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Race Prep for Your First Triathlon (or First 100 of Them) – Part II

To Do’s for Race Day Eve and Morning

By: Brittany Berry, 2019 event ambassador for Toronto Island Triathlon

If you have a triathlon coming up soon, hopefully you’ve already read the Part I of this article on race prep to do’s in the week before an event or have at least started thinking about how to get set. This blog post here builds on the tips in Part I to have you ready in the final 24 hours leading up to a multisport event. As mentioned in that article, every triathlete will have their own race goals and experiences, so their exact preparation methods will be unique to them too. Also, no two multisport events are the same, each with their own differences in challenges, so how an athlete gets ready for one race will vary as well from how they prepare for another. Part II here will help you plan what you need to do for logistical preparations for your upcoming triathlon.

Ideally, at this point you will have already done these activities over the course of the week leading up:

  • Mentally simulated going through the event,
  • Started gathering race day and travel items to be ready for packing,
  • Inspected your gear and replaced any needed pieces,
  • Have already built up your fitness over time (of course!) and more recently, brushed up on technical skills, and
  • Reviewed the info on your event or checked out MultiSport Canada’s Resource Library if your race info is still on the way.

I hope you have your pen and papers ready!


Lining Up the Final Dominoes

Get set-up to bring your best self to the race. That includes your best equipped, best fuelled, and best hydrated self. Here are my tips for planning out what detailed tasks you need to do and when in your multisport preparations:

Write down your ideas, either manually or digitally. Sometimes we might think that getting ready for a certain race will be so simple that we don’t need to write notes down. I suggest doing it anyways though. In the worst case scenario, if after writing it all down, you actually end up with a straight-forward list of only a few items and to-do’s that you can easily remember… then you can throw it out. I think more likely than not though, you’ll realize you had missed a few things that you won’t want to forget.

If a task can be done further ahead of the race rather than later, then plan to do it earlier (ex. on the day before rather than the morning of the triathlon) and stick to it. The only tasks that should be left to do on the morning of an event are the tasks that can only be done at that time.

Lay out all the items you plan to take, organize it, and double-check against your checklist. No, it’s not over-obsessive to do so.

Make divided checklists of race items that are categorized by different stages. Divide them into categories like things you need (or might need just in case) at and before the start time, in T1 heading into the bike, in T2 heading into the run, after the finish, and – if your event allows – in your Special Needs bag(s). If the event has a separate equipment check-in ahead of the race (ex. check-in for bike and transition bags the day before), then I will mark on my checklists which items need to be put in place in that earlier check-in and which can be added in on the morning of. For a clearer visual check, lay out all the gear you plan to take, organize it, and double-check it against your checklist. Finally, depending on the extent of the travel involved for you to get to the triathlon, you may want to keep another checklist of things you need for that on its own.

Review your in-race hydration and nutrition needs. Which foods (aka. fuels) and drinks will you need? How much? At what points in the event? Which ones will you take from on-course aid stations vs. ones you’ll bring yourself? If you’re still new to understanding this stuff, this article on fuelling and hydrating during a triathlon is a great start for beginners.

If you are lucky enough to have a friend or family member helping you for the event (aka. a “race sherpa”), communicate with them. Make sure you’ve discussed the tasks you need their help with, what info they only need to be aware of, when to give you your space to focus, and how to support you in those just-in-case scenarios.

The race begins soon! Better boogie over to (and at) the starting line!

Look After Yourself: Biological Needs

Eat and hydrate well heading into to the event. Avoid potential problem foods and beverages in the last day coming up to your race – this is not the time to try new things. Get the best sleep you can the night before. Have a pre-race-appropriate breakfast – a good top-up of carbs that are easy to absorb and that your body is used to. Speaking of doing things as you’re used to, don’t be afraid of coffee – again, only if it’s already a habit for your typical morning. Go to the washroom one last time (important!). After you’ve checked-in for the race start and have your gear all set, start moving around to get your body revved up and, if possible, get some warm-up swimming in. You’re ready for this!

