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In Part 3 of this series, elite 2XU triathletes from around the world continue to spill their secrets to help you get the most out of your big race.
Now the swim is over it’s time to think about your food and drink, especially if you’re doing the longer distances.
Many of our triathletes suggest that if you can’t stomach gels during a race or you find them tacky in your mouth, then mix them into your water or sports drink.
“For Olympic distance races, I take two Endura gels and 500ml of water, plus 500ml of Endura sports drink,” says Aaron Royle. “Make sure you work out what’s best for you in training first, as for some people drinking and eating during a race might upset the stomach.”
Many races are well stocked with gels and other foods and drinks from event sponsors, but Edith Niederfriniger points out that if you’re considering using them, it’s best to test them out in your long training sessions to avoid surprises on race day.
“I like to drink water (with salt tablets if I’m racing in very hot conditions) and also some energy/electrolyte drinks with amino acids, such as GU Roctane, plus I take a GU gel every 30 minutes during the bike and run,” says Edith, who races Ironman distance.
“I focus on eating and drinking during the race even if I don’t feel I need it,” says Thomas Gerlach, another Ironman competitor. “However, your stomach can only absorb so much before it revolts. At some point it starts to come back up and that’s my cue to back off for a bit.”
It’s important to know and understand the regulations on drafting on the bike leg that apply to the event you’re racing. It can be easy to unintentionally break a drafting rule, but if the event allows drafting, then you may as well train to make the most of it.
“For age-groupers, the best thing to do is to make sure you stay back the required seven metres, but don’t give anything more,” says Thomas Gerlach. “Measure out seven metres and get familiar with the distance. If you make a pass, make sure you ride up through the riders slipstream and only pull out to pass at the very last second. This will ensure you save as much energy as possible for running.”
Many of our athletes say investing in a power meter will be your best way to pace yourself on the bike leg (which becomes more important in longer races), although heart rate monitors are also an option.
“Ideally you don’t want to spend extended periods of time either above your intended race watts or heart rate,” Thomas says. “The whole point of Ironman is that it is supposed to feel easy – it should only feel difficult when you reach the back half of the marathon.”
As the transition nears, there are a couple simple ways to help ward off the dreaded ‘wobbly legs’ that come on as you start the run.
“About 2km out from transition, swap down to a smaller gear and start to spin at a really high cadence,” says Australian under-23 talent, Dylan Evans.
Czech triathlete Vendula Frintova says another important point, especially for beginners, is to work ‘brick’ sessions into your training. Bricks is training lingo for when you do two disciplines in the same workout, one after the other with minimal or no interruption in between, just as you would in a race.
If conditions are hot, you need a plan to control your body temperature and performance.
If you’re travelling from cool conditions to searing heat, as Taupo resident Graham O’Grady often does, it’s best to start preparations early.
“Get to your race location early – while you won’t be totally in-sync with the weather, it gives your body a much better chance to adapt than if you show up the day prior to the race,” says Graham, who favours the half-Ironman events. “Hydration is another key. I like to start hydrating a week out, which includes consuming lots of smoothies as meal replacements and drinking low calorie electrolyte drinks.
“On race day I limit my warm-up to try and keep my heart rate down for as long as possible. I’ll also wear less clothes when I’m getting ready and even take cold showers.
“During the race, keep a slow consistent pace – use a heart rate monitor to help control your pace if you’re not confident judging it by how you feel. It’s better to sacrifice a few minutes early on, rather than having to walk to the finish because you overheated,” Graham says.
Of course, what you wear also effects your comfort level in the heat.
”I race in the 2XU Long Distance Tri Singlet because it has cooling properties which help to control my temperature,” Graham says, but no matter how good the quick drying and body cooling ICE X fabric is, you can always add a little old school cooling.
“I like to tip ice down my top and pants,” says Aussie Ironman and multi-event athlete Todd Israel. “I find with the 2XU kit the ice stays there for a while – in Ironman you normally have aid stations every 2km on the run leg anyway. Tipping ice water over your head or under your hat also helps.”
After all the swimming and cycling there’s more chance of ‘hitting the wall’ on the run leg, so most of our team have the same warning: learn what your limits are in training then stick to your plan.
Thomas Gerlach always suggests people invest in a GPS watch so you know exactly how fast you’re running in order to avoid spending extended periods of time above goal race pace. For the first five miles (8km) of an Ironman run leg, he will set his watch 20 seconds slower than goal pace to make sure he eases into his pace.
Brendan Sexton likes to run checks on his body to make sure he’s using the techniques he’s worked on in training.
“I use short cues, such as “breath” and “relax arms” to remind myself to control my breathing and to run with relaxed shoulders and arms,” he says.
Bear in mind that while it’s good to have a plan, there are several factors that can affect your race splits and pace, such as whether you stuck to your planned bike power output/pace, if your nutrition has gone to plan and worked, and how strong the heat and/or wind are.
Rising Aussie triathlete Adriel ‘Bacon’ Young points out that it’s important for beginners to be patient and not get caught up on catching people.
“Look only at the person in front of you (assuming you’re not winning!). Focus on picking off people ahead of you one by one, even if they’re walking, before setting a new goal,” he says.
In the longer distances, the key is to not let others influence your race plan until you’re ready for the final run to the finish.
“If you’re racing for a specific spot and someone goes by, then my simple rule is you never go with them until you are three-quarters of the way through the run distance,” says Thomas Gerlach.
Once you’ve finished, don’t forget about your recovery – aim to eat a snack, begin rehydrating and slip into your compression gear inside that first 15 minutes after crossing the line.