Sunday 6th September. The new normal. British Triathlon had given permission to Welsh Triathlon to put on an event, with strict guidance under Covid-19 rules.
It was very different to normal, but it was absolutely amazing to be racing again! Face masks, separate car parks, and 5-second interval timings at the start, but it worked perfectly.
It was held at the Pembrey motor circuit, where the closed-road bike circuit is also held. The event took the form of an off-road duathlon and started with a tricky 5k run consisting of 4 laps.
It was then straight into the technical bike course. Some parts of the course were tricky with a technical descent and of course a hill (this is Wales!) 10 laps of the bike course made up the distance on this sprint distance of 17.5km bike. The hill seemed to go well for the first 7-8 laps but the last two stung!
Straight back in for a super transition starting off the final two laps of the off-road 2.5km run.
This race was all about seeing how the lockdown training had gone and also overall fitness. Whatever has happened since March has clearly worked with an overall race PB, and an individual 1km run PB. I have to say I wasn’t expecting that but am one happy chap!
As always, I’m extremely happy to fly the flag for Sundried. The trisuit felt so comfortable racing!
About the author: Andrew Jones is a triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
Triathlon, as you know, is a sport with three elements so when it comes to organising triathlon events, it is like putting on three individual events on one day which are all live at the same time. Added to that, we are often running events over multiple distances at one time, which increases the level of complication. So, it is vital that not only our marshals but also our competitors know what they are meant to be doing and when.
Here are my tips on making your triathlon race day experience a less stressful one.
1. Know the route
Most event organisers will spend hours planning the route and carrying out risk assessments on the course to make sure it’s safe for the athletes to take part. Before you sign up for an event, have a look at the course and know what you are letting yourself in for.
I always use interactive maps which means the athletes can download the cycle section to their Garmin or bike computer. It even nails down the percentages of how much climbing they’ll do. The biggest advantage of knowing the route well is that if a sign goes missing or gets blown around in the wind, you won’t go wrong as you'll know the way you should be going.
It is also one of the British Triathlon Federation rules of triathlon for all participants to know the route beforehand, and for good reason. Sometimes locals are not happy about lots of Lycra-clad cyclists and runners interfering with their Sunday routine, so they mess with the signs or simply remove them. One year, we had to rebuild parts of our bike and run course four times on the morning of the event because of sign tampering. Needless to say, we don’t use that course anymore.
But while organisers do their best to help athletes, it is always better to make sure you know where you are going by doing a recce the day before if you can.
2. Take responsibility on race day
We know this is down to a small minority of people, but there are times when one or two grumpy or overly precious individuals can have a much bigger impact than they should on the marshals, volunteers, and event organisers. Without all of these people getting up at the crack of dawn, you would not have a race to go to!
Besides that, there will have been days of setting up the course beforehand – people really take pride in what they are doing. The amount of work that goes into a race is enormous. When one person gets the hump because they are asked for a BTF race licence or ID they don’t have (even though they are asked to bring it in numerous emails!) it leaves a sour taste. Or they blame a marshal because they went the wrong way even though they were going too fast and missed a sign, and that marshal then gets abuse because of it, that isn’t right.
We all have a responsibility to ensure we are playing fair and safe on race day, so please always try to be kind to those around you, even if you are nervous or striving to perform at your best. No matter whether you are at the front end of the race or one of the back markers, everyone is doing their best. Respect each other, and respect the amount of work that goes into putting on the event you are going to.
3. Read the event information before you send a question or contact the organisers
Most questions from athletes inevitably come in the last week before the event, but that also happens to be the busiest week for the event organisers. If you have a question, read the event information before sending an email to ask things that are most likely already answered on the event website or in event emails that are sent out before the race.
4. Have a go at marshalling
Marshals are key to an event and good marshals are hard to come by, so if you take part in events yourself then why not also give something back by marshalling? We give our marshals free food and drink on the day, a cool event tee and a free or reduced-price entry to one of our races as a thank you. Plus, you get to see some of the crazy things other athletes do, which can often help you when you next race yourself.
5. Make it fun first
Triathlon is about fitness, health, and enjoyment. Having raced at running and cycling events, I'd say triathletes are the most supportive group of athletes of all three separate disciplines. Make it fun for those around you when you can; a quick pat on the back from some of the fastest people as they are lapping the back markers can give a huge boost.
