Sabarat

Going to the well known climbs in Europe has it’s place, and I do love doing them, but for me there’s more to cycling than bragging rights about how quickly, or in my case, slowly, I rode the Alpes d’Huez hairpins, Mont Ventoux etc. It really winds me up when the first thing a fellow cyclist can think to ask about a trip to the Alps was how long it took you do do X climb! Looking at a map, memorising the names of some villages and just heading out using the sun as a guide to the direction direction your heading is the freedom most of us can’t enjoy in day to day life. It’s so refreshing and invigorating.  If you’re female and you’ve accidentally worn the bib and brace without the bio-zip you’re not riding for hours looking for a secluded convenience stop!  Having said that a number of reasonable sized villages do have public conveniences.

The only down side is that you won’t find is lots of coffee stops with delicious cakes … but for me part of being on holiday is not doing what we do at home.

Practical stuff

  • You can drive or fly to Toulouse-Blagnac airport. I’d recommend a hire car if you fly.
  • We stayed at www.manzac.com – which hosts catered courses in May, June, September and October or during July and August the gites can be rented for self catering. I’m contemplating running a group week there. Watch this space.
  • Although its not a top tourist destination there are a good number of Gites to rent.
  • Arm yourself with the map 1:100 000 No 173 St-Gaudens Andorra.
  • If you don’t fancy just exploring look at Strava for routes.
  • If you forget anything there’s a Decathlon in Foix.
  • Google translates App on your phone and a phrase book unless you speak a few words of French.

….. I started a TrainSharp coaching programme.

Why?

Because I’d just completed my first full season of time trialling, had some encouraging results and was curious what I could achieve with a proper training programme.

Not a total newbie

During the winters and springs of 2014 and 2015 I’d trained hard for the World and European Duathlon Championships so I was no stranger to dragging myself out on the dark to train, but a large proportion of my training was running. Cycle training was usually a long ride at the weekend plus a couple of turbo sessions a week – generally Sufferfest ‘favourites’ – the ones I knew could get through! But without a fan or power meter sessions were very sweaty and efforts inconsistent and unquantifiable.

It’s easy to find a cycle training programme but had no idea how to adapt one to get the best out of myself without over or under training. I hate talking about my age but suffice to say I’m over 45 so a late starter (my motto is ‘old enough to know better but still young enough to do it!) and I was pretty sure that Hunter and Allen hadn’t written Training and Racing with a Power Meter with a woman of my age in mind.

Why TrainSharp?

During the 2015 season I’d come across Chris McNamara, one of the coaches at TrainSharp, at various time trials (or perhaps it was his twin brother Simon as at that stage I couldn’t tell them apart). He was easy to talk to, knowledgeable and most importantly was out there doing it. Fast!

A friend was being coached by Chris and offered to take me through his training programme, various sessions, the data, athlete feedback, how Chris has helped him etc. I liked what I heard and saw. Plus it looked really well structured and organised and being a bit of a planning obsessive it ticked all the boxes.

Getting started

After a chat on the phone with Jon Sharples about my experience and goals a date was set for me to go to TrainSharp for testing, the essential starting point for any structured training.

Testing is a bit like flying long distance to go on holiday. A necessary evil you have to get through. Tests done, FTP calculated, training sessions uploaded in to Today’s Plan and the day of my first session arrived.

My first session was progressive simulated seated hill reps. Low cadence in a reasonably big gear. A pretty new training experience as it wasn’t one of my Sufferfest favourites!  For anyone unfamiliar with personalised sessions each activity within the session has:

  • a time
  • the training zone
  • a range for heart rate
  • a power range
  • cadence
  • intensity

At this point it’s worth pointing out that I’d only just got a power meter so was a total beginner to the physical and mental challenges of riding to power.

In those early sessions I’d aim for somewhere within the power range whilst alternating between watching the numbers flicker about on my Garmin,  the seconds tick by slowly and a film on my iPad. Initially I found I was either working at the bottom end of the power range or I’d start the session feeling great, do the first set towards the top of the power range then discover I’d gone to hard and my effort would tail off or I’d bail.

