It's been a while since I've written an Iron distance race report. It's also been some time since I had a successful race of this length. Throughout the successes and failures, I've learned a few things about having your head in the right place so that you enjoy the event. I write this race report not only to share an experience but also to help you consider several mental preparation activities for your next event.
Each time you do an Iron distance event, you leave a portion of yourself on the course. You don't notice it as much during the first 10 or so. Thereafter, it begins to wear on you. Self expectations get higher, recovery takes longer as you get older, while your competition gets smaller in numbers they get faster, you get better at understanding the pain that awaits you on the course, and you learn those things that work well for one race don't necessarily work for the next.
Triathlon is an expensive sport because of the equipment needed for all three disciplines. Whether it's entry-level, top of line, or anything inbetween, you want to maximize the return on your investment. Your bike investment is important, but if it doesn’t fit, an expensive purchase may end up doing more harm than good. In the same way you would never run in shoes that were two sizes too big, you should avoid training or racing on a bike that hasn’t been specially fit for your composition, riding experience, ability, goals, and riding style.
A successful triathlon bike fit results in comfort, aerodynamics, increased power, speed, endurance, and confidence. But none of these are possible without first finding a comfortable saddle. Therefore a good bike fit begins with the correct saddle selection. If you're not comfortable in the saddle, the remainder of the bike fit will not be precise or effective because you will continue to compensate for saddle discomfort.
Saddle selection begins by understanding how to use a triathlon saddle. Observe experienced triathletes in the aero position; you could see much of the saddle unused behind the athlete. In the aero position, a triathlete’s center of gravity is more forward than on a road bike. Your weight is shared across 5 pressure points; saddle, pedels, and arm rests. Comfort in the aero position includes having the confidence to share your weight across the bike. To do this, you need to use your saddle as support, not a rest area. A good bike fit includes a saddle that allows you spend 80% or more of your ride time in the aero position.
Swim panic, and associated hyperventilation, is often experienced by both new triathletes and veteran triathletes in cold water. It’s a misnomer this is a concern limited to new triathletes. Dealing with triathlon swim panic is also why some experienced triathletes think twice before committing to cold-water events. Understanding the factors that contribute to open water swim panic, preparing accordingly, recognizing the emotion when it begins, and knowing how to react are all important towards overcoming a negative experience and having good swim regardless of your triathlon experience level.
Hyperventilation is rapid or deep breathing that can occur with anxiety or panic. It is also called over-breathing, and may leave you feeling breathless. Involuntary hyperventilation can occur in response to both physical and/or emotional stress or fear. If humans were meant to swim, we would have been born with gills. Without gills, we are left to adapt to a new environment; one very different from our own. When we attempt to compete (raise our heart rate) in an unrecognized or uncomfortable environment, we are more likely to panic and experience hyperventilation. Here are a few open water swim tips to help new and experienced triathletes better manage the situation and prevent hyperventilation:
As with most of my ramblings, this article was inspired by one of my athletes. We are all looking for that “perfect race day”; a day we define with seemingly unlimited speed, strength, endurance, and the absence of any nutrition issues. It may be day where some of us even consider placing in our age group or overall. Or, maybe just a day where you don’t run out of gas. These days do exist but when they don't, we get disappointed, discouraged. Wouldn't it be nice to have the perfect day every time we race? Well.... you can. What? How? The problem we face achieving "the perfect day" is less with our performance and more with our definition of "the perfect day." Here are some tips to help you physically and mentally achieve the perfect race day every time you race.
Before the Inland Infernos, the Pasadena Tri Club, Redlands Tri, Tri Connection, etc…there were no tri clubs in the Inland Empire (IE) that I can remember. 20ish years ago aspiring triathletes from the IE had to venture to places like Santa Monica where the concentration of triathletes was more prominent. We would visit the Triathlete Zombies Tri Store and workout with the Tri Zombies Tri Club which later morphed into the LA Tri Club. It was quite a hike just for a workout. Although triathlon was an established sport, it was not as main stream as it is today and certainly not as popular in the IE.