A kind bit of encouragement as you see other athletes on the course goes a long way to building a great racing environment for all. We do triathlon because we love this sport and sharing that love on race day means you will have many more people encouraged to sign up and continue to build triathlon going forwards.
About the author: Liz King is the Director of Tri Spirit Events and a multiple Ironman finisher. King has been organising events for the past eleven years.
The New Year's Day Triathlon in Edinburgh is a very special event. It consists of a 400m swim in the Commonwealth pool, followed by 3 hilly bike laps of Arthur’s Seat, and finishes with a 5km road run through the historic streets of Edinburgh. Given the location, the weather is often pretty ‘bracing’. The event starts around midday giving plenty of time for people to wake up!
Sundried sponsored athlete Alice Hector has written a fantastic race report in the form of a poem.
The First of Jan, it's New Year’s Day,
A lovely time for rest and play.
Maybe extended time in bed,
Nursing a touch of ‘tender head’.
A big roast lunch, a laze around,
Watching some old film you found.
But there’s a certain type of fool,
Who likes to go against these rules.
They think, “oh, what a good idea
To do the opposite of beer,
And do a tri at Arthur’s Seat
To prove that we are totes elite”.
These silly people, barely clad,
Fight wind and cold and feeling bad.
Swim some lengths, then rush outdoors
And bike and run like Minotaurs.
I was there, and I admit
To being a certain breed of twit.
We do this type of thing for FUN,
Which lo, perplexes everyone.
The wind was screaming “stop right here,
You crazy athletes: disappear!”
Triathletes are the hardy type
And don’t give up without a fight
And Mother Nature, raging round
All but blew us to the ground.
Swept one direction then the next
Unwitting passers-by perplexed
Whisp'ring as we grunted by,
“bunch o eejits, tha’s no lie”.
Crosswind here and crosswind there,
Dummy out, this isn’t fair!
Finish at last and joy of joys,
I've beaten all but 5 fast boys.
Twas bonus more than anything:
To stay upright AND take the win.
For my efforts I was given
Haggis – big as any chicken.
4 kilograms of meat and ‘stuff’
Apt for being so mighty tough!
Triathlon can be a daunting sport at the best of times, but not knowing the difference between a DNS and a DNF or what a 70.3 is could make it even harder to feel part of the community. We're here with all the triathlon vocabulary you need so that you can mount your TT and calculate your VO2 and FTP with confidence.
How To Speak Triathlon
Aero Bars – These are bars that you can fix onto your road bike in order to achieve the elusive 'aero position' which allows you to ride faster. Aero bars are relatively inexpensive and are a good alternative to buying an expensive triathlon bike. Aero bars are not allowed in most cycling road races and are usually exclusive to multisport racing (in duathlon and triathlon mainly).
Aero Position – Many serious triathletes will spend hours perfecting their aero position so as to ride as fast as possible on the bike section of the race. You can achieve the aero position by resting your forearms on your tri bars or aero bars. This is a notoriously difficult position to maintain and requires a very strong back and core as well as concentration to control the bike. It is not recommended to hold this position while navigating a technical course.
Sundried sponsored athlete Conal McBride holds the aero position while competing.
Age Group/Age Grouper/AG – Triathlon races and results are categorised into gender and age group so that athletes can compete fairly against people of the same gender and similar age. If someone wins their Age Group, it means they came first out of the people in that category; there may have been hundreds competing or there may only have been one other!
Elites or Pros compete separately, regardless of age. Age Group triathletes are amateur athletes who do not get paid but are at the top level for their age; professional triathletes cannot compete in Age Group competitions.
In Britain, the following age groups are applied to BTF races:
Category Ages Youths 15-16 Juniors 17-18 17-18 Juniors 19 19 Seniors 1 20-24 Seniors 2 25-29 Seniors 3 30-34 Seniors 4 35-39 Veterans 1 40-44 Veterans 2 45-49 Veterans 3 50-54 Veterans 4 55-59 Veterans 5 60-64 Veterans 6 65-69 Veterans 7 70-74 Veterans 8 75-79 Veterans 8 80+
AquaBike – For those who have an active imagination, an AquaBike is not some sort of amphibious bicycle. An AquaBike is an event with only a swim and cycle section, ideal for those who aren't keen on running.
Australian Exit – This is a type of exit found in open water races with multiple laps. The competitors will exit the water after one lap, run on land around a marker or monument and then get back into the water to swim another lap. The Australian Exit is popular for spectators as it creates such a sight and allows family and friends to cheer on athletes as they exit and re-enter the water.
