It can be the biggest barrier to triathlon, the hardest thing to become successful at (in my opinion) and on race day – it can either be calm as glass or as rough as a washing machine. I’m talking about the swim. It’s a love/hate relationship for most and can make or break your day. So what happens when you’ve had a lingering smell of chlorine on your body and hair for 3 months and are finally ready for this 3 sport challenge when you hear the words, “Sorry folks, the swim has been cancelled.” Funny how you can become so disappointed in not being able to do something you were dreading that day!
Whether it be water temperature, conditions, a failed water test- it happens and it’s happened to me twice- a swim can be cancelled.
Whether you can relate or not- I can tell you; it’s a game changer on every level and usually the decision is made so close to the start of the race that you really don’t always get the time to process the implications. I know I didn’t properly process it the first time and I had one of the worst races of my triathlon career. So, if you are faced with a sudden change to your race day. Here are the things to know ahead of time- so you can still have an amazing race without the water:
- Your start wave is going to be a lot closer together. Sure you will have slower runners drop off the back- but if your run is only 2.5km and the majority of your wave is within 5-10s of each other; you will be starting the bike with a bigger group than what you might be used to. Just be prepared for that. If you are a nervous cyclist, this is something you want to know in advance so you are mentally ready.
- Your transition will be different. You will need to do a run back into transition-something you wouldn’t otherwise do. Find out where that run back in is. Where is your bike from the run entry point into transition? What path will you take to get to your bike? Practice transitioning from run to bike- this is also something you have never done before. Be smart on where you put everything- you need take your shoes off knowing they are going back on again. Nutrition: if you were planning to gel during the swim/bike transition; tuck that gel into your shorts before the start of the race. You can start taking that gel on your run into transition or at the beginning of the bike.
- Weather and hydration. Just because the swim was cancelled doesn’t mean its torrentially raining. It could be a sweltering hot day and you just lost your first cooling mechanism. Make sure you hydrate – a double run can take a lot out of you; hydration will be very important if you want to enjoy the day.
- Create your strategy. For beginner/intermediate triathletes- the swim is about getting through it. Now that you don’t have to get through it; how are you going to approach this shorter start off running? Are you a strong runner or do you tire easily? The biggest mistake I made the first time my swim was cancelled was starting the first run too slowly. I was only a few seconds behind the lead pack; but as a weaker cyclist- I had left too much space in between and I missed the pack out of transition and onto the bike. Depending on where your strengths and weaknesses lie- you can create a strategy to play to your strengths and create an advantage.
Knowing and thinking about these things ahead of time will only help you adapt on that fateful day when your swim is cancelled. At the end of it all- this is why we love triathlon; because each race is different- conditions, competitors and your energy are always changing and adapting to this and playing to your strengths is all the fun. See you out there- hopefully at the edge of the water for the race start!