Every Wednesday in “Rookie in Training,” beginner triathlete Jason Devaney will share training advice he learns as he trains for his first half Ironman.
It’s finally here.
After all the training (and subsequent writing) I’ve done, my “A” race for the season — Ironman 70.3 Timberman—is only a few days from now.
Am I ready? Did I put in enough training? Of course I’m doubting myself. That’s what happens when your big race is right around the corner, right?
Sure I could have trained a bit harder certain weeks, but overall I’m pleased with my fitness level and I feel ready (enough) to tackle this race.
Here are a few things I’ve learned throughout this journey:
This was the biggest breakthrough for me. I’m a relatively new swimmer with limited open-water experience. Two weeks ago during my final tuneup race, I was actually able to enjoy the swim (despite not wearing a wetsuit). I’m slow, but I can get through it without the nerves getting the best of me.
I followed the advice of Laura Heyer, my Masters swimming coach, and bought a pair of tinted goggles for the race. This week, she had me swimming with no walls, meaning I turned at the “T” to mimic open-water conditions.
And I found a wealth of information on combating open-water swimming anxiety, including mimicking the chaos of a race by swimming with multiple people in your lane. I did some of that, which helped.
This is my strongest leg of triathlon. On my aluminum road bike with a fit that’s far from aggressive, I’ve upped my average speed by 1-2 mph this season thanks to a combination of short interval rides, hill work, and long rides during the week.
But there’s one problem: I ride more like a bike racer than a triathlete. I love to attack hills and go fast on the downhills and flats. This means my power output is all over the map. If I had a power meter, a line graph of one of my rides would resemble the profile of a mountain stage at the Tour de France.
In the past few weeks, I’ve tried to ride at a more consistent effort. Last night I did an hour easy at what I felt was a semi-consistent pace. Tonight will be 25 miles of the same.
My running form is far from perfect, but my 5K pace is in the 7:30-7:45 range. For the half-marathon that falls at the end of this race, however, that will be closer to 8:45-9:00.
And that’s perfectly fine. Much like the bike leg, a consistent effort is more efficient than a fast mile, followed by a slow mile, and so on.
I’ve tried to work my running mechanics by increasing my cadence and landing more on my mid-foot. When I follow those guidelines, I’m able to run faster and have fewer aches and pains. I hurt my left foot after rolling my ankle over a few months ago. It’s still sore but with better running form, I hardly notice it.
This is a big one. At my first race of the season, my T1 was slow, chaotic and horrible. Author and endurance sports coach David Glover gave me some tips after that, things like putting on less stuff at transition. But the best piece of advice he had was very simple: Practice.
My T1 is still a bit rough after three races, but it’s a lot better than that Sunday in early June.
Having a nutrition plan hashed out before your race is essential, and you can figure this out by trial and error during your training. I’ve experimented with a number of bars, chews and gels during the last few months. Now I know exactly what I need to eat and drink during this race, and when.
AJ Johnson, an Education Specialist for TrainingPeaks and a coach for D3 Multisport, said it best: “Proper race nutrition is the single most important part of any race plan.”
It’s also important to know what your body needs to eat before your race too. That’s just as important.
My training partner, who also happens to be my fiancé, knows all too well about making a checklist the week of a race. When we arrived at the hotel the night before the first race of our season, she realized her cycling shoes, helmet and sunglasses were at home.
A few phone calls and two hours later, her father met us halfway between home and the hotel to hand off her missing gear at 11 p.m. Lesson learned!
I tapped out a list of everything I need to bring to this race on my iPhone the other night. I recommend you do something similar.
That’s it for now. Next stop, Timberman!
For anyone interested in following Jason on Sunday, check his Twitter account this weekend for a link to the live race tracker.
Jason Devaney is a freelance contributor to Triathlete.com, VeloNews.com and Competitor.com. A resident of Virginia, he spends way too much of his free time training. When he’s working, he’s typically dressed in either sweatpants or a cycling kit. Follow him on Twitter @jason_devaney1.
Looking for a triathlon to sign up for this year? Check out our partner, the TriRock Series. Their eight events feature a fun atmosphere for triathletes of all levels.