Keep in Mind: Control What You Can, Adjust to What You Can’t

That’s the right attitude! You can find MultiSport Canada’s #RaceTipWednesday posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Although this blog post is meant to cover just logistical preparation, it wouldn’t be complete without a small note on mental preparation. Being prepared for different scenarios you can see possibly happening (within reason) helps you take control of your race experience for yourself and make the best of things in the case you encounter a difficult situation. However, things can happen in triathlon that we don’t have control over, that we can’t plan enough for, and the best way to handle those cases is to adjust to them, even if it means modifying your original plans. With all the training you’ve done to get here, you know that you can plan, carry through, and even adapt your actions for your best race. Go get ’em!

 

Race Day Countdown

By Angela Lilly

Here we are! You’ve had months of planning, training, learning, nutrition consumption and hopefully, great race day experiences in your blood. As soon as I wake up one week from race day, it’s called “race day countdown”.  We have many challenges, juggling family, career and triathlon training. Here’s some tips for this week.

  1. Get your gear ready now; make sure everything is working as it needs to and do this when you have the time.
  2. Make paper lists; write down what needs to happen every day this week as well as lists for Friday, Saturday and Sunday (if needed) by the hour.
  3. Plan your nutrition liquid and food; whatever it is, stash it at home and make sure you, nor anyone else, consumes it. Nothing worse than packing Friday night and your gel isn’t where you left it.
  4. I like to take my “race gear” out for a test run; everything from the wet suit to the bike with race wheels and whatever you are going to carry for nutrition to even my race day shoes carrying whatever nutrition I am planning to use. It just helps for race day when you are dumping out your bag at T2 and need to get dressed in seconds.
  5. Take care of yourself; you should have more time daily so fill that with “to do items” that are off your feet. I like to use my TP massage roller more and just sit on the floor and stretch while chatting with the kids and paying attention to our dog after school.
  6. Sleep and rest; I’ve set myself a firm bed-time and let those around you know what time this is. Open communication with my husband and kids let’s them know when I’m “on” and “off” duty. They are wonderfully supportive when they know.
  7. Pack the extras in a separate bag; I know what I’m going to race in BUT if it’s cold on Sunday then I might need something to keep my toes or fingers warm prior to the start or during the race. I like to keep all that packed in a separate bag so I’m prepared if I need it, but right now in my planning, I’m not counting on it.
  8. Independent support crew; Team Lilly is ready and with their experience, will rock out their race day with their plan just like I will with mine. If your goal on Sunday is more competitive, let them do their own thing and you do yours. If it’s less competitive, experience every hour together. There is a lot to do between the athlete meeting on Saturday right through to the awards presentations Sunday afternoon. They want you to be your best so go do it.

How to be a Student Athlete

I recently finished 6 years of school completing my undergraduate degree and post-graduate degree.  Training for triathlon can be tough for anyone. School is a time for finding yourself and there are so many opportunities. I am going to lay out some tips on how to train for triathlon during the post-secondary school year.

  1. Always have your training gear with you. You can always squeeze a workout in for a study break or between classes. I found myself swimming between classes when I was not swimming for my varsity team.
  2. Join a varsity team. If you feel confident in one of the sports, joining a varsity team can help you improve that sport and also help you meet like minded people.
  3. Pack your meals!! I can’t say this enough. When training, you need to be prepared to have good food ready. This is especially true if you plan to swim in the morning, have a full day of class and then squeeze in another workout later.
  4. Studying on the trainer can kill two birds with one stone. I find myself looking over notes while doing easy spins. When you are time crunched it just makes sense.
  5. Try to become a morning person. University is tough in that respect because of classes all the time, but getting a workout done in the morning is one less thing to worry about.
  6. Sometimes you have to miss a workout and that’s okay. Sleep and school is important. If you have a big essay or mid-terms coming up just let it go and move on. Triathlon will always be there but school won’t.

Balancing triathlon and school is tough but very rewarding. I could not imagine not racing triathlon in university. I was able to train and race on the swim and cross country teams at my university, represent my school and country at the world university triathlon championships, and also keep myself healthy physically and mentally. Just remember, work hard but also realize it is okay to miss a few workouts!  Happy Training!

