Many of you are making the jump to long course triathlons this season. Going long can be intimidating and anxiety provoking. However, having coached numerous triathletes through their first long course tri, we at TSC know a few things about making sure our athletes are ready both physically and psychologically for race day. What’s our “secret?”
Well we have 5 of them:
- You have a plan. Unless you come from a swimming background, you need a plan for long course triathlon. While you may be able to “get by” in a sprint and maybe an olympic with a few random practices or just swimming a bunch of laps without any direction, long course triathlon is a different beast. The swim is more than completion or survival–I HATE when triathletes say that. It is about setting up the rest of your day for success. After that 1.2 or 2.4 miles you should come out of the water with a smile on your face and plenty of energy for the bike and run. By having a plan, you will prepare yourself to have a great swim and thus a more enjoyable bike and run (assuming you prepared for those too). Too many DNF’s occur in the swim, or during the bike, because the athlete wasted too much energy on the swim. Why risk your race by not preparing with a good plan. But having a plan is only part of the matter, you also need to make sure that….
- You have followed the majority of your plan. As I said before–and I will say it again because it is so important–since the swim is so critical in setting up the rest of your race day, you want to be as comfortable as possible in the water and that requires lots of practice. Like any training program, it is rare that you nail each practice perfectly. There will be times when you cut practices short or skip them altogether. However, as long as you have completed 85% of the program, you should be well prepared on the start line. A properly executed plan will allow you to…
- Know the distance. For half distance triathlons (1.9 km or 1.2 mile swims), you should build up to swimming this distance consistently in practice. Full distance triathlons (3.8 km or 2.4 miles), however, are a bit harder to hit. While you do not have to do 2.4 miles every single practice, we recommend that you swim the full distance at least 5 times in the weeks leading up to your event. And that you swim at least 90% of the distance consistently in practice. Time in the water is equally important. If you predict a 90 minute swim split, you should know what it is like to have swum for that time. After those practices, you should get out of the water feeling relatively fresh, which is why practicing is important. But, swimming the distance in the pool is very different from being in the open water, so be sure to…
- Practice in open water. This can be challenging for some because of lack of access to open water swim (OWS) venues. You need to get in the open water at least 3 times with what you will be wearing in the race, be it a wetsuit, trisuit, swim skin, or speedo (not recommended). A wetsuit in particular can make breathing feel constricted if you are not used it, and it can cause chaffing. You need to practice to be sure the fit is correct. The more you practice in the open water, the less your anxiety will be on race day. Practice with others because it will help you get used to the washer machine that mass starts can be. Swimming in open water is physically as well as mentally challenging so be sure to….
- Practice the mindset. Many overlook the psychology of OWS. Visualizing what it will be like with the turbulent start, no black line to see or follow, the fear of the unknown, even the jittery stomach, can help ease the anxiety when you actually feel those on race day. Make a mental plan for what you will do if you have an anxiety attack mid race. So that if it occurs, you know exactly what to do.
By following these 5 steps, you will be sure to be laughing at the water as you run into T1.
Coach Chris and Kev