Bonk/Bonking – Otherwise known as “hitting the wall.” If you bonk during a training session or race it means your body has run out of glucose and you are running on empty. It may also be down to dehydration and/or not taking on enough electrolytes. Bonking can take many forms, from feeling light headed to physically not being able to move. It's important to nail your nutrition and hydration strategy to avoid bonking.
BOPer – An acronym for 'Back Of Packer' which refers to someone who frequently races or finishes in the Back of the Pack.
Brick/Brick Workout – A brick workout is a training session where you do two different disciplines back to back, usually cycling followed by running. These sessions are crucial to performing well in triathlon as running off the bike can be notoriously difficult and getting your legs used to it is vital for not getting caught out by jelly legs on race day.
BTF – The BTF is the British Triathlon Foundation and is the governing body for triathlon in the UK.
Cadence – More commonly known among laymen as RPM< or revolutions per minute. Your cadence is the rhythm of your swim stroke, bike pedalling, or running stride. A higher cadence when running would mean taking more steps, a higher cadence when cycling would mean pedalling more quickly, and so on.
Century – A 100-mile bike ride. Many cyclists and triathletes consider riding a century to be an important milestone.
Century, Metric – A 100km (62-mile) bike ride.
Cleat – The part on the bottom of the cycling shoe where your shoe attaches to your clipless pedals. You can read our cleat guide here.
Clipless Pedals – Pedals installed on your bike that allow you to “clip in” your shoes. Some people do not feel confident 'cycling clipless' as there is the danger that you could topple over if you do not unclip before your bike comes to a stop. However, if you have the confidence, riding clipless will allow you to increase your power output and therefore ride faster and more efficiently.
Criterium (Crit) – A criterium is a cycling race which consists of cycling several laps of a tight and often technical closed course, usually in city or town centres.
DFL – Acronym for “Dead F***ing Last”. It is no shame to finish DFL in a race.
DNF – Acronym for “Did Not Finish” (the race). An athlete can have a DNF for any number of reasons, from bike mechanicals to illness or injury.
DNS – Acronym for “Did Not Start” (the race). Many triathletes consider a DNS to be worse than a DNF, because with a DNF at least you gave it a go.
Dolphin Kick – Kicking your legs in unison when swimming. Athletes will often do this just after diving into the pool before they resurface and begin their stroke.
DQ – Acronym for being disqualified from a race.
Drafting – In cycling, drafting is when you cycle closely behind a fellow cyclist (or sometimes vehicle) in order to conserve energy. Due to reduced wind resistance because of the object in front of you, drafting allows you to keep a steady pace while using less power and as such is considered cheating in some races.
Drafting is more commonly seen in pure cycling races as many triathlon races are 'non draft legal'. Additionally, drafting takes skill and precision in order not to cause a crash, which is why most amateur races will not allow drafting while professional races may allow it.
Drafting is most commonly seen in cycling races like the Tour De France and is often banned in amateur triathlon races.
Duathlon – A duathlon is a race consisting of a run followed by a bike section, followed by a second run. Duathlon is a very popular sport for triathletes to undertake in the winter as open water swimming becomes inappropriate and still allows triathletes to practise their running and cycling in a competitive atmosphere. Duathlon racing is also popular for those who dislike swimming.
Fartlek – Fartlek is a Swedish term that translates as 'speed play'. Fartlek training is a type of interval training whereby you mix up the intervals to keep your body guessing and make better progress.
Foot Strike –This is a term that applies to running and refers to the way your foot hits the ground. Different people will have a different foot strike, and most people have either a forefoot strike, mid-foot strike, or heel strike. It's good to know which category you fall into so that you can buy the appropriate running shoes.
Freestyle – Also known as the “front crawl,” this is the most efficient form of swimming in a triathlon.
FTP – FTP is a cycling term that refers to the average power an athlete can produce over the course of an hour in watts. Many triathletes and cyclists will use a power meter which measures your power output in watts and do a regular FTP test to make sure they are producing a good level of power.
Half-Ironman – Ironman is a specific brand of triathlon and a half Ironman race consists of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1 mile run. This is considered a good stepping stone for those who have the goal of completing a full Ironman. Half Ironman is also known as 70.3 due to the number of miles the athlete completes over the course of the race.