-Stevie Blankenship

Life will happen, so let it

By Dempsey Cruz

It’s hard to believe how quickly this race season has come and gone. I remember looking forward to another fun year of racing back in May, and it definitely feels like September arrived just like a blink of an eye. 

Being an age-group athlete has its challenges, mainly having to juggle my full time job, time with loved ones, and training. The last several months unfolded quite unpredictably, to say the least. I had such a solid, consistent pre-race training season that I dove into my first couple of races full of promises. Despite being strong enough to qualify for next year’s ITU Worlds, I had no idea what was coming my way. To share a few, I became a homeowner in June, suffered from a concussion in July, had my first DNF, and now have the honour of being my sister’s “Man of Honour” for her wedding at the end of this month.

All that said, life took over which impacted my training and performance for the rest of the season. I’m sure many of you can relate. 

Last weekend, MultiSport Canada hosted its final race of the season in Lakeside, one of my favourite venues of the series. Sure it was the standard du provincial championships but my goal was to have fun, cheer on fellow athletes on the course, and race without concerning myself with the numbers. It’s incredible how an intention can make you look up and around, instead of looking down at your gadgets.

The first thing I noticed was the scenic venue. It was a pleasure running on the lush trails and cycling surrounded with clear skies and acres of fresh farmlands. The next were the volunteers and spectators. They created a positive atmosphere for all athletes as they were all so happy to be there and encouraged athletes by their names. The energy was infectious, I couldn’t help but smile and have a great time!

Most importantly, there were so many athletes rooting for each other. I heard my name being cheered for at least ten times from different athletes on the race course. There’s a general realization that we’re all in it together, not against each other. This is the type of friendly atmosphere that so uniquely defines MultiSport Canada.

What I love most about the amazing team at MultiSport Canada is the focus put on the athlete experience and the celebration of diversity in the community. At every race, they make a genuine effort to recognize athletes of all ages from all walks of life such as first timers, and first responders. They also do their very best to make every race as fun and safe as possible for all athletes. More than ever this year, I was constantly reminded of why I’m such a huge advocate for MultiSport Canada. I’m thankful to be part of a community that is so inclusive and welcoming.

There is a place for everyone.

A few things I learned from being a Lakeside Ambassador

Let’s leave our stats for a moment. Let’s pause and reflect. For many like myself, Lakeside was the last tri/duathlon of the season and the cooler weather is a reminder that we will soon be back to our training dungeons until the sun peeks out again, maybe in just a few months time.

This year was my first time as an ambassador for #MSCLakeside and being there are so many different aspects of the race, I have learned a lot. I wanted to share a few things that have striked me before but even more so as a helper on site:

  1. Tri/Duathletes are the best. I had a talk with my RMT and when I explained to her the feeling of being around fellow racers, she was surprised: she thought the competitive nature of the sport would make us mean and aggressive. But instead, you have a very focus group arriving in the morning either deep in their thoughts or giving hugs to everyone. During and after the race, you can count on other athletes to cheer for you or give you a hand. Whether or not you podium-ed, you made a connection with the person before or after you or even on the course. You look into each other eyes, and you both know how you felt on the course. You shake hands, you smile. You’ve connected with a pure stranger in a way that most don’t get to in their lives ever. As the dopamine and hunger creeps, the sharing begins. The smiles, the cries. At this moment, we don’t know nor care where you are from, what you did (it is starting to sound like a backstreet boys song, I am aware), we are all a family.
  2.  We’ve all been there. Around the 10/11 o’clock mark, try-a-tri athletes came through. As much as many started their first race that weekend doing the sprint and the Olympic, many more started with that one race. Do you remember that moment? Yes, I see me…. when I started 5 years ago. Needing guidance, encouragement, a smile. Those are what makes people compete again. We might have a tri/duathlon social network back home but many don’t. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Even better, volunteer!

Body marking… I might just have given you a smiley face

4. Inclusivity. ALL. EVERYONE. That means, it doesn’t matter what stage of life I get, you can be assure that someone going through it is there and doing their best. People of all age, size, racial background, etc. At this point we are all there for one reason and one goal.

