• Travelling As A Triathlete: Expert Guide To Racing Abroad

    travelling as a triathlete expert guide to racing abroad

    From sunburn and jet lag to ear infections from the open water swim, travelling as a triathlete isn't always glamorous. We're here with our top tips to stay comfortable and make the most of your trip when travelling abroad for a race.

    Packing

    Packing for a triathlon race abroad will be different to packing for a regular trip. Triathlon requires a lot of kit and gear so you'll want to pack carefully and cleverly so that you can stay within your luggage weight restriction and not damage any of your precious cargo. 

    Triathlon coach Mark Griffin says, "Take old clothes and shoes for the big overseas trips and leave them behind before you come home. This will make room in your luggage for any event kit you buy and anything else like trophies or souvenirs."

    Team GB triathlete Louise Douglass says, "Pack your triathlon essentials – helmet, goggles, trisuit – in your hand luggage if possible so that you're covered if your case gets lost. Also, make sure you remember to pack your bike-building tools!"

    How to pack a wetsuit

    Your triathlon wetsuit was no doubt an expensive investment so you don't want it to get damaged in transit. Here is best practice for packing a wetsuit into a suitcase:

    • Turn the wetsuit inside out.
    • Place a thick towel down on the floor and put the wetsuit on top of it.
    • Cross the arms of the suit together and fold the suit in half so the head is on top of the feet.
    • Starting at the top, carefully roll the suit up.
    • Place carefully in suitcase.

    triathlon flat lay packing holiday vacation

    Transporting Your Bike

    As with your wetsuit, your triathlon bike was likely a very expensive purchase and so making sure it makes it to your race unscathed is very important. You have four main options for transporting your bike overseas:

    1. Take it apart and pack it in your luggage
    2. Check it in at the airport in a hard bike box
    3. Check it in at the airport in a soft bike bag
    4. Use a bike courier service to send the bike

    Check with the airline/operator that you're using about their fees for bike boxes. Most charge a flat rate regardless of weight so if that's the case, cram as much in there as you can as this keeps the weight out of your standard luggage and keeps the costs down.

    Ironman triathlete Luke Lambert says, "As soon as you arrive at your hotel, build your bike and go for a ride to make sure everything works and nothing has been damaged in transit. Give yourself an extra day in your itinerary in case there’s a mechanical issue - sometimes foreign bike shops can be difficult to deal with!"

    triathlete travel bike box Sundried triathlon abroad

    Team GB Age Group triathlete Holly Dixon travelling from the UK to Spain for the ITU Multisport World Championships 2019.

    Tips for flying

    If you're travelling on a flight for many hours, you don't want to end up with travel-induced injuries or issues in your legs. It's definitely worth paying for extra legroom so that you can stretch your legs and don't end up with cramps from being stuffed into a tiny seat. Walk around on the plane to keep your circulation healthy and you can even do lunges or squats to keep your legs feeling loose and limber.

    Seasoned triathlete Alice Tourell North says, "For long-haul flights, dose up on multivitamins the week before to avoid catching any viruses from the conditioned air. Also, stay hydrated at all times and compression socks or tights can never hurt."

    Team GB triathlete Paul Suett says, "On the flight, keep hydrated and when you're checked into the hotel have a good stretch and go for a little run to get the body working again."

    airplane airport flying travel

    Jet Lag

    One of the worst things about travelling halfway across the world is suffering from jet lag. A good rule to go by is that it will take one day of recovery or adjustment for every time zone you travel through.

    For example, travelling from the UK to the east coast of the USA is a 5-hour time difference so plan to arrive at least 5 days before the race so that you can get over your jet lag.

    If you're travelling to the west coast of the USA, this increases to 8 hours so you'd need over a week to readjust and recover. It may seem like a lot and an expensive extension to your stay, but it'll  be well worth it so that you can perform at your best during the race. 

    time jet lag travel sleep

    Food and drink

    The last thing you want is to end up feeling ill or nauseous just before you race and not being able to perform at your best. It's advisable not to eat anything served on the plane as aeroplane food is dosed up with sodium and other chemicals to preserve it and so that you can taste it at high altitudes. If it's a long flight, take your own food and non-perishable snacks with you so that you know exactly what's going into your body and that it won't disagree with your digestive system.