But, as I got stronger, and had a fantastic array of data I could use from the sessions I’d done I made the sessions more exciting by setting myself mini challenges.  I’d aim to build the power slightly in each set of repetitions which made the sessions more fun and more testing. When the season started I found it helped me with pacing and riding a negative splits time trials …. apart of course from those ‘A’ races when there’s a stonking head wind on the outward leg!

What I’ve achieved

Aside from some great results what I’ve benefitted from the most is improving two things:

  • my mental toughness, and
  • my focus

Training on the turbo can be physically and mentally tough. It can be boring and it’s lonely. We’re all busy, busy people and in sessions with say 3 x 16 minute low cadence efforts it’s easy to lose focus on the numbers on your Garmin and let your mind wander towards things you must get done when you’ve finished the session.  At best it means we don’t get the most out of the session and at worst we cut the session short.

There are all sorts of techniques and tricks you can use to stop your mind wandering and keep yourself focused. One of my is to apply the saying ‘Eat an elephant one bite at a time.’

Getting the most out of coaching

If you’re thinking of being coached, or have already signed up to a programme, there are lots of factors that will affect what you get out of it but I think these two are the most important:

  • Commitment – signing up then dipping in and out or not following the plan doesn’t get results and is frustrating for you and your coach.
  • Communication – coaches aren’t telepathic. They need to know what’s working, what’s not, whether you have concerns about training volume etc.
  • Planning – if it’s not in the diary it won’t happen. BUT do be realistic!

Whether you’re planning to race triathlons or time trials, or ride in sportives your winter rides are the time to practice eating and drinking on the bike. I’m not suggesting you continue your festive habits into 2016 and take turkey sandwiches and a hunk of Christmas cake to refuel (unless that’s what works for you), but it’s a good time to:

  • practice eating and drinking whilst on the move
  • find out what drinks, gels and solids work for you.

During group rides riders often get into the habit of having a drink or some fuel when they have stopped for some reason. If you find yourself doing that you’re not getting the practice for maintaining your momentum whilst:

  • getting a drinks bottle in and out of its cage without looking down or dropping it
  • taking a drink from the bottle without losing concentration or crashing
  • getting a gel or bar from your pocket, or wherever else you’re storing them
  • stowing the empty wrapper.

Many events ask riders not to drop litter on the course and BTF Rule 22.6 states ‘Race equipment must not be discarded at any point on the course, but must be placed in the athlete’s allocated position in transition’ so you could be penalised for dropping a water bottle or litter and failing to pick it up.

Last summer I took part in Velothon Wales – a fantastic 85 mile sportive on closed roads. It was a superbly run event and the organisers went to great efforts to impress on everyone how important it was not to drop litter on the course. Not surprisingly I was horrified at the number of gel and bar wrappers I saw discarded along the route. It didn’t take me long to work out why when I saw many riders:

  • struggling to get things out of their pockets
  • when they did pull something out, other things in their pocket fell out
  • they weren’t adept at putting empty wrappers back in their pockets properly so they ended up littering the course.

Riding on closed roads is fabulous but littering is the surest way to turn residents against cycling events.

So, when you’re out riding this winter:

  • practice eating and drinking whilst maintaining speed on the bike
  • try different drinks, gels and bars to find out what works for you.  Don’t do what one club member did and ask me 5 days before a race what brands I thought he should use
  • use one pocket for gels and bars and another for empty wrappers. If your race kit doesn’t have pockets attach your gels and bars to your bike with elastic bands or tape, or slide them up the legs or inside the neck of your triathlon/skin suit. Stuff the empty wrappers inside your top.
  • practice practice, practice

Remember – medals are won in the winter …. just collected in the summer!

Going fast hurts!

Going fast hurts!

No matter how slowly you swim…

There’s no getting away from it that what ever triathlon distance you choose the bike is the longest leg. Many triathletes include drills and technical sessions in their swimming and running training to develop muscle memory and ensure body position and movements are efficient and effective. We all want to go as fast as we can whilst minimising the chance of injury. One can do similar on the bike, but without one major component, our efforts may not produce the desired effect. That component is bike fit. I’m referring to a detailed bike fit – not just measuring the basic lengths, distances and angles. There are a number of widely used bike fitting systems – Retul, Body Geometry (Specialized system), GURU Fit System plus you can find many independent bike fitting specialists around the country using their own systems.

