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Will Newbery - Advanced Race Strategies for Olympic Distance Triathletes

Will Newbery


Advanced Race Strategies for Olympic Distance Triathletes - by Will Newbery from 9 Endurance Coaching

It must be said that the following should only be applied by experienced athletes in their 3rd full season and having trained accordingly.

If you are looking to get that extra out of a race - whether it is to qualify for a championship, step on to the podium or take chunks off a PB then there is a good chance that an aggressive race strategy could work. Ideally you would have come through an injury free training block and the last 8 weeks will have been progressive and successful. In other words you are in immaculate shape.

Set up your transition with minimal kit - by that I mean keep your choices to a minimum. Decide what you are going to wear for each discipline and eliminate any potential time "faffing" during the race. For example have your shoes on your bike, don't wear socks, attach your sunglasses to your bike or have a helmet with a visor, have your bike as the lightest and most aerodynamic it can possibly be, without it compromising your power. If you need to "faff" It is better to do it on the bike than standing still.

Walk through transition more than 3 times - in both directions. Find the quickest route, not necessarily the shortest but the one with the fewest turns too. Make sure you know where you are going.

Position your bike so the handlebars are not on the rack. Have the helmet upside down with the front closest to you and the straps are lightly taped to the outside of the helmet.

Transition should be as simple as Wetsuit off, Helmet on, Bike in hand and go.

Start aggressively. Position yourself next to the fastest swimmers. Even though you may not be able to swim with them the whole 1500m, having a 100 meter draft from them will save you seconds, and then people may come past you - latch on to anyone you can find swimming in the right direction! Be prepared for a bit of contact. No-one means to do it but there is a chance you are swimming where they want to be. Stay Calm at this point.

Before you are fully out of the water you should be reaching to unzip your wetsuit with one hand and taking your hat and goggles off with the other - remember we are trying to eliminate "faff" and multitask. 10 seconds after coming out of the water you should have your suit down to your waist. Having held on to your hat and goggles they should be left in the sleeve of your suit. As your bike pull your suit to below your knees and once there take your helmet and put it on. Stand on one leg of your suit and lift your leg up - repeat with the other.

Remember this takes a lot of practice - do not leave this till the day to try it for the first time.

Exit transition the way you decided was the best.

Ride the first portion aggressively. There will be some people around you hopefully - do not let them go. The first 5-10 minutes of a bike leg is the point where lots of people are the slowest - taking time to get their bike legs going. Once you are clear and into your rhythm settle in to your race power/heart rate/speed. Be prepared to accelerate when needed if people come by you. The first half of the bike leg can be like a criterium race. Again your training should replicate this type of riding. The second half will most likely be steadier - this is the time to assess and take on board some fuel. A gel and some energy drink over the remaining 20km should suffice. Still being aware of those around you and those going past you maintain your effort and speed.

Take any opportunity as the bike leg approaches the finish to get ready for the run. Downhill sections may provide you with an opportunity to stretch the legs. Take your feet out of the shoes at the right time - with about 200m to go and cycle with your feet on top of the shoes.

Practice dismounts without stopping.

Have your shoes the right side of your bike (if you run to the left of your bike then have them on the left and vice versa). Rack your bike by the handlebars and put your shoes on. A dab of Vaseline in the heel and pulling the tongue forwards helps you slip them on easier. If you wear a visor/sunglasses/take a gel then pick it up and get running before you put them on. Do that on the go.

Similar to the bike - be prepared to run the first km as fast as you can. Whether this is to keep up with others or even pull away from them. There is something very satisfactory about pulling away from someone. It hurts you but you have the momentum and it can demoralize them. Once ahead - settle back into your race pace. Hold your form and focus on working hard. You only have a short amount of time to hold on and now is not the time to lose focus. Remember all the hard training sessions you have done and make them count. The second half of the run should ideally be faster than the first but as long as it isn't much slower you are on for a good result. As with the swim and ride be prepared to stay with people should they come up to you. Use them to pull you along as much as you can. If they pull away then you have to decide whether to let them go a bit and hope you have a second wind and pull them back in. Sometime there isn't much you can do about it.

If there is anyone in front of you at the tail end then try to close the gap. Remember there may be people in other wave starts that you are "racing" and every second counts. Never give up until you are across the line.

If you adopt all or some of these strategies then there is a chance that you will succeed. However there is also a high chance that you won't succeed. It is your decision but if you go for it then you must commit. Be prepared to suffer (the consequences) but having practiced in training and other races this could just be the high risk/high reward strategy you need to take your races to the next level.

Good Luck!

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