I recently raced in my local tri clubs monthly summer triathlon. It was my first race of any kind for over 15 months. Regular readers may recall a comeback attempt back in September 2018 but a DNF/flat tyre was the end of that. So by the time March came around I was chaffing at the bit.
The club tri a great racing distance of 750m pool swim, bike 20k on a tough 2k closed loop, and a flat, fast 5 run on a 2 lap course. The full race report is here. As the course is a short lap course - 15x 50m swim, 10x 2k bike, you get to watch your fellow athletes fairly closely.
This particular race had a large portion of new triathletes, which for the purpose of this discussion we will say less than three years experience. The race also had a number of older, experienced triathletes who have been doing the sport for decades. We shall call these two groups Newbies and Statesman (there were no women in this group).
Since the SEAC Training Camp in January (next Training Camp end of July) my training has been going well. Certainly no room for volume, but the consistency is there and starting to show. As you would expect for someone on the long slow comeback trail there is fitness but speed is lacking.
Having said that I was surprised when I could sit on the back of the leading swimmers. Not having the speed to work the front I was able to sit on the back and observe my fellow competitors in the other lanes and those in front and behind me in my lane. I was quickly dispatched from the lead group in T1 and did not have the power to chase. At the same time no one was catching me on the bike so I was able to roll around the course and observe the race unfold.
These are my observations:
One: I love this shit!
Racing again was so much fun. I raced hard, it hurt and I loved every second of it. I am so grateful to be enjoying this stuff at 49.
Two: Why do triathletes ignore the swim?
At the end of the swim the winner of the race was going to come from the five athletes that were in the lead group out of the water. Yes, a great cyclist or runner has the ability to chase down a leading swimmer. However swimmers are rarely crap cyclists so the job is going to be near impossible.
Even if you are not wanting to win the race, but you would like to put in your best performance or a PB you need to work on your swim. My swim is about 2-3min off my best on this course. Yet with a little speed work (no volume/no swim over 1.8k) I was able to sit on the back and get sucked along with the lead swimmers.
Age-group triathletes that come from non-swimming backgrounds seem to ignore the swim. Instead they try to get better and cycling and running. I grew up in regional NSW and only started to swim when I took up triathlon in the 90’s. The focus of my swimming was always technique first, distance later. I’m rambling… so I will point you to these articles - Secrets of Swimming, 5 Logical Swim Options that are Wrong, How the Pro's Swim (and you don't) . And suggest you join our Drill Master swim session here.
Three: Cadence is still king
The vast majority of fast, strong cyclists will have a cadence 85-95rmp. This is a big generalisation and there will always be exceptions but you are not one of the exceptions. You will cycle better and for longer if you increase your cadence.
Especially on a tight circuit with several corners. Cornering slows you down and if you are pushing a lighter gear you will be faster to speed up out of the corner. Not to mention the main problem with pushing a big gear is fatiguing your muscles faster - which is why so many of the Newbies and Statesman alike slowed down towards the end of the cycle.
Many triathletes these days train in triathlon specific training squads where the attention to cycling technique just isn’t there. Event the faster, fitter triathletes have low cadence so the newbies never see or are rarely taught correct cycling form.
In SEAC Studio our cycling sessions are very technique focused. Technique and drills are much easier to do indoors so you can concentrate on form. Many of the cycle sessions cannot be done on the road safely. Our sessions teach you to be aware of your form and work on great technique. Book your FREE Intro Ride here.
Four: Get aero
The single biggest element of cycling slowing you down is you. I am constantly amazed at the number of $2,000 plus bikes in any transition. However, I am even more amazed when I see these bikes being ridden by triathletes sitting up on the bars.
If you are not on your aero bars you are effectively riding with your brakes on. Your wizz-bang aero frame and super-duper gears are being completely wasted.
Why were so many Newbies and Statesman sitting up? My guess is firstly the course is tight with many corners, it requires skill to ride aero around this course. Skills need to be learnt and practiced. These particular skills are difficult to learn riding in a squad
Comfort or lack of, is the other reason triathletes don't spend long enough on their aero’s. Small incremental adjustments need to be made to your position. Keep in mind as you get fitter and stronger or as your flexibility increases or decreases you may need to make these small incremental adjustments to your position. Bike fits can be useful for a general position but keep in mind that you will need to keep adjusting.
Try out the SEAC Studio Strength & Mobility classes to help build postural strength and the mobility to hold your aero position longer.
Adjusting for these three observations (I didn’t count my gratitude) into you training does not take any extra time, does not cost extra money, in fact may save money, yet they are ignored by newbies and statesman alike. Whether you are training 5, 10 or 15 hours per week it is worth respecting the sport and learning the skills and techniques. These skills and techniques increase your enjoyment of the sport. When triathlon becomes a sport and not just a fitness activity you will see your enjoyment, satisfaction and speed increase exponentially.
Maybe this discussion and my observations sound a little like an ad for SEAC Studio, the point is that there is so much more to triathlon training than swimming riding and running. Getting coaching is fundamental to reaching your goals. If you don't want to join the SEAC Studio we can coach you to reach your goals using more than just fitness to get there.
Sure, fitness for fitness sake is good but learning the sports skills and techniques will change the sport for you, get you that PB and move you up your AG ranking much, much faster than either more training and/or training harder.