For the past two months, District Fitness has been training triathletes who are preparing for the Kinetic Sprint triathlon, while raising money for Higher Achievement. For many, this will be their first triathlon. Here are some tips for beginners preparing to complete their first sprint triathlon.
Workouts: During race week, you want to continue keeping the number of workouts high, while reducing the duration of workouts. You should continue doing speed work (such as strides or intervals), just make sure that the duration of this speedwork is kept to a minimum. A personal trainer can help you tailor your workout to meet your individual needs.
In addition, it may be helpful to practice your open water swimming prior to the event. Swimming in open water feels very different than swimming in a pool. In open water, you have environmental challenges such as waves, sun, and dark water and are without the comforts of lane lines that guide your pool workouts. The closest area for DC triathletes to practice their open water swimming is Sandy Point State Park. However, you can also simulate open water swimming in the pool by practicing swimming laps, while closing your eyes underwater. This will help simulate what it feels like to swim in a lake and make you more comfortable on race day.
Equipment: In addition, you should begin double checking your equipment to make sure that it is ready for the race. If you are going to rent a wetsuit, contact local bike shops to see if you can reserve a wetsuit. The Bike Rack, one of District Fitness’ partners, offers wetsuit rentals—in addition to 10% discounts on parts, accessories, and nutrition for District Fitness clients. While wetsuits are not necessary for this race, they will keep you warmer and improve your buoyancy—resulting in faster swim times.
Furthermore, double check your bike and make sure that it is all in working order. At this point, you should feel comfortable on your bike and I would not suggest making any major adjustments to it before the race. Make sure that your tires are inflated (and not rubbing against your brakes) and that the chain is properly lubed. If you’re feeling uncomfortable about it, take it for a quick spin by the Bike Rack and see if the mechanics can double check it for you.
Finally, you will want to figure out what you’ll be wearing for the race (either for the entire race if you’re wearing a racing singlet or for each section if you’re going to change in the transition area). During race week, do a practice workout in your racing outfit, just to double check how everything fits (make note of any chafing or discomfort) and make adjustments if necessary. Better to find out about any problems the week before the race then during the race!
Nutrition: Similar to your workouts or equipment, you don’t want to try anything new or crazy with your nutrition prior to the race. At this point, you should know what you like to eat before your workouts (and during, if you’ve practiced that). Stick with that plan! Many races have been ruined by people trying new diets or foods prior to a race.
In addition, many people ask me about the need to carbo-load prior to this race. Carbo-loading can be an effective practice for athletes preparing for a long-distance endurance event, as it fills up the glycogen stores that athletes tap into during long-distance racing. For a sprint triathlon, the distances are not great enough for athletes to tap into glycogen stores, so carbohydrate loading is unnecessary. However, many athletes find it to be a mental advantage, so if you feel it gives you a mental advantage that will improve your performance, go right ahead!
Packing for the Race
Packing for a triathlon is definitely more complicated than other single sport events. Here is a list to make sure that you have everything that you need:
- ID (this will be checked at packet pickup)
- Registration confirmation (usually unnecessary, but nice to have)
- USAT card—if you aren’t a USA Triathlon member, you can buy a one-day membership for $10 (this is usually assessed when you register)
- Race outfit
- Post-race clothing
- Any nutrition that you are going to use during the race (sports drink, gels, bars, etc.)
- Water bottle(s)
- Race belt (optional)
- Wetsuit (optional)
- Swim cap (note: one will be provided for you at packet pick-up)
- Bike (please don’t forget this)
- Bike shoes (if you have them)
- Cycling gloves (if you have them)
- Flat tire kit: tire levers, CO2 cartridge, tire pump, spare tube (optional, but nice to have)
- Running shoes
- Running visor (optional)
When I’m packing, I find it helpful to make four distinct piles (one for each sport and a general pile), to ensure that I have everything packed in my transition bag.
Triathlon is a wonderful sport and a sprint triathlon is a great way to dive in! Next week, I will offer some more specific race day tips to ensure top performance that meets your goals. If you are looking for tips on how to improve your performance in triathlons or how to individualize your training plan, contact District Fitness today.