From the response I have had from the teaser of these I shared on my Instagram story earlier this week, it already appears that these might be popular and so I have tried to be speedy in sharing the recipe - so here you go!
(To make 12 small sized balls)
I am no means an expert but it did occur to me the other day when I was getting myself ready for the first race of this very strange Covid governed season, having not competed in a multi-sport race for almost 12 months and almost forgetting the scale of things you need to remember, that gearing up for your first multi-sport race (triathlon, duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike – whichever!) can be rather daunting as there is a fair bit to consider across three disciplines – four if you count transitions too!
It would be sad if this actually put someone off doing one too, so I thought I would just note some of the key things I and fellow multisport athletes I know (thank you to Catenary and Spa Striders squads for your input) have learnt that others might want to consider to make it that little bit easier.
Specific equipment / clothing
Get organised - there is nothing worse than disorganisation to add fuel to pre-race nerves, so before you set off for the race, make sure all of your kit is organised. I often write a list of everything I need for each discipline (plus before and after the race, including nutrition and hydration, and even some spares like swim goggles) the night before and lay it all out so I know it is all there and I don’t need to worry about it
Footwear / talcum powder – however well you dry your feet after the swim, they will still be damp, which makes putting on socks difficult, so most people opt to go sockless. If you sprinkle talcum powder into your shoes before the race it will save time struggling in transition – you could also do this to your socks if you did want to wear some too.
Laces – elastic laces are a great help when trying to get your shoes on as fast as possible during T2 – rather than wasting time tying and tightening laves, you can simply push your feet in and you’re off!
Number belts – another great time saver is a number belt. In a tri, you have to wear your number on your back for cycling and then on your front for the run – so rather than swapping number, wearing two numbers or even reversing clothing, with a number belt you can simply swivel your belt around your body in T2 so you are ready to run! Some people even where it under their wetsuits to save time in T1. Just remember to swivel it around to the front before you leave transition onto your final run, as you can get stopped if it isn’t facing the front!
Body glide / Vaseline – removing your wetsuit is difficult at the best of times so to help you can apply body glide or Vaseline to areas such as at the ends of your arms and legs to help your triathlon come off. It is also great to help prevent chafing if applied around the neck and armpit regions!
Open water goggles – if you can, invest in some open water specific goggles that tend to be a bit larger and are tinted and polarised to help with visibility – particularly helpful if you will be swimming directly into low sunlight in the early hours of the morning!
Cold / wet weather – particularly for the spring/autumn events, it can often be pretty chilly, so I would definitely recommend considering additional layers. Depending on what you have available, there are a number of options you could try based on how cold race day will be. For a duathlon, you have the benefit of being able to wear extra layers from the start – so options could be to begin with arm warmers or a base layer under your tri suit and even gloves which can be taken off in T2 if you are too warm. The coldest element will always be the bike, due to the wind chill factor, so you could always consider putting on a jacket or jersey in T1 to go out onto the bike – just try and pick the least baggy one you have to minimise the ‘parachute’ effect!
It is definitely worth spending those additional minute(s) in transition getting additional layers on if it is freezing than wasting time out on the bike and run as you can barely move your muscles faster than a snail as you are too cold.
The equipment you might need to pack:
Specific training considerations
Back to back / BRICK sessions - These sessions are the best way to train your body to cope with the demands of changing from swimming to cycling, running to cycling or cycling to running. They consist of you completing two disciplines directly after each other and practicing bricks in training will help your body adjust to the changes in discipline come triathlon race day. If you are short on time, the key one to factor in would be bike to run to minimise that ‘jelly leg’ feeling as much as you can!
Open water – if your race swim is going to be in open water, definitely try and practice beforehand in a lake or the sea (whichever you will be doing). Open water swimming is very different to pool swimming as your wetsuit, due to its buoyancy, affects your swimming position and there are the other elements thrown in such as reduced visibility and the requirement of sighting to ensure you stay on course!
Don’t try anything new on race day – this goes for equipment, clothing and also nutrition. Make sure you practice using all race day kit and nutrition prior to the race – the last thing you want is a wardrobe malfunction or digestive issues during the race!
Stay calm – easier said than done I know. For mass start races, there can be an element of chaos at the beginning when people try and get ahead of each other so if you aren’t confident, don’t be afraid to take your time and hold back to separate yourself from the main pack a little bit – remember it is your race, forget about everyone else.
Kick it out – a lot of people, myself included, often feel dizzy and sometimes weak legged getting out of the water, simply due to being horizontal and having reduced blood flow to your legs. To try and overcome this, as you approach the end of the swim, try and kick your legs a little stronger to help get the blood flowing into your legs again.
Check your bike – before the race make sure you check over your bike. Check the tyre pressure and make sure it is in the correct gear to leave transition – have a look at the road following the mount line, if you go straight into a hill you don’t want to be in a super hard gear!
Low gear, high cadence cycling – jelly legs on the run following the bike element is a common occurrence within a triathlon and duathlons, but to make the change over easier, in the last mile of the bike course select a lower gear and spin your legs at a higher cadence to help your legs adjust to the running section. It is also important not to cycle in too high a gear for the whole of your bike leg i.e. feeling like you are really grinding the gears at a slow cadence – think about ‘spinning’ and if you can, the optimal cadence is ~90rpm.
