Title: How to PR at an Olympic Triathlon
Subtitle: Why cycling fitness is king in triathlon
Subsubtitle: and practicing triathlons makes perfect.
As an intro, I PRed today at Lake George, an olympic distance triathlon. I raced this race last year, and so this was my first reasonable race to compare "the old me" vs. the "new me". I was gunning for to go sub 2:20, and I broke that mark by over a minute! I was still mid-pack in the Collegiate males, but this is over 2 minutes faster than any other olympic-distance tri I have done, and over 7 minutes faster than last year! All this, and I have only ran like 40 miles total in the year of 2012! Here are my take aways:
1) Sleep your excuses away: I was nervous going into the race...I have had a mild cold / allergies (I really don't know which) all week, meaning that I haven't been able to sleep too well. I thought this might inhibit my performance, but I did my best to recover anyways. I wasn't feeling much better going into Thursday night, so I sucked it up and took some nyquil to knock me out. I got in a solid 9 hours of sleep on the night-before-the-night-before. We didn't get much sleep the night-before (Friday night), but this didn't matter. I woke up this morning ready to rock it, and I think the good sleep on Thursday night was super important. Not new news, but another great way to prove the validity of what everyone preaches. The night-before-the-night before...sleep! Aint no sickness/allergies getting in my way.
2) Find some feet: Today I PRed in my swim! Have I been swimming much? Nope. Should I have been? Yep. Am I actually faster? Nope. But! I did something I have never been able to do before. I found the feet of someone slightly faster than me, and stuck it the whole second half of the swim. I was able to draft off this awesome BU guy all the way back to the beach today. Not only was I therefore faster personally, but I also got out of the water with a lot more conserved energy. As much as fitness matters, being good at triathlon makes perfect. I have been getting better and better at OWS and drafting with each race, and today was a huge improvement. I learned how to find a good swimmer, how to surge my speed to stay on their feet, and how to sight well enough to not lose them for 0.4 miles. Win!
3) Do your transitions right: Easier said than done, but today: were some of my speediest transitions. Practice and repetition makes all the difference.
4) Get fit on the bike, and then use it wisely: Over the past year, I have put a lot of work into my bike speed. In April 2011, my olympic bike speed was 3 mph slower than it was today. I can't say I have made the improvements that I have 100% wanted, but no matter what, it has paid off. Cycling in triathlon is hugely important, and is possibly the most important sport in collegiate triathlon racing (plug: join the cycling team, and race with them! It will get you faster at triathlon, hands down.). That was obvious today. I not only put up an incredibly fast bike time for myself, but I was able to do at a relatively low effort level (more on that later). The bike fitness I have gain hasn't only made me faster, but has allowed me to conserve energy for the run instead of killing my legs (see TriNats April 2012). Prior to today, I wasn't sure that all my work on the bike was worth it, but I can tell you now that it makes all the difference.
5) Non-drafting? Ha, that's a joke: What we do is non-drafting triathlon, right? Well that is a joke. The official rules state that you must be 7m behind the front wheel of the person in front of you. At 7m, you can get a huuuuuuuge draft! Learn to take advantage of that draft! I saved a ton of energy today by soaking up the drafter of a handful of generous (and slightly crazy) guys along the bike course. Find that 6'6" guy who likes to hammer down the hills. That way, you don't have to do any work! Did it test my fitness? No, but sometimes it is more about being good at triathlon, instead of being fit.
6) Be a skinny (but smart) bitch: Like I said, prior to today's race, I had ran likely a total of 40 miles in 2012 due to an injury. And I still put up a run PR! How? Well I am obviously not a better runner than I was before. I think it had to do with 2 things. 1) being able to conserve so much energy on the swim (because of drafting) and the bike (because of my better bike fitness and drafting). I went into the first 2 miles of the run rocking it! The middle two miles were rough, but I was able to knock out a 6:15 minute mile at the very end of the race. I simply had enough energy in the tank! and 2) be a skinny bitch and get to race weight. As much as I had to admit it, over the past 3 months I have dialed in my nutrition and accidentally lost weight. But I also have to admit, today on the run it really helped! I felt much lighter on my toes, and feeding myself really well has helped with that. Once tri season is over, I will do my best to put that weight back on, but there is something to be said for getting to you "race" weight.
Ok, that's all for tonight. Get pumped for an amazing season. I am so proud of what everyone has done up to this point during the summer race series, and I have high hopes for the Collegiate Season.