5. Everyone is inspiring someone whether they know it or not. Some might tell you up front. Some might just gaze at you from a distance, or remember a kind gesture you made and remember you for years on and even pass it forward.

6. Have you met any of the staff at MSC? Hopefully you have or you will. Sure enough, they are there giving us instructions all the way through. But president Jason for example, will have a way to find you and connect with you at some point. If you ever needed help, Chris and Nathan are always around. You are part of this moment despite the individuality of this sport. Furthermore, they provide with a safe event that is well organized EACH and EVERY time. They will listen to your feedback.

Jason and his helpers that day. Always a great spirit.

7. This is fun. Once you get out there in nature, onto a a safe course and location, your body is free and your mind knows this is where you want to be. You might forget each year but you’ll remember once the season kicks off again.

Right?!

So if you are a tr/duathlete thank you for your contribution to that community.

If you are looking for a community, please join us next season. You will gain so much.

If you have children, hopefully you can include them as well. They will also gain skills that life wouldn’t otherwise and give them a way to deal with situations in a positive manner.

All the best luck for everyone participating in the #BarrelmanTri

In the meantime, cheers to everyone making the world a better place… one race at the time.

Jessey Deroneth

Bracebridge Olympic fun and Santa

This was my first time in at Bracebridge for the MultiSport Canada triathlon event. Every year I like to try another location in the Multisport series, they say variety is the spice of life, so I go back to my favs and expand my horizons each year. I had often seen signs for Santa’s Village from my car on trips in Muskoka and had this idea that it was a big Christmas seasonal fair… it turns out its several parks and camping sites with a Christmas theme. Something very different and people were out from the camp cheering us on the bike course which definitely added a new element to any Tri events I have done in the past.

I wandered around transition chatting to a lot of athletes, there are always a lot of people doing their first triathlon and have questions which was easily answered and put them at ease so they can relax and get ready for the race to begin. I was wearing an Ironman Ireland bike jersey and one female athlete came over to share her experiences from that wet day in Cork this year.

We headed down to the water and it was an in water start and the being in the water was warmer than standing on the beach for a surprise start to an August day.

The bike was challenging, a lot of ups and downs to make it more interesting and the aforementioned Santa’s village and support were a nice addition. There was a large crowd gathered at the run start/ finish area cheering everyone on. As you head out on the run you can see fellow athletes coming the other way, there were a lot of high fives and encouraging words flying about. The final stretch to the finish is where you muster up your last bit of strength to look fast in case anyone is taking pictures.

This was a great event and I am glad so many people came out to enjoy it. I am known for my love of ice cream post race and Bracebridge didn’t disappoint, I had even googled where to go in advance of my race so that I would know where to go and I got to see more of the town of Bracebridge . The ice cream store even had Muskoka chairs for us to sit in and my dog to stare at us outside as we watched the world go by.

There is a full weekend of events so there is something for everyone J. Another well organized event by MultiSport, just gotta love being able to drive to my races and home again to my own bed and bring my family.

My last triathlon of the season will be this month in Niagara at the Barrelman Half Iron distance race – North America’s largest Non IM Branded Half Event. If you see me come over and say Hi. Happy racing to you all

Felicia Long

Why Do We Do Hard Things?

By Emilie Whitson

Do your non-triathlon friends and family ever ask why you voluntarily put yourself through upwards of an hour of physical pain on a regular basis (aka racing triathlons)?

Do you ever wonder to yourself the same thing?

I’m here to give you some great answers, for when your boss asks you why you rode your bike for 5 hours on a weekend.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt and change as a result of experiences we have. If you weren’t looking for a science lesson, stay with me here. Just as our muscles regenerate and recover after a hard effort, ready to come back stronger in anticipation of the next interval, so does our brain.

During workouts, we are creating new neural pathways, allowing us to learn and acquire memories. As it turns out, even though our adult brains are fully developed, they are still mold-able (aka plastic).

How does the brain’s incredible ability to adapt help us in athletic training? The first time you try a skill, your brain’s neural pathways are not optimized. But, as you practice this skill by training or racing, you get a little bit better at it, as neurons and muscle fibers are coordinated more efficiently.

