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Race Tips

Your Burning Multisport Questions, Answered

Last week Triathlete’s editors, experts, and pros joined forces to answer questions and discuss topics on every distance of tri for Team Triathlete. Read the recap.

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We recently announced the launch of Team Triathlete—a fun, encouraging community of fellow triathletes. Members of Team Triathlete interact with each other, get access to giveaways, swag, Q&As with professional triathletes and industry veterans, virtual training buddies, and more.

This past week in Team Triathlete we focused on a different race distance each day, with experts answering your questions about nutrition, gear, and training. We’ve collected, edited, and condensed the best submissions for you here.

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Sprint and Olympic Distance (Moderated by author Susan Lacke and former short-course pro Chris Foster)

Q: Why do many people focus on racing long-course instead of trying to become faster at short-course races? I have a lot of fun in the shorter races, but so many training plans, coaches, and other triathletes try to push athletes to train for a half-iron-distance race or longer. – Dave K.

A: One finish line tends to inspire another starting line – when people do their first triathlon, they start to become curious about just how far they can go (the same thing happens with running – look at how many people do a 5K and sign up for a 10K or half). But that’s not the only way! In my opinion, it’s actually harder to get faster than it is to go farther. All-out racing during a sprint- or Olympic-distance race can really hurt, and some people like their discomfort distributed over a slow, manageable trickle instead of one concentrated punch. The beautiful thing about multisport is it’s the ultimate choose-your-own adventure – there’s something for everyone! Susan Lacke

Related: The Triathlete Guide To Sprint and Olympic Triathlon Racing

Q: Do you wear a full wetsuit, sleeveless wetsuit, or no wetsuit for short-course races? – Joshua I.

A: As long as temperatures “approve,” I do think a sleeveless wetsuit is a great solution! I’m always surprised that more people don’t have them. That said, depending on the transition set up, you could conceivably get good enough at taking down a full sleeve to the point where sleeves are a non-issue by the time you get to your bike. Most importantly (and in either case), I’d cut the legs just below your calves for quick leg removal. Legs are what’ll get you (timewise), and pretty much every short-course pro performs that surgery! Chris Foster

Related: Spring 2021 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Men’s Wetsuits

Q: What is your advice on when to get a coach and when to self-coach? – Karena

A: Each person is different and has different motivations. I end up doing a higher percentage of my workouts when I self-coach and try to stick to a plan. TrainingPeaks has some good pre-written plans you can purchase. I use one from MyProCoach, and it helped me get to some personal bests. I found that when I had a coach, I felt less motivated because I wasn’t holding myself accountable. Dave K., Team Triathlete member

Related: Eight Reasons Your Coach Hates You

Half-Iron Distance (Moderated by former pro Emma-Kate Lidbury)

Q: How should I pace myself to achieve my next 70.3 PR? – Joshua I.

A: Personally, I’d say this is about building really solid bike fitness, so that you can ride well and STILL have the legs to run really well off it. So, what does this look like in training? Building in plenty of strong bike workouts at/just under FTP and boosting your FTP – and training your ability to run well off some of these. I’d also use this time of year to develop bike and run-specific strength in the gym. Emma-Kate Lidbury

Related: 5 Ways to Blow it on the Bike

Q: I’m worried about getting enough swim volume due to my schedule and pools around me being closed. What are some ways I can make the most of my time when I can get to a pool or open water? – Guille

A: I’d say you’re going to need to be super smart about making sure you get a good amount of variation in your swim training when you do get in the water. For example, if you can only swim two or three times a week, you’d want one or two of those workouts to be aerobic endurance and one to be higher intensity, maybe including higher intensity work in two sessions per week as you start building swim fitness. – Emma-Kate Lidbury

When the pools were closed down in early 2021, I did dryland swim-focused strength work three times per week. It wasn’t a replacement for the swim, but it definitely prevented me from losing all of my pool mojo. Erin T., Team Triathlete member

Related: 6 Swim, Bike, and Run Workouts to Boost Your VO2 Max

Q: What approach have you found most successful in order to have both a strong bike split and a strong run? – Cassie W.

A:  I always set a power range and a “cap” with my coach when racing on hilly courses. Under no circumstances (short of a super dynamic race situation) would I go above the power cap – if you did go above the power limit or went above it for too long then you’re almost guaranteeing a run course blow-up. Emma-Kate Lidbury

Related: 5 Weeks to Your Fastest 70.3 Bike Split

Full-Iron Distance (Moderated by Dede Griesbauer)

Q: How have you been able to overcome a relatively insufficient run volume via bike/swim and workouts? – Stefan D.

A:  I think you can build lots of fitness with swimming and biking. For long-distance training, durability is a big thing, so any weight bearing that doesn’t aggregate any injuries will be of benefit. Water running, swimming, hiking or even walking a lot will also help. Remember!  Tim O’Donnell was second in Kona a few years back while coming off a broken foot before the race and only had about 10 miles run at full body weight going into the race! The key is to find activity that can build strength and endurance without setting back the injury. Dede Griesbauer 

Related: Ask a Trainer: What Should I Do When I Can’t Run?

Q: How do you carry all your nutrition (both bike and run) for this distance? Do you stop to use your special needs bags or do you typically skip it and avoid the loss in time/momentum? – Joshua I.

A: I have three bottles on my bike. One is dedicated for water and I refill at aid stations. The other two I use for my liquid nutrition. I use UCAN, so I mix two bottles to concentrate.  If you mix in concentrate, be sure you chase each sip with water. Then, I use special needs to refill those bottles. I use a gel flask for my gels and can fit nearly eight into a long flask that fits in my top tube storage.

I definitely use special needs.  If you have to stop to grab it, it might cost you a minute, but think about the time you’ll waste if you under-fuel the bike and end up having to walk the marathon. That’s a cost-benefit ratio that’s easy to calculate in my book! Dede Griesbauer 

Related: A Physiological Look At What The Body Goes Through In An Ironman

Q: What are some mental strategies you use to stay present and focused (and I guess “tough”) throughout an IM? – Kristin Jenny

A: It’s those dream days where you find yourself in “the zone” and the focus comes naturally and the miles melt away – but that doesn’t always happen! I go into each race with a set of focus points: two-to-three things in each discipline. These can be things I did not execute in my last race or things I’ve been working on in training. When/if my mind wanders in the race, I come back to those two-to-three focus points to reset my mind. Having a mental plan going into race day is as important as having a race/pace/nutrition plan! Dede Griesbauer