Holding the Line – Holding the Line is a cycling term that refers to cycling in a dead straight line without wobbling or diverging. Holding your line is an important bike skill to have when cycling in groups.
Indoor Trainer – Also known as a Turbo Trainer, an indoor trainer is a piece of kit that you attach your bike to in order to allow you to ride it indoors while stationary. Many triathletes will use an indoor trainer during winter when conditions don't allow for outdoor cycling. Turbo sessions are notoriously difficult as it can be boring cycling indoors with no scenery and no wind to dry your sweat!
Some turbo trainers will attach straight to the chain ring while others clip onto the wheel.
Ironman – A full Ironman is considered one of the toughest tests of human endurance and consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run. Completing a full Ironman is the life goal for many triathletes and requires a huge amount of training dedication.
Long Course Triathlon – A long-course triathlon or full distance triathlon is an unbranded version of a full Ironman.
Mass Swim Start – A mass swim start is when all participants of the triathlon start the swim at the same time. A mass swim start takes some getting used to and it is not uncommon to be kicked or even punched when participating. Practising with a triathlon club can help massively, such as having fellow members splash you when swimming.
Mdot – The name of the trademarked logo of Ironman. Sometimes when a triathlete has completed an Ironman, they will get the Mdot tattooed on them somewhere as a mark of pride.
Negative Split – If you run a negative split it means that as you progress through the miles, you get faster.
PR – Stands for “Personal Record.” Also known as a "PB" or "Personal Best".
Race Number Belt – In triathlon races, you are required to show your race number on your back while cycling but on your front while running. The traditional safety pin method of attaching your race number doesn't allow this, so triathletes will wear a race number belt which fastens the race number securely and can be spun around when necessary.
Racing Flats – Lighter and “faster” running shoes to be used in races only. These are usually reserved for track running as they are not suitable for running long distances or on uneven terrain.
RPM – See Cadence.
Swim Wave – If a race doesn't feature a dreaded Mass Swim Start, the swim leg will be divided into waves whereby racers start the swim at staggered times.
Taper – The period of time before a race where you slow down the frequency and intensity of the workouts in order to give your body time to recover and rest before the event. Most racers will taper for around a week.
Turbo Trainer– See Indoor Trainer.
Transition – The transition area is the space where you will rack your bike ready for the race. After the swim, you will enter transition in order to collect your bike for the bike leg. Once you've finish the bike leg, you will return to transition to re-rack your bike and head out on the run.
Sometimes there are two different transition areas, usually if the race is point-to-point. For elite athletes, the time spent in transition can mean the difference between a win and not even making the podium, so practising your transition is vital. You will need to practise things like taking off your wetsuit, mounting your bike, and taking on any necessary nutrition. Some athletes spend less than a minute in transition but it is a fine art!
You will enter the transition area before the race to rack your bike and place down any kit you need for later in the race.
Triathlon Bike – A triathlon bike, or tri bike, is a special type of bike specifically used in triathlon. These do not have conventional handlebars and instead use tri bars as defined above. A triathlon bike can be notoriously difficult to handle so they take some getting used to. Not all races are suited to triathlon bikes as they are better for flat courses and ones that are not too technical.
VO2 Max – The highest rate at which oxygen can be taken up and utilised during exercise by a person. The higher your VO2 max, the fitter you are and the better at racing you'll be! There are fitness tests you can do to calculate your VO2 max in order to keep an eye on your progress and see how you stack up against others.
Washing Machine – Refers to the swim start in some races where the water is so choppy that it feels like the swimmers are in a washing machine.
Wetsuit Legal – According to the BTF, wetsuits may be mandatory or forbidden depending on the water temperature. Wetsuits are forbidden above temperatures of 22 degrees Celsius and mandatory when swimming in waters colder than 14 degrees Celsius.
Off-season is the time of year after your last race when you disconnect from the triathlon bubble that we tend to live in for so many months of the year. It is a time to recharge physically but importantly, mentally too. Whilst not training, you can start work on your coming season.
The more rested and relaxed you are, the more excited you start getting about the coming season. This is probably the best time to start planning for your next goals and what your next season will look like. I usually tell my athletes that rather than using their energy doing training, they should use that energy reflecting on the previous season, being objective, and drawing a sketch of their coming season.
However, how you do this is totally up to you. There is a lot of information out there about how to plan a season and there are thousands of training plans for different goals and distances. Here we will give you some guidelines and key points to consider when planning your next races and your season.