Why a I needed a bike fit

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been leant a time trial (TT) bike (thanks to one particularly fab friend) and apart from changing the saddle height I hadn’t changed the set up. In truth – I didn’t know where to start. Nothing hurt apart from the saddle as wasn’t girl-friendly.  The switch to a TT bike had knocked 90 seconds off my 10 mile TT time but as advancing years have cost me time-off injured, and on the physio’s plinth, I was concerned that repetitive movements, often under pressure, and the fact that one is “attached” to my bike by hands, bottom and feet, could result in injury if my position was wrong. Like most cyclists I also seem to suffer from the desire to go faster.  Cycleworks have a qualified Body Geometry fitter who could set me up and review the fit on my road bike which I’ve ridden for 2.5 years.

Working with what you’ve got

The Body Geometry method was fascinating. The fitter, Kieran Ali, started by asking about my riding experience, goals, problems and aspirations. The aim is to set the bike up to make the most of the rider’s attributes rather than get them into a particular riding position. Next he looked at what he had to work with – namely my body. He looked at my foot arches – at rest and standing, the distance between my sit bones, my flexibility – feet, back, shoulders and hamstrings, my natural foot movements and my full stretch. I happen to be very flexible so can touch the floor with my palms which is unusual. I’ve also got quite high arches and my thoracic spine curves out and lumbar spine curves in. Kieran explained that whilst flexibility allows one to have a more aggressive race position if you’re racing longer distances you’ll need to take on nutrition and hydration so if your body is in an aggressive position for a prolonged period it can interfere with digestion and result in vomiting. I’ve met athletes that race half and full ironman and always vomit on the run and assume it’s caused by racing in the heat or swallowing water in the swim.

Fitting the athlete to their bike

The next stage was to put my bike on the turbo, observe me warming up and photograph my position. This was followed by various measurements, adjustments made to saddle height and position, handlebar height, aero bar position and cleat position, then more measurements of angles. At each stage Kieran observed my movement whilst I pedalled at various efforts. Once everything was in the right position he shone a beam on the front of my legs, whilst pedalling, to see if my ankle, knees and hips were aligned. Both knees moved slightly inwards as my arches flexed under pressure. Insoles with some arch support were put into my shoes and hey presto no more inward movement of my knee. Finally I was asked to increase the effort on the turbo to check nothing felt wrong with my new position and Kieran was happy that everything looked as it should. He took some final photos which showed my position had changed substantially.

Rome wasn’t built in a day

There’s a lot involved in the Body Geometry fit so it took all afternoon to have a fit on the TT bike and re-fit on my road bike. Time well spent.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating The first ride on the TT bike (post fit) got me a QOM (Queen of the Mountain for anyone that’s not a Strava fan). Particularly pleasing as I wasn’t riding hard – just thinking about pedalling and how I felt in the new position. I’ve since had a few short Fartlek sessions (50 mins) where I’ve ridden at different intensities for different lengths of time up hill, down hill and on the flat. The new set up felt good, more powerful particularly when I wanted to accelerate quickly and I picked up a few more QOMs and PRs (personal records).

The icing on the cake On Sunday 5th October I competed in the Oulton Park sprint duathlon which had a 21.6km bike leg. I’d raced in the same event for the first time on a very cold and windy day in March when the bike leg took me 0:42:14 on my road bike. Knowing the switch to a TT bike saved me 0:01:30 over a 10 mile TT course I was aiming for a 0:02:30 – 0:03:30 improvement as there was very little wind, I was familiar with the course and felt more experienced having time trialled regularly during the summer. The bike leg went really well. I knew I was going pretty quickly and being more experienced found I automatically stood up on the slight inclines to keep my speed up (just like the very fast, young guys in their GBR age group kit!)  It all felt really good and I overtook lots of other riders.  Don’t think that feeling good is a pain-free experience! 10 mile time trials and the cycle leg of a sprint duathlon hurt like hell. It’s good pain – the sort you get from working really hard – not the saddle or position being uncomfortable. I was gobsmacked by my result – 0:36:03 for the bike leg. A whopping 0:06:11 improvement which I put down to bike fit, summer time trialling and knowing the course. Like many triathletes I love a bit of data so after running a quick sort on the results I was even more delighted to find I was the fastest female on the bike leg – by 45 seconds!

