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Will Newbery - Race Strategy for Novice Olympic Distance Triathletes

Will Newbery


Race Strategy for Novice Olympic Distance Triathletes by Will Newbery from 
9 Endurance Coaching

This article is intended to provide new and improving athletes with a few ideas to get a race strategy that will help make an Olympic Distance race go as smoothly as possible.

The key thing is to make sure nothing is left to chance on the day. Have a plan that you intend to stick to but be aware of issues that you can be faced with if and when that plan goes slightly wrong. Practise these actions.


Course knowledge is vital. Whether you ride it, drive it, run it or look at it on the internet make sure you have some form of visual knowledge of the course. One important aspect is to ride the last portion of the bike and run the first portion of the run. Similarly if you have the opportunity to swim the course that would help – ideally at the same time as the race is going to be happening so you can get an idea how the sun may affect your sighting.


Walk through transitions at least twice. Make note of any landmarks that may help you identify where your racking spot is set to be. Be aware though that you are not allowed to mark your transition. Set up your transition in a clear and simple fashion. Have your helmet with the straps unbuckled and make sure it hasn’t been tightened by your children! Make sure you have practised setting up and putting on your kit.



Ask the course marshals where the best place to position yourself is depending on your experience. Mass starts involve contact with other people. If you are not happy being involved in the melee it is better to wait or swim slightly further that start your day panicking. Know that no one wants to hit you – it is just that you are swimming where they want to swim!

Don’t start too hard – adrenaline makes you do funny things and you get delusions of grandeur.

Transition 1

Keep it simple. Keep moving and don’t have too many choices to make – such as what clothing to wear. Make those decisions before the start. You don’t need to eat anything, some water would be ok but your pre-race nutrition allows you to get through the swim and first few minutes of the bike with good energy levels. Stay calm – your heart rate will be elevated. For some people the swim is the biggest obstacle and just making the end is a success. Try not to celebrate just yet though!

Remember you must have your helmet on and done up before you touch your bike.


So many races are compromised by going too hard on the bike. Stick to your speed/heart rate/power and trust the figures you are reading. Ignore the people who are racing around you. You are there to complete rather than compete. Leave your ego at the breakfast table and ride to your plan.

Know how much nutrition you need to consume on the ride. It is a great opportunity to get some calories in when you are sitting down! You should be ok with 1 or 2 gels and a bottle of water or energy drink. I would stay away from too many solids. You want easily accessible energy and gels are the perfect source.

The last few minutes of the bike is a good time to spin the legs a little quicker and stretch the calves and lower back.

Transition 2

Practise getting off your bike after each training ride. Again keep moving through transition – if you stop and sit down you may find it hard to get up! If you are going to wear socks then fold them in half and put them in front of your shoes.

Remember you must rack your bike before you can take your helmet off.

A little tin of Vaseline is a good thing to carry on the run.


Start the run gently. See how your legs feel but again trust your GPS device. The majority of people struggle in the first km or so however the quicker you can get into your rhythm the better your run split will be.

Try to run the second half of the race a bit quicker than the first. Depending how long you intend to run take a gel about half way. That should keep your energy level high enough to see you through to the end – solids should be avoided really.

Target people in front of you. Tell yourself you can catch the person in front of you. That will give you some motivation and turn it in to a race within a race.

Hold your form as you get tired. Stand tall, hips up and stick to your pace. When you can see the finish line then pin your ears back and finish strong.

So the key points to success are

Enjoy the race.

Remember why you are doing this.

Practise every aspect, especially transitions.

Pace yourself and stick to your plan.

Good Luck!

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