Energy conservation – sounds simple, but save energy for the run coming up after your bike leg. It is always better to start a little slower, and push harder in the second half of the bike leg if you are feeling strong (effectively doing a ‘negative split’) than realising halfway that you have used up all the fuel in the tank and you have nothing left for the run.
Drafting - drafting is when you ride very closely to a cyclist (or motor vehicle) in front giving you an advantage as it cuts down your wind resistance and therefore the energy that you expend. However, for most races (unless stated a draft legal race) this is against the rules and can lead to disqualification or time penalties. Be mindful of this and check the rules of your event as it can the zones can vary depending on the distance of race you are competing in – you will be required to leave a gap between you and the rider in front, and if you need to overtake, you need to do it within a certain amount of time. Generally, for sprint and standard distance events, the drafting zone is 10m and you must overtake within 20 seconds – if you cannot pass then you must drop back. Latest British Triathlon rules are here, but do check as some events have their own more specific rules.
Short strides – to help with the jelly legs after coming off the bike and onto the run, you can start off with a slightly shorter stride length to normal to get your body adjusted to the new discipline. Once they have loosened off you can return back to normal length
Energy conservation in duathlons – as you are running twice, it is always worth trying to hold back a little bit on the first run to save energy for the second run. This is easier said than done when you are excited at the beginning of a race, so I personally try and work out a target pace prior to the race which is slightly slower than my normal 10k or 5k ‘race pace’ depending on the first run distance in the duathlon I am racing in. This also helps you to focus on your own race – don’t be put off by the crazy pace some set off at for the first run – stick to your plan. On the second run, just go for it – generally it will be 5k or less so aim to empty the tank!
Transition - the 4th discipline!
Transition times count too, so consider the following to try and make them as smooth and swift as you can:
Transition practice – make sure you include transition practice into your training leading up to the race – by having a strategy in your head you can save a lot of time and stress during the race (often can be minutes). This is definitely an easier way to save time than on the bike or the run!
This can simply be in your garden, practicing getting in and out of your wetsuit (to save time, you can undo it and get it down to your waist as you run from the lake/sea before you even get to transition) and then into your bike gear, and then into your run gear - with it all laid out as it would be in transition.
Practice running in your cycling shoes too if you aren’t doing ‘flying mounts or dismounts’ – sometimes there is quite a distance from the mount/dismount line and cycling shoes can be pretty slippy to run in!
Visually ‘marking’ your bike - Finding your bike amongst what could be hundreds of others when you’re n a hurry can be pretty tricky and you can easily lose valuable time if you end up down the wrong aisle. Physically marking your bike is against the rules, so the best thing you can do is when racking up before the race, take note of any landmarks/objects/aisle numbers close to your bike to make it easier to find in the mayhem of the race itself.
Transition route – before the race, walk through transition, focussing on the entrance and exit to transition (swim in, bike in and out, run out) so you know exactly where you going in both T1 and T2. Knowing the route can save wrong turns and wasted time. As part of this, also walk out to the mount and dismount line. It is really useful to know where they are as you can’t get on your bike until you have crossed the mount line, and similarly you must be off your bike before crossing the dismount line on your way back into transition – and you can receive penalties if you do not do this!
Preparing in transition – when racking your bike, make sure you carefully lay out your kit in the order that you will be putting it on, so that changing is easy when you’re rushing between disciplines. I personally leave my helmet so it is one of the first things I will touch as you can be disqualified for touching your bike and taking it off the rack before putting it on.
Finally - enjoy it!
Don’t forget to just embrace your first race and enjoy it. Don’t let the other participants put you off with their fancy bikes and kit – focus on your own race and remember everyone started somewhere and there will be plenty of people in your exact position racing alongside you.
An absolutely lovely example showcasing that everyone starts somewhere, is from fellow Catenary Coaching athlete Amie Buttle who kindly shared her story (thank you!):
“I did my first triathlon on a mountain bike with trainers (makes for a super quick T2!). it was also a pool swim which they tend to put the faster swimmers last. I ended up last out on the course with the sweeper bike having a chat (no surprises there!) and waving enthusiastically to my family as I cycled past them (still happens now, photo evidence below!). Multiple triathlons like this I never saw anyone else on the bike, except the sweeper!
But I still went back for more!! I now get super excited on any bike leg that I overtake people on”
Amie has since qualified for the GB age group triathlon team!
I hope you have found this useful! Do let me know how you get on if you are racing your first triathlon/duathlons!
Last year me and Ellie just did one of the Canicross Midlands series races as a little taster to see what it was all about - fair to say we both loved it and so I decided we would join the club for the 20/21 season and try to race the full series.
The series itself is made up of 6 weekends across 6 different venues, with a race on both the Saturday and Sunday. You gain points based on your finishing position at each race, and to qualify for the series you need to complete 8 races in the same class (we do the 5k single dog one).
This weekend was the first of the 20/21 series at Marston Lodge, and as soon as we arrived you could see just how excited Ellie was to be back racing (I think this has been exaggerated by a lack of park runs too!)