My top three tips to improve your bike speed

Too many triathletes (and cyclists) become obsessed by changing kit and components and their conversation is littered with facts about weight savings and speed improvements. Before you’re tempted by the promise of weigh and time savings consider:

  • investing in a good bike fit
  • following a training programme for the distance you’ll be racing remembering to include speed work
  • racing the distance you’ll be doing in a triathlon in each discipline eg 25 mile time trials for standard distance triathlon

Happy cycling! I’m off to work on my run speed.

There’s loads of information available and some great footage on YouTube showing how to do it, and better still, how not to do it. Sometimes the practical gems we learn over a coffee or work out for ourselves just don’t get written down so here are a few.

  • If you travelled to the race by car/other (ie you haven’t ridden your bike) test ride it for 5-10 minutes as things nearly always get moved during transportation and you don’t want to set off and find your brake block is rubbing on a rim.
  • Leave the bike in the gear you want to start off in.
  • Attach your bike shoes to your bike.
  • Put numbers on you, the bike, your helmet etc. When entering transition it is likely they will check.
  • Get to the transition area early with everything you need in a box or bag.
  • Make sure you have read the race instructions as many are prescriptive about what you can and can’t take into transition. Less is more!
  • Check the pressure in your bike tyres before going to transition.
  • Put on sunscreen.
  • Body Lube your neck if you are wearing a wet suit to prevent chafing. Likewise do your arms if you are wearing a sleeveless model.
  • Body Lube other sensitive parts, like nipples and groin, for the bike and run.
  • Don’t use Vaseline if you are wearing a wet suit – it’s bad for the neoprene. If you don’t have Runner’s Lube or Body Glide, or something similar. (Waitrose Baby Bottom Butter is good)
  • If you have to do a number of laps, it’s worth using a method to count the laps. I put elastic bands on my aero bars and slide them down to the bottom after completing each lap.
  • The bike is the only place you can easily take on food and drink so attach what you need. If you’re doing a short distance don’t weigh yourself down with a full bottle of drink unless you know you’ll drink it.
  • Attach gels/gel blocks/bars to the bike so they can easily be removed without littering. I always stuff gel wrappers up the legs of my trisuit shorts. I never seem to notice them when I’m racing.
  • You will need to be wearing your bike helmet, fastened up, when you enter transition to set up. Helmets are often inspected to check straps are done up enough and correctly.
  • Transition may be open only to the participants – make sure you can carry everything in yourself.
  • The bike racks can be l-o-n-g. Sometimes they are numbered. If not think about where to setup. Note any landmarks. Closer to the swim in means the less you have to run from the swim and out on the run, but longer you have to go in and out with your bike. Closer to the bike exit means longer swim in and run out run, but less you have to go with your bike.
  • Setting up near the bike exit will mean a shorter transition time, all things being equal.
  • Going from the back of the bike to the front, lay out your bike gear closest to you and the run gear closest to the rack.
  • Open up your bike shoes and running shoes by loosening the straps/laces. Putting talc inside helps get them on.
  • If wearing socks roll them down to the ankle – it makes them easier to get on.
  • Unbuckle the bike helmet strap, put the straps over the side, and put the helmet on your handlebars (if it will safely stay there). Undo your bike gloves and put in the helmet. Place your sunglasses, open, on top of the gloves.
  • As soon as you have everything set up, walk to the Swim in. Walk back to your bike. Count the racks, aisles, etc. Look for “landmarks” to point you to your rack. Go down your rack to find your bike. Repeat.
  • Now walk from your bike to the Bike exit/entrance. Thinking about doing this with your bike. See how to get out and where you can mount your bike after exiting, and where you have to dismount coming back in. Now walk back to your bike. Look for “landmarks” in this direction to point you to your rack and to your run gear. Find your bike. Repeat.
  • Now walk from your bike to the Run out. Think about the best way to get there. Repeat.
  • Remember, it will all look different when it’s full of competitors and your blood has pooled in the middle of your body during your swim (that’s what makes people feel drunk or dizzy when they exit the water).

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!

Planning

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.

Training

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.

Nutrition

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.