Get Faster Without Getting Fitter
The fitter you are in the pool, the fitter you are on the run. Long course triathlon revolves around enduring accumulated fatigue. Deemphasizing the swim leg in training will take a toll on your entire day. Start with high frequency, lower volume (2k) and progress (4-6k) as needed. Make buoy and band sets a staple as they develop high turnover and strength that translates well to open water.
In order to be fast you need to be aerodynamic. In order to aero on your bike, you need to be comfortable. In order to be comfortable on your bike, you need to be properly fit. “Roughly 80% of our energy on a bike is used to overcome fast moving air, road friction, and other resistive forces. In fact, the only reason we ride in the TT position is to reduce aerodynamic drag so we can ride faster for a given output.”, Mat Steinmentz. There is no magical fit system (Retul, Body Geometry, FIST, etc). It's all in the eyes of the fitter. Reach out to your local triathlon community and connect with a fit technician you believe in and go from there. Remember, every time you leave the aero position you are giving up time and throwing away the money you spent on your aerodynamic setup. Keep your head low!
Tires and Wheels
The combination of high thread count tires and latex tubes can save you 1-3 watts per tire. The Continental 4000s II is a great combination of speed and protection within a high thread count tire. For long course triathlon, it’s definitely the gold standard. Make sure the tire you race on hasn’t seen any high volume training weeks. Before you rack your bike in transition, inspect the tires for cuts and excessive wear. Ideally, set aside a pair of tires that you save for racing. Always pump those tires to the appropriate PSI on race morning, not the night before. Speaking of the night before, that’s the ideal time to clean and lube your chain.
If you have the means, always ride a disc. Always. But won’t you be thrown around on a windy day? No. In the wind, the most important thing to pay attention to is the depth of your front wheel. The front wheel is attached to your fork, which is underneath your handlebars. When your front wheel gets blown off axis, you will become unstable. “The nastier the wind gets, the faster the disc gets.” This notion comes from Dave Ripley, aero guru and Zipp veteran. The lack of a disruption in airflow created by the disc’s constant surface area stabilizes the bike. From personal experience riding a disc on a windy day, it feels like you're being pushed forward.
What if the course is hilly? Weight doesn’t become a significant factor until the grade hits 6% for an extended period of time. So unless you’re racing Alpe d'Huez Triathlon, run the disc.
Lastly, be prepared for race day conditions by riding your race wheels often. Would drive a Porsche with hubcaps? Don’t spend $2,500 on wheels and leave them in the closet. Enjoy them.
Try to Keep Your Bike Clutter Free
As long-course triathletes, we need to carry things. It’s just a part of the game. However, please don’t turn your aero machine into a mobile lunch box like the bike shown below. Use flasks to carry your gels, keep your flat kit neat and tucked away and utilize aid stations. There is no need to carry more than 2 bottles on your bike at one time during a race. Have a question about optimizing your equipment selection? Comment below or email me.
Wear an Aero Helmet
Aero helmets are easily the most economical piece of gear you can purchase to get faster. A proper fitting aero helmet can literally save you minutes in your next race. However, a helmet that tests fast on one rider, may test slower on another. We all ride in a different position and it’s impossible to ride static for 40-180k. Most of us can’t head to the wind tunnel to optimize our equipment selection. Fortunately, if you have a power meter and a quite stretch of road, you can perform a very effective field test that will provide real-world, quantifiable data.
Keep it Tight
Keep your kit as tight as possible without restricting your shoulders. Wrinkles are slow! Sleeved kits are quite popular at the moment and they’ve tested to be as fast or even faster than sleeveless kits in most wind tunnels. The sleeved kits also protect your shoulders from the sun.
Eat Well and Fuel Your Sessions
If your session included intensity or was more than 60 minutes, it’s critical to get in a regenerative meal within 15-20 minutes of completing your training. Your body is particularly responsive to carbohydrates (replenish glycogen stores) and protein (repair muscle trauma) during this 15-20 minute window, so it’s imperative to have your post workout meal timely. It’s especially important if you have another session on the same day.
Consume at least half of your body weight in ounces of water daily in addition to what you sweat out during your session. For every pound of water weight lost (16 oz of sweat), drink 2-3 cups of water. A good post workout recovery snack for a 90-minute session is a simple smoothie with greek yogurt, banana, nut butter and ice. Eat real food that will reduce inflammation and stabilize blood sugar.
Underfueling your session can easily negatively impact future training sessions by increasing recovery time. Triathletes who put themselves into a nutritional deficit are much more prone to injury, fatigue and general irritability.
If you’re going “full gas” within a session, you can’t train low. If you’re performing any type of quality within the session, you need carbohydrates—end of story. More importantly, when you train your body to handle less, you train your digestive system to handle less. There’s a difference between what your body needs and what your digestive system can handle.
Yes, it’s possible to improve your metabolic efficiency by training on empty. You will reduce the amount of fuel your body requires, but at what cost? You’re setting yourself up for a sluggish session the next day and more importantly, you reduce your ability to digest and handle nutrition—which will be catastrophic on race day.
“People who eat like bunnies seldom race like lions.” - Matt Dixon
Run more…Off the bike
To run well off the bike, you need to train your body to run well off the bike. Simply put, an increase in run volume doesn’t always help you run faster off the bike. You need to build durability to be able to handle the load of riding at race intensity (70-100% FTP depending on distance) and running off that effort. Be sure your weekly run miles do not exceed 20% of your bike miles. If that doesn’t sound like much running, ride more. Lastly, be patient and objective with your increase in miles and intensity.
See you at the races