The course at Marston Lodge was mainly on gravel tracks, weaving their way through a forest and up and down some pretty steep climbs (not that we knew this before we set off!). Just before your start time you make your way over to the start line and line up (socially distanced of course atm) and this point you realise just how much the dogs love it - the sound of dogs barking and howling is mad, and Ellie of course decided to join in (sounding like some crazy deranged dinosaur...). You then get set off in 30 second intervals so you always have someone in the distance to try and track down - which is great for Ellie as she is so competitive (out on training runs she often stops pulling as I don't think she can see the point, whereas she doesn't stop pulling when we are chasing down our competitors during a race!)
The first day went really well, Ellie ran brilliantly and we finished in 8th position behind some super quick (and big) dogs, some of which race for the GB canicross team! She was enthusiastic the entire way, except up the giant hill when she actually turned around mid run as if to be saying 'are you being serious'...
The second day was on the exact same course, so we had the benefit of knowing the route, and where to push hard. As a result, I knew that the final 1km was all downhill to the finish, so if I could expend the majority of my energy getting up to the highest point on the course I could then just use gravity to get me back to the finish line (in theory anyway!). I set off with this in mind, and I was surprised at how well Ellie remembered the course - I didn't need to direct her at all which meant we had much quicker turns and she was generally more confident throughout.
Considering we both had tired legs from the previous day, my race plans must have worked as we managed to finish 50 seconds quicker on the second day! Ellie was a super star. Sadly that didn't bring us up in the finishers placings, but we still finished a solid 8th in our race.
Can't wait for the next one!
Hels (and Ellie) x
Box End Triathlon (standard distance), run by Active Training World, the first (and probably last) triathlon of the very strange season we have found ourselves in this year!
I only entered the race a few weeks ago as a few other Catenary team mates had entered, and I had a severe case of FOMO and a massive need to race having been consistently training throughout the summer following my elbow injury but having every race to date cancelled. I was really lucky to get a last-minute place after contacting the race organisers – thank you Active Training World!
In line with the Covid-19 guidelines, the race was being run in a socially distanced TT format with little spectators, no prize giving, and all participants encouraged to not hang around after they had finished the race – so it was certainly going to have a very different look and feel to a normal race but I was just super excited to get back racing regardless.
Registration and Transition
Aside from having to bring your own pen to write on your race number onto your hand, and the obvious social distancing rules applied around the event, registration didn’t feel too different to normal. In transition we had more space than normal between bikes on the racks which was good!
For the swim we had to wait in a holding pen just outside of transition and were gradually called over to queue to enter the lake. We were then set off in 20-30 second intervals, fastest to slowest, based on our predicted times we gave when we entered. I personally loved this – it meant there wasn’t a washing machine start or any fighting to get around the buoys on the turns. I guess the only downside is you do lose the ability to draft and potentially get a faster swim time.
The lake itself was lovely – crystal clear water which also tasted nice! Due to the TT format, the distance had been shortened so we only had to do one lap, which suited me with my wonky elbow! Overall, I was fairly pleased with my swim and came out 3rd in my AG going into T2 (although obviously didn’t know this at the time due to the staggered start) – good wonky elbow behaved!
The bike course was quite technical with lots of turns, junctions, roundabouts and little lumps and bumps so it was quite hard to get the speed and power up and frustratingly I got stuck behind dawdling cars at a mini roundabout on both laps. Overall I was about 20w off my target average power, which at the time I was a bit disappointed with, but talking to other athletes it sounds as though that was fairly common due to the route profile and conditions. But regardless of that, the bike is always my favourite part of a triathlon and it felt so good to be back out whizzing around the roads chasing people down.
Coming off the bike and going into the run I had moved up to 1st in my age group and 6th overall – this is where the staggered start format is possibly not so great as a participant as I had no idea that this was the case as I set off on my merry way onto the run.
Prior to the race I knew the run was going to be slightly harder than any other triathlon run I have done before, as I had been pre-warned that it was all on grass and wiggled through a little wood at the end of the lake. Normally, I love off road runs and do prefer to train out on bridleways and footpaths as I find them much more interesting than plodding along on tarmac.
However, I am not so sure I love off road running on jelly triathlon have not raced for almost 12 months! It was hard. The thick grass sapped any energy I had left, and each hill felt as though it was pushing me closer and closer to calf and hamstring cramp. Definitely not my fastest 10k and frustratingly it pushed me down to 4th overall in my AG and 14th overall.
Would I have pushed faster had I known I was in 1st place coming off the bike… who knows... hindsight is a wonderful thing. But to be honest, with such a strange year so far, I wasn’t really expecting to get in a race at all in 2020 so I am just super grateful to have been given the opportunity and I probably should remind myself that at the beginning of the year I couldn’t even bend my elbow let alone do a triathlon and finish 4th in my AG.
The cherry on top of the cake today was being able to see my fellow Catenary athletes smash their races too, with Megan and Emily finishing 4th and 6th overall respectively, plus coach Tim supporting throughout!
All in all, an ace day out!
An everyday girl with a love of competition (and nut butter)