    Most athletes who have competed abroad also know that all races won't have the fuel and hydration that you're used to at their aid stations. If you've been training with specific gels or foods and drinks, it's definitely best to take your own so that you're not caught short or end up with gastric issues due to eating or drinking something your body doesn't like.

    Play it safe at the hotel and don't eat anything you wouldn't usually eat, at least before the race. Afterwards, you can go nuts and treat yourself!

    food travel healthy racing triathlon

    Unforeseen illnesses/injuries

    Finally, you may need to prepare for any eventualities that you haven't planned for such as a big bike crash or an ear infection from the open water swim. Make sure you take out travel insurance so that you're covered for any medical eventualities that might occur and pack some bandages or plasters/band-aids in case you pick up some scrapes or cuts and scratches. 

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • You Can Be An Ironman – 4. Nutrition

    Ironman training plan nutrition Sundried

    Whether you’re new to the sport of triathlon or you’re looking to take your racing to the next level, this series of articles will help you on your journey to your first Ironman. Covering numerous topics and answering all your questions from fitting the extensive training around work and family life to a complete kit guide, example workouts, and how to choose a race including testimonials from those who have done them. This is your ultimate companion to becoming an Ironman.

    Read Chapter 1 Choosing To Be A Triathlete

    Read Chapter 2 Making The Leap To Ironman

    Read Chapter 3 Training

    When it comes to training and racing for hours at a time, nailing your nutrition and hydration are key. Working out a strategy that works for you personally is paramount and sticking to it could be the difference between a PB and a DNF.

    What to eat during Ironman triathlon

    One of the biggest debates surrounding Ironman triathlon nutrition is whether to go with real food or not. Many athletes will opt for gels and sugary drinks, but you might find that eating real food such as protein balls and homemade snacks work better for you. This takes trial and error in training as certain foods might upset your stomach while you’re moving. Some of the best foods to eat during a long endurance event like an Ironman include:

    • Protein balls
    • Flapjack/Granola
    • Peanut butter sandwiches
    • Pretzels (good for sodium but can be very dry, especially if you’re dehydrated)
    • Pickles and pickle juice
    • Dried or fresh fruit
    • Sugar cubes
    • Energy gels
    • Sports/electrolyte drink

    Top Tip: If you take on a lot of energy gels and sugary drinks during training, brush your teeth as soon as you get home to protect against cavities and tooth loss due to the excessive sugar consumption.

    Ironman hydration strategy

    A hugely important part of staying hydrated is taking on salt as well as water. As you sweat, you lose sodium and electrolytes and if you only drink water, you could enter a state known as hyponatraemia. This is when your body's sodium levels are dangerously low and in this context is caused by replenishing water but not electrolytes or salts.The best way to stay safe and hydrated when doing an Ironman, especially in the heat, is to top up your sodium before you run and then keep it topped up by drinking a sports drink or taking electrolyte tablets.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • You Can Be An Ironman – 3. Training

    Ironman cycling training Sundried

    Whether you’re new to the sport of triathlon or you’re looking to take your racing to the next level, this series of articles will help you on your journey to your first Ironman. Covering numerous topics and answering all your questions from fitting the extensive training around work and family life to a complete kit guide, example workouts, and how to choose a race including testimonials from those who have done them. This is your ultimate companion to becoming an Ironman.

    Read Chapter 1 Choosing To Be A Triathlete

    Read Chapter 2 Making The Leap To Ironman

    If you’ve got this far, it means we haven’t scared you off with the costs, commitment, and dedication required to complete an Ironman. Training for an event like this has to blend seamlessly with your everyday life so that it is manageable and enjoyable. Find a training schedule and plan that work for you as an individual and meet the needs of your work and family life. You need to enjoy swimming, cycling, and running for long periods of time and it is worth entering smaller races in the interim to prepare you for the big event.

    Example training schedules

    Our first example training schedule is based around the fictional John. John works 40 hours a week in an office job 10 miles away from his home and has a goal of completing a half Ironman in 9 months’ time. He works from 9am to 6pm and has a wife and two young children.

    Day Of The Week

    Activity

    Explanation

    Monday

    Rest

     

    John does the heaviest and hardest of his training at the weekend, so Mondays are the perfect day to rest and focus on work and family.