Structuring Your Season
There are many different ways to structure your coming season, but a good general starting point is with an Annual Training Plan (ATP) or Macro Plan. On this ATP, you will draw the big picture of what your season will look like; races, family and social events, holidays, and work commitments that may affect your training.
You should have three main training phases: general, specific, and competition. The general phase is mostly about building a base; you need to get your body ready to cope with training and building fitness components such as strength and endurance.
During the specific phase you want to look at the specific requirements of your event. From distances to disciplines to aspects that will have a real impact on race day. These could be power, hills, brick sessions, or open water swims.
The last is the competition phase, when you should be looking at peaking and tapering. Here, you will decrease the volume and intensity of your training. This is a critical part of the season as timing it right can mean success but time it wrong and you may get to the big race too tired or too rested.
Choosing Your Races
With the above in mind, it’s time to consider how to choose your races. When it comes to a new season, we tend to get carried away looking at races so let's stop for a second. Have you considered some of these points?.
- How many races do you want to do?
- What distances will you be doing?
- How will you manage work, family and social time with training for these races?
- When and where are the races?
- Will you follow any periodization?
During a season, we see professionals racing a lot and performing at their peak week after week. As much as this would be a dream for most of us, they train specifically for busy racing seasons with a dedicated coach and have all the support of a team behind them on a daily basis. As amateurs, we don’t have a lot of these luxuries and that is the main reason why we need to plan carefully.
Below are some tips for choosing your races.
Any athlete should reflect on the following: how many races did you complete last year? Which distances did you do? How many hours did you train per week on average? Was this manageable? If so, can you increase this? The answers to these questions will provide you with an opportunity to be objective and think more carefully about realistic goals.
Next, consider 2-3 big goals that you may have for the coming season. These may be to complete a longer distance, improve your time in a previous event or distance, or race at a new exciting location. You may notice that all of these goals start with a verb. This is on purpose as I believe the first goal for any athlete should be qualitative. I would always suggest to set challenging goals that seem quite scary, but for which you can draw a plan to achieve them with hard work and dedication.
Find events that match
With those goals in mind, it is time to start looking at possible events that match the above conditions. Selecting 2-3 main goals will allow you to break down the season into “mini-seasons” or cycles in the macro plan. These will be your A races and will define the rest of your year. Once these events have been decided, the cycles within the season focus on getting to perform at these A races.
Considering the distance of your A races, you will need to be careful with the timing within the season. This is especially true for long distance events as those doing 2 or 3 Ironman triathlons during a season need extra care to avoid injuries and over training. As a rule of thumb, I recommend any athlete to think about races that will allow them to have a few days or weeks afterwards to recharge mentally and physically to then start a new mini season. This is quite a personal decision and you’ll probably know what works best for you with experience.
B Races (Control Races)
So you’ve taken your time to think about your general objectives for the season, your A races and other qualitative goals, and you have considered how to distribute them throughout the season. Now it’s time to tell you a not-so-secret secret. In order to compete and perform well, you must compete beforehand and this applies to any discipline and distance.
Although not a must, I always encourage athletes to plan for some events before their main goals. These will be secondary races (B races) or control races. Why? Because they are the perfect test before the A-race to make as many mistakes as needed trying your strategy, kit, nutrition and any other variable that may play an important role in the A race.
Fitness for these races may not be at its peak, but that's not the goal and it’s important to step on the start line being aware that you're not here to compete or win. Instead, it’s an opportunity to measure where you are in your journey and to identify weak areas that need improvement.
These races will normally be close to your A race; I recommend 6 to 8 weeks before given that at this point you should be working specifically for your event already and be well prepared.
There will be a third type of race that you can consider and that can play a big role in your season: C races. These may be a 5k or 10k race that substitute the longer run on a weekend, or it may be a triathlon or duathlon where you want to have some fun with friends and is treated as a quality session for a given week. It is very important to remember that triathlon is a lonely sport when you train on your own and these C races add a lot to the sense of community and enjoyment away from taking things too serious.
These races may be at the end of smaller blocks of training that we normally call mesocycles. These mesocycles tend to be blocks of 3 or 4 weeks in which you will work in specific areas and fitness components and can also be used to track improvements in specific areas you may want to focus during the season.
About the author: Pablo Marcos is a British Triathlon and Ironman Certified Coach with experience coaching from beginners to elite athletes in all disciplines and distances.