Although we don’t need studies to tell us this as triathletes, the more we practice a skill, the less we have to consciously think about it. (Remember how much thinking you did during your first swimming lesson?)

All this information probably seems straightforward for the motor control aspects of sport, such as timing your swimming kick, or dismounting your bike gracefully. But what about the mental aspects of sport?

You can recruit your brain’s neuroplasticity to help you to be not only a mentally tough athlete, but all around mentally resilient person. Sticking to it during a hard session and teaching yourself not to quit, is a skill that can be learned. Making decisions quickly under pressure is another skill that triathletes need to excel at, that can be transferred into real life application. Anecdotally, athletes who have completed Ironman distance triathlons report greater confidence in every day mentally tough situations.

So the next time someone asks you why you’d choose to suffer during a workout, just tell them- it makes the hard things in life seem not so hard!

Time Trials Will Test You (for the better)

By Angela Lilly

I have tried to keep triathlete growth both in mind and in training up to speed regularly over this season, however I feel it’s time to dig a bit deeper than social media so here’s an article.

The last month was a lot of planning of training and racing and life. We get used to racing by age group but MSC keeps us chasing new goals and challenges as they offer their unique “time trial start” at the Bracebridge triathlon.  When I first started racing this years ago, I was concerned that I was in a 15-minute deficit and I had so many more challenges than my fellow friends/racers. Now, I’ve found strength in this format of race. Here’s some points to share about why you should try a TT:

  1. The swim is really spread out in beautiful water.
  2. The exit of the swim is exciting; lots of spectators and lots of bikes gone off the rack.
  3. The bike course is very positive and sportsman-like. I once found that I raced courses that I would call encouraging words to other racers as I passed them, or they passed me, and they would be silent.  In MSC racing, it is wonderful.  We must all pass through an imaginary beam of light as we walk over the starting mat that beams us up for a personal best day.  In MSC racing, if there is a pass, both triathletes are encouraging to one another.
  4. The bike course is full, but it isn’t as tough to ride as “full-wave start” races. It’s much more spread out, less chance you get caught in a drafting situation, safer, and if you pay enough attention, you can even follow the triathlete ahead of you and ride a good line (no pot holes or cracks in the road).
  5. The run makes you truly race your best with what you have left. You always know your pace depending on the distance; however, I have found TT races to push you beyond that zone. I find someone ahead of me and try to push my pace by 5 seconds. If I get passed, then I tuck in behind them and try to feel their strength to run better than I was (there are the triathletes that are always faster runners than me and those ones I have to let go because I don’t want to completely blow up). Don’t try to push it or race by yourself.  There are hundreds of people on course so make a friend and quickly talk.  Find out where each other is at and help one another. MSC has so many great triathletes that have made me push it till the last second at the finish line.  I hope I too, have done the same for others.
  6. The race truly isn’t done until the finish line and this is even more powerful when it is a time trial as you can’t possibly know if someone has beaten you by 10 seconds or 3 minutes. It’s up to you to push your limits till the final line. Sportstats will take care of the rest.

I treated my next race the same way and good things happened; personal best time!

Now that we are on to our final races of 2019 triathlon season in Ontario, race your triathlon like a TT.  It will hurt but you will achieve more than you set out to achieve.  What a great way to complete 2019!

Preparing for the Swim in the Pool

Race Simulation Pool Workouts to Prepare for the Swim
Created by: Stevie Blankenship

For many of us busy athletes it can be hard to get to the pool, but also, getting to swim open water safely can be a hassle as it is sometimes hard to sync up times to swim with other swimmers, throughout the summer it starts to get dark earlier, and sometimes a pool simulation workout can be a better choice overall compared to open water! I am going to give you 4 different workouts to get ready for different swim distances.