    Tuesday

    Swim session before work

    7am-7.30am

     

     

    Cycle to and from work

     

    Evening gym session

    6pm-7pm

    John does a quick 30-minute swim session before work to focus on drills and technique.

     

     

    Cycling the 20-mile round trip to and from work means John can fit in extra time in the saddle and enjoys the benefit of blasting past the traffic.

    John finishes work at 6pm, so he goes straight to the gym on his way home and then eats dinner with his wife before tucking his children into bed.

    Wednesday

    Fasted run before work

    7am-7.30am

     

    Cycle to and from work

     

     

     

    Evening swim session

    9pm-10pm

    John doesn’t start work until 9am and his cycle commute only takes him 40 minutes, so he has plenty of time for a quick 5k run before breakfast without having to get up too early.

     

     

     

    He eats a light dinner with his family when he gets home from work and then heads to the pool for a late session when it’s quiet at his local leisure centre.

    Thursday

    Cycle to and from work

     

    Lunchtime run

    12pm-12:40pm

    On a Thursday, John uses his lunch hour to go for a 40-minute pace run. Knowing that he has a time limit and has to get back to the office means he is extra motivated not to slack on his pace. He then has 20-minutes to freshen up and eats his lunch at his desk.

    Friday

    Cycle to and from work

     

     

    Lunchtime stair climb

    12pm-12.45pm

     

     

     

    Evening brick session

    6pm-7.30pm

    John works in a building with 30 floors, so at lunchtime he changes into his training gear and runs to the top of the building and down again. It’s a great way to condition his legs without having to hit the gym.

     

     

     

    John finishes work early on Fridays and uses this opportunity to do a bike-run brick session. His legs are already primed from the stair climb so it’s great practice for running on tired legs.

    Saturday

    Long club ride

    8am-10am

    John is part of his local cycling club and every Saturday morning does a long ride of 30+ miles with them. Occasionally they do time trials and other team events which helps John to improve his speed on the bike as well as group cycling skills.

    Sunday

    Long run

    8am-11am

    Sunday is long, slow run day where John is able to process the stresses of the week and spend some time clearing his head. He runs anywhere from 10 to 20 miles for his long run.

     

    running triathlon training Ironman Sundried

    Our second example training schedule is for fictional working mum Amy. As a mum, Amy is worried about fitting in training around her busy life, but she enjoys the workouts and still has time to spend with her husband and school-age children. She works full-time as a receptionist at a gym and her hours are 6am to 2pm. She has a background in fitness and has a goal of completing a full Ironman in 12 months’ time.

     

    Day Of The Week

    Activity

    Explanation

    Monday

    Afternoon gym session

    2pm-3pm

     

     

    Evening run

    8pm-9pm

    Amy’s husband does the morning school run while she is at work and her children don’t finish school until 4pm due to extra-curricular clubs, so she has time to enjoy a one-hour gym session as soon as she finishes her shift before picking up the kids.

    Once the kids are in bed and after eating a light dinner with her husband, Amy heads out for a 1-hour pace run to keep the legs moving after a tough gym session and to work on her fitness.

    Tuesday

    Evening brick session

    5pm-7pm

    As Amy starts work so early in the morning, it’s not realistic for her to train before work. She is able to enjoy the afternoon with her children and then has her mother watch the children in the evening while she does a bike-run brick session. She is finished before her husband gets home from work so they can eat dinner together.

    Wednesday

    Afternoon 1-2-1 swimming lesson

    4pm-5pm

    Amy’s children have extra-curricular clubs on a Wednesday so she uses this time to work on her swimming with her dedicated swim coach. She uses the opportunity to get in extra training by cycling the 30-mile round trip to and from the pool.

    Thursday

    Rest day

    After three consecutive days of training, Amy takes a well-deserved complete rest day. Her husband works from home on Thursdays so she is able to make the most of spending all afternoon and evening with her family.

    Friday

    Afternoon brick session

    2pm-4pm

    On a Friday, Amy cycles the 15 miles to work so that she can make her afternoon commute contribute to her brick session. As soon as she gets home, she heads out for a one-hour run.

