Three common issues that derail triathletes in racing—and how to correct them.
In the middle of the racing season, your endurance and lactate threshold values are often on target or well on the way to new heights. But it isn’t until this time of the year, when you have a few races under your belt, that you can truly examine your race-day performances and look for the problems that can’t just be solved by improved physiology.
Mid-season corrections are detail-oriented fixes you can make without widespread changes to your training schedule. Many times they are technique- or drill-based solutions—subtle changes that may not impact your fitness much but can have tremendously positive impacts on race-day performance. Remember, in triathlon, it’s not just fitness that wins the day. You have to be fit and ready, but you also have to minimize waste: wasted energy, wasted time, wasted movement.
The issue: You fade dramatically after the first few miles of the run.
The fix: If you’re slowing dramatically after 2–3 miles it’s likely because your pace is too aggressive in the first mile out of T2. But rather than back off your opening mile pace, you can gain the fitness necessary to avoid the drop-off by doing more transition runs after your bike workouts. Some of these brick sessions should be training-focused: a bike workout with 15–30 minutes of accumulated time at lactate threshold power output, followed by a 10-minute running interval at your open 10K race pace. When your rides are longer (two-plus-hour endurance rides), try a 10–20-minute run at approximately 15–20 seconds per mile slower than your goal race pace.
The issue: You fall apart in the final miles of the run.
The fix: For beginners this is sometimes an endurance issue, but for more experienced triathletes it’s frequently nutrition-related. You need to train your gut to handle more calories and adjust your nutrition strategy to support your expenditure. The exact amounts and composition of your nutrition strategy will be individual, but aim to get your carbohydrate intake to 25–35 percent of your caloric expenditure (if you’re using a power meter on the bike, your kilojoules value is approximately equal to your caloric expenditure). If you’re doing 700kJ of work per hour on the bike, you should be consuming 175–245 calories of carbohydrate, or 44–61g, per hour. Also, aim for 20–40 ounces of fluid and 500–750mg of sodium per hour if you’re not already meeting or exceeding those amounts.
The issue: Your transitions are ridiculously slow.
The fix: This is something we practice at triathlon camps, and what we see often is that many athletes just take too much stuff into transition. If you want to go faster through transition, take a minimalist approach. Separate your gear into “must have” and “might need” categories (the “oh s#&t” bag). If your race is going according to plan, you’ll only touch the “must have” gear. And then you have to practice—not just a few times in the two weeks before your race, but frequently.
Chris Carmichael is the author of The Time-Crunched Triathlete and founder and CEO of Carmichael Training Systems, the official coaching and camps partner of Ironman (Trainright.com). Nick White co-wrote this article.