Sprint Triathlon:
Warm up:
200-800 choice
4×50 as fast/easy by 25

Main set:
2-4x(50 fast! On :10 sec rest, 3×100 on :15 seconds rest at race pace effort, 200 easy on 1:00 rest)

Cool down:
200-400 paddle pull
100 choice

Olympic Triathlon
Warm up:
200-800 choice
4×50 as fast/easy by 25

2-4x(100 fast! On :10 rest, 400 at race pace, 200 easy on 1:00 rest)

Cool down:
200-400 pull paddles
100 choice

Half Distance:
Warm up:
200 choice
Main set:
1000 at race pace, :30 rest, 500 pull paddles, :30 rest, 500 slightly faster

Cool down:
200-400 choice

Full Distance:
Warm up:
200 choice

Main set:
4x 1000 on 1:00 rest 2 and 3 as pull paddles all at race pace

Cool down:
200 choice

These are all great workouts to get ready for your specific distance. To add more to the simulation, try to find someone that is a similar speed and spend time taking turns drafting each other!

Happy Training!

Training and Racing Old School

By Tim Doris

As I prepared to go for one of my lunch hour runs at the end of June. As on all my runs I would periodically glance at my wrist looking for the data that would appear, my pace, heart rate and distance travelled so far. But on this particular day my watch screen was blank. Oh well just keep running and when I get back to school I will try to fix it. The next 60 minutes running one of my favorite routes was pure joy with nothing to gauge my progress except for the sound of my own breath.

Once back at school, several attempts to reboot my watch and even with a trip to a local sporting goods store after school it was clear my watch was done. If this had happened a year ago I would have just run out and bought a new one. But for some reason I thought of this as an opportunity to train and race a little different. So I decided this summer racing season I would not rely on electronics to help me train or race. I found an old watch in my closet that I used only as a time piece so I knew at least the time of day.

So I began to do something that I had already been practicing for the last 10 years and that was listening to my body to tell me how and when to train. I have to admit at first it took some getting use to, lying in my bed a little longer to check my heart rate before getting up in the morning and at night before falling asleep, and making sure that that the alarm was set for my morning workouts.

It was one thing to train this way which I was really enjoying instead of pouring over all the data at my fingertips, but I wasn’t sure how this would work while racing.

So off to Welland I went for the first race of the Multisport Canada Triathlon Series to participate in the sprint duathlon. A lot of familiar faces where on the start line so when the horn sounded for the race to start and once the initial opening nervous sprint off the line was over it didn’t take long to find a pace bunny for the first 2.5 km run. I fell into a comfortable pace behind a group of 3 individuals and just waited to see what would happen at the turn around. As expected one of the threesome dropped off the front so I just continued to hold my pace into the transition and then out onto the bike.

The changes to the Welland bike course meant that I would be able to see all of the other racers in my age group constantly for the 20 kilometers. Again without my bike computer working I had to measure my speed by perceived exertion and off of the other athletes on the course. Well by the start of the second lap, I was riding literally right behind one of my age group competitors and decided that if I kept in close proximity to him then coming out of transition onto the final run I would be in good shape.

Back into the transition area I went only a few steps behind my competition, bike racked, running shoes back on and then out for the final 5km. Immediately I could tell the pace was a little quicker than the first run but I was feeling okay. I ran up behind my bike buddy and stayed a step or two behind him for the first 2.5 km. Then for the last lap I ran up onto his shoulder and there I stayed until the 4 km mark at which point I decided to use the water station as my spot to pull away. With runners coming in both directions there was just enough space for me to run down the center and open up a little gap. Then a series of 4 short burst of about 100meters and finally seeing the finish shoot was all that was needed for me to get to the end.

Once back from Welland and looking at the results on the Sportstats website I was able to see my results and pace for the run and bike segments of the race. This gave me a great indication of where my fitness was and also if my new old school training was paying off and it was. I finished 4th overall and won my age group.

I continued to go old school at MSC Gravenhurst and MSC Kingston. Making the overall podium and age group wins in the sprint duathlon events.

This may not be the best way to train or race for everyone but for me it was a welcome change. I am planning on purchasing a new watch but I haven’t decided on which model or brand yet. For anyone new to multisport racing you don’t need all the fancy gadgets to help you train and race, you just need to listen to your body, eat well, get lots of sleep, and if you have aches and pains know that it is okay to take a day off.

Tim Doris Radio Interview