Considering making the leap from sprint- to Olympic-distance triathlons? Experts weigh in with six important things to add to your race prep.
1. Get in the water more
The swim is often the worry spot of many triathletes. With the switch from sprint to Olympic, athletes must tackle a longer swim (in many cases more than double the distance). Scott Davis, P5 Racing coach and director of the OC Tri Series, recommends joining a swim program such as Masters and making sure that you are in the pool at least two to three times per week. Finding a 50-meter pool to swim in and getting in any open-water swim time if possible can also ease the transition.
2. Embrace the interval
Incorporating interval training into your schedule is another thing to do when preparing to tackle an Olympic-distance race. “It can be as simple as 10-second bursts for beginners to hill repeats for intermediate level athletes to three-minute threshold intervals for more experienced racers,” former ITU pro Paul Fritzsche says. “It will help you learn what ‘fast’ pace feels like.”
3. Stop the bonk
The body will need additional calories for peak performance when doubling the distance. “One of the keys we forget about is the nutrition aspect,” says D3 head coach Mike Ricci. “You’ll be out on the course for more than twice as long, so it’s important you know how many and what type of calories to take in for the bike and what your fueling needs are on the run as well.” Going on rides and runs longer than Olympic-distance length can help you address what your nutritional needs will be for the longer distance. To determine your specific needs, consider taking a sweat test to make sure you are getting in the optimum amount of calories.
4. Prepare to balance more
Before you make the leap, consider how the additional time training will affect other aspects of your life. Finding a balance between preparing for the race and other priorities will make the experience much more enjoyable. “As you consider making the leap from sprint to Olympic, consider the time and energy you have available for training, quantify that commitment, assess where it fits within your list of priorities, and then make an honest assessment if you are able to commit to making the jump up in distance,” says Cindi Bannink of Bannink Endurance Coaching. “Going longer is often very rewarding as it presents new challenges and opportunities for growth, however, it will only be sustainable and fun with a healthy life balance.”
5. Make pacing a priority
Once you get into the meat of your training, you should incorporate workouts in all three disciplines at your predicted race pace. “It is easy to get too wrapped up in race day and unwittingly attempt to race at sprint pace,” said Expert Coach Gale Bernhardt. “Heart rate, pace and power can all be used as guides.”
6. Hit the bricks
While the race distance increase on the bike and run isn’t as dramatic as the swim, you still need to prepare the body for the workload of running after the bike. “It’s not something you need to do every week, but four to six times before race day would be a good goal,” says Fritzsche. Simulating race day conditions can make the workout more beneficial including setting up a mock up transition area to get the feeling of changing from one discipline to the other while tired. “I would have my shoes laid out ready to go after a duration or interval bike ride. During the first half of the 15-20 minute run I would push myself to near goal race-pace (slightly sub-threshold) while taking shorter, quicker strides and paying attention to keeping my back in a comfortable upright position.”