    Saturday

    Long bike ride

    6am-10am

     

     

     

    Long run

    5pm-8pm

    As she is already used to getting up early, Amy has no problem heading out for an early bike ride on a Saturday morning.

     

     

    In the evening, she heads out for a long run to get her body used to the endurance needed for a full Ironman. Her children are often at social events or friends’ houses on a Saturday and her husband uses this opportunity to see friends.

    Sunday

    Swim session

    6am-8am

    Long brick workout

    6pm-9pm

    Another early session for Amy, she uses this to work on her swimming endurance.

     

    Amy does a late evening brick workout to get used to working out while feeling tired. She has a big lunch in the middle of the day to fuel her without weighing her down.

    running training Parkrun triathlon

    Tri Camps

    For those who are looking for an intensive training block without the distractions of work and home life, a tri camp is the perfect solution. These are now a lucrative business and as such there is lots of choice on offer. Usually set in beautiful, warm locations like Lanzarote and Ibiza, a tri camp is the perfect place to focus on uninterrupted training overseen by an expert coach and surrounded by like-minded athletes.

    Countries like Lanzarote and Ibiza provide endless, smooth roads for cycling, large pools for swimming, and plenty of hills for running. Not only this, the altitude and heat means you benefit from extra conditioning that you might not otherwise get at home. If a tri camp is something you’re interested in, we have detailed information about travelling as a triathlete in Chapter 6.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • You Can Be An Ironman – 2. Making The Leap To Ironman

    YOU CAN BE AN IRONMAN CYCLING TRIATHLON SUNDRIED

    Whether you’re new to the sport of triathlon or you’re looking to take your racing to the next level, this series of articles will help you on your journey to your first Ironman. Covering numerous topics and answering all your questions from fitting the extensive training around work and family life to a complete kit guide, example workouts, and how to choose a race including testimonials from those who have done them. This is your ultimate companion to becoming an Ironman.

    Read Chapter 1. Choosing To Be A Triathlete

    The Ironman brand

    As you may or may not already know, Ironman is a private brand and is only attributed to certain races organised by Ironman. Although the name is often used to describe non-affiliated triathlon distances, if it’s not organised by Ironman, it’s just a middle or long distance triathlon. Not only this, Ironman races feature slightly different distances to unbranded races.

    Ironman Distances Versus ITU Distances

    Middle distance triathlon: 2.5km swim   80km bike    20k run

    Half Ironman (70.3):        1.9km swim    90km bike    21.1km run

    Long distance triathlon:   4km swim      120km bike   30km run

    Full Ironman (140.6):      3.8km swim    180km bike   42.2km run

    The concept of Ironman was born of a debate: who are the fittest out of swimmers, cyclists, or runners? The debate was kicked off by Naval Officer John Collins who was stationed in Hawaii and attending an awards banquet at the Waikiki Swim Club in the late 1970s. The sport of triathlon was still in its infancy and Collins had taken part in a few in San Diego. In February 1978, along with 14 other competitors, he came to the shore of Waikiki Beach for what would be the first ever Ironman race.   

    Today, Hawaii still holds a special place in the heart of Ironman as it is the setting for the world-famous Ironman World Championships which take place in Kona every year. Some of its most notable winners include Chrissie Wellington, Patrick Lange, and Daniela Ryf.

    Daniela Ryf Ironman Hawaii Sundried

    How is Ironman different?

    Ironman is a lifestyle, a way of life. Ironman races are said to be some of the most well-organised in the triathlon world and although expensive, you certainly get your money’s worth. At an Ironman race, you can expect all of the frills: race briefs in your home language no matter where you’re from, a dedicated event village which is quite literally a village, music and dancing, food and drink, cheerleaders to rally you to the finish, and those all important words once you cross the line: you are an Ironman.

    As Ironman is a corporation, customer service and attention to detail are everything. They have a reputation on the line, after all. Once you decide to enter an Ironman race, you will be part of a community and that will stick with you forever. Ironman legend Ken Glah says, “so many people are doing Ironman as a 'one and done' bucket list event and not because they love the sport and whole environment.” This is an important point. Ironman racing has a good chance of taking over your entire life, so make sure you’re ready for that commitment.

