24 Feb Training for long distance triathlon | MetaSport Coaching
You knew this day would come. You have completed a couple of short course races and been bitten by the triathlon bug. Now, you have your sights set on making the move up to a middle distance race. Well, look no further! The Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO) are bringing the PTO Asian Open to Singapore on 19-20 Aug 2023.
In just a few years, the PTO has shaken up the triathlon landscape. Through increased audience engagement, media coverage and marketing, the PTO have raised the profile of professional triathlon while continuing to drive growth at the grassroots level. And now, Singapore will get our own PTO experience with athletes tackling the 2km swim, 80km cycle and 18km run right here in the CBD!
Those race distances should fill you with equal parts excitement and trepidation because while getting race ready will be a challenge, it’s going to be a great journey. Here are some tips that are going to help you get to the start line:
Expect an Increase in Training Hours & Do the Work
On average, a sprint distance race takes about 1hr 30min. For a race like the PTO Asian Open, you can expect to be on course for 5 to 6 hours instead. Depending on your goals and your current level of fitness, athletes can expect to log about 7 to 12 hours of training a week. If this is your first middle distance race, you should plan to break that week down into about 2 swims, 3 rides and 3 runs.
With time on your side, the early weeks of training should have an increased focus on technique (especially on the swim). As training loads go up (and they surely will), good technique can be what stands between you and getting injured.
As the weeks go by, endurance is going to be the name of the game. Mileage matters. The preference is always for quality over quantity, but for a middle distance race, there is no escaping a certain amount of time spent just making sure you get those miles (or kilometres) under your belt.
Invest in Equipment
For those of you looking for a sign to go out and buy every piece of equipment you have researched online – this is not that sign. This is, however, a reminder to make sure you get the right equipment.
While you might have made it through your sprint distance race on a mountain bike you borrowed from your uncle, you will want to get your hands on at least a road bike for the PTO Asian Open. Simple upgrades like better tires or clip-on aero bars can provide economical upgrades that will shave time off your race. You are going to spend hours on this bicycle training and racing, so make sure it fits and you are set up comfortably on it.
Just like how your body needs some rest after training, your running shoes do too. Even with the latest cushioning technology, it is a good idea to have 2 pairs of shoes to rotate between. Your shoes need to decompress so they can continue to effectively absorb the impact from every step that you take towards race day fitness.
A decent breakfast is all most athletes need to get through a short course race, but race day nutrition is essential when moving up to middle distance race and beyond. There are so many options these days – carbohydrate drinks, electrolyte tablets, energy gels, bars, gummies, to name a few. An important warning is that not all of them taste good. And since the last thing you want is to force feed yourself something terrible on race day, it is crucial that nutrition is tested and used during training.
Your body can only store about 60 to 90 minutes worth of energy so you will have to top up those energy stores while you race. Most athletes do the majority of their fueling on the bike leg as it is much easier on the gut, reducing the likelihood of any G.I. distress. Experiment with a nutrition plan during your training so you can execute it on race day.
Cheat Code – Recovery
You can train the house down but without enough recovery, your body is not going to lock in those gains. While balancing life and training is a perpetual challenge for all age group triathletes, sufficient sleep and good eating habits need to be prioritised. Any spare time can be given to things like massages, yoga and stretching
It can be tempting to train through extended periods of fatigue or illness, but save the heroics. If work or life stress is adding up, take a few days off. All the consistent training you do allows for days off. Your body will thank you and bounce back even stronger.
Another often overlooked piece of the triathlon puzzle is strength training. When the sport has such high aerobic and endurance demands, it’s easy to find yourself avoiding the gym. But even 20 to 30 minutes of resistance band and body weight exercises a couple of times a week can help keep your body firing on all cylinders.
A (Wo)Man with a Plan
Even for experienced triathletes, a middle distance race is no walk in the park. This is a 20+ week endeavour that culminates in a big day of racing. It can seem daunting but there are a lot of resources available to get you there.
Get your family and friends involved. Tell them your goals and discuss how they can support you. Not only will involving your loved ones give you a support system for what can be a very solitary sport, it also holds you accountable on those days when all you want to do is sit on the couch instead of heading out to train.
If it is within your means, you may want to consider working with a coach or joining a training group. There is nothing better than having a bunch of like-minded people pushing and supporting each other through weeks of training. The shared knowledge and energy of a triathlon community can make all the difference.
In that same vein, the right coach can provide a steadying influence when things seem overwhelming. Your coach can assist in structuring the overview of the various training phases (base, build, race preparation and taper), down to the specifics of each individual session if necessary. Leave the planning to your coach, all you have to do is show up!
At the end of the day, think of taking on a middle distance race as getting to do more of all the things we love about triathlon – swimming, cycling and running. With race day in the middle of August, you will have enough time to train progressively, safely and effectively. Committing to the challenge of the PTO Asian Open is going to involve a lot of sweat and possibly even some tears, but you can be sure that nothing will beat the sweet taste of success when you cross that finish line!