    However, all that said, Ironman races are also designed to be brutally tough and are very far removed from your local friendly ‘try a tri’. They purposely include very hilly bike routes, swims in unpredictable and wild open water, and may also take place in a country with a particularly challenging climate. Long distances aside, the courses are designed to be gruelling and arduous and require just as much mental strength as physical.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • You Can Be An Ironman – 1. Choosing To Be A Triathlete

    open water swimming triathlon

    Whether you’re new to the sport of triathlon or you’re looking to take your racing to the next level, this series of articles will help you on your journey to your first Ironman. Covering numerous topics and answering all your questions from fitting the extensive training around work and family life to a complete kit guide, example workouts, and how to choose a race including testimonials from those who have done them. This is your ultimate companion to becoming an Ironman.

    Introduction to triathlon

    So you’ve heard of triathlon and Ironman racing but you’re not all that sure what it entails. You know that there are three disciplines - swim, bike, run - and that it’s tough. However, triathlon is a hugely complex sport and there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. Once you decide you want to be a triathlete, you have to go all in. Anyone can sign up for a 10k, half marathon, or even full marathon, put in some training time, turn up on the day and get through it relatively unscathed. But triathlon is different. Read on to find out why.

    Sundried Southend Triathlon Ironman training open water swim

    Do you have what it takes?

    The question a lot of people ask before diving head first into the world of triathlon is “can I do this with no experience?” The good news is that the answer is a resounding yes. Anyone can train to be a triathlete and even an Ironman, but you have to have dedication and train hard. You also have to be willing to spend a fair amount of money and be consistent. This means making sacrifices and turning this into a lifestyle. Early morning training sessions while everyone else is asleep will become the norm and missing meals out and drinks with friends are just part and parcel of the process. If this is not something you’re willing to do, it’s time to rethink.

    Before embarking on a journey as an Ironman triathlete, you should consult with your family. Your training, spending, and racing will have a huge impact on them, especially if you have a spouse and children. Talk it through and explain your intentions. Team GB Age Group triathlete Leigh Harris explains, “It’s very important to get your family on board with what you want to achieve. You won’t be able to do it without their support and unless you can communicate your goals with them, then it’ll be hard for them to understand your training.”

    If you really get the triathlon bug, it could mean travelling abroad for races and this means spending even more money and planning family holidays around your training and racing schedule. Team GB Age Group triathlete Alice Tourell even combined her racing at the World Age Group Championships in Australia with her honeymoon. If your family are fully supportive and on board, it will make the process a lot more enjoyable for everyone involved. Ironman racing itself may be tough enough, but it’s the training that really takes its toll and if you can’t enjoy that, you should rethink the entire plan.

    triathlon transition triathlete Ironman racing

    So you want to be an Ironman

    Depending on your sporting background, there may be a lot of kit you need to buy before you begin your triathlon journey. This sport is one that cannot be done halfway; you have to go all-in and that means spending money on a road bike, helmet, trisuit, swimming lessons, race entry… and that’s just if you’re going to go as basic as possible. If you find you fall in love with triathlon, you’ll end up spending even more on a specialist triathlon bike, cleats and clipless pedals, aero helmet, a triathlon coach, wetsuit, and more. The costs can really mount up so make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.

    Next, you need to make sure you’ve got the time to train; the training is most of the experience and it has to be enjoyable. Make sure you know why you’re doing this and remember that it’s supposed to be fun. If you’re not a swimmer, you’ll definitely need specialist triathlon swim coaching as open water swimming is a far cry from swimming lengths at your local leisure centre.

    Ironman racing is all about endurance and so you need to get in the time on your feet and in the saddle. If you have a particularly demanding job or home life, make sure you’ll be able to fit training in around your daily schedule. At a minimum, you’re looking at 10-12 hours of training a week to successfully hit your goal of becoming an Ironman. It’s definitely not something you can achieve on a wing and a prayer.

    Finally, you need to think about joining a triathlon club. Training on your own is certainly a viable option, but you will miss out on important training practices like mass swim starts and drafting. These are skills that could be key to your success and are what sets Ironman racing apart from any other sport. Think about joining a triathlon club that’s local to you, especially as being surrounded by like-minded people with a joint goal could really help you with motivation.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren