Today was the big day for the inaugural Eastbourne Triathlon which we've been very happy to be associated with and to offer training advice. Over the last weeks I've written some pieces in the countdown to the big day: 14 days to go, 7 days to go and finally 48 hours to go.
Here they are - the Collected Countdown works! I'd love to hear from anyone who read these about their experience of the race and if and how these posts helped.
14 days to go:
Where did the time go? Maybe you feel like time stood still a few months ago while the race was far off. All of a sudden it's speeded up and it feels there's so little time left. What do in these last two weeks that have suddenly loomed up?
Well, first of all take a moment to let yourself be excited rather than panicked by the coming race. You'll be part of the very first Eastbourne Tri so are already well on the way to claiming your bragging rights.
Taking a few moments to think about what you're most looking forward to about the coming event can be a great help. If it's your first triathlon maybe it'll be just the thought of completing and being able to say “I did it”. Or perhaps you can picture yourself swimming or paddle boarding against the extraordinary backdrop of the Seven Sisters; powering your way on your bike over the ups and downs and whooshing turns of the awesome cycle route; or striding along the seafront. Whatever it is, just give yourself a few moments of positive daydreaming to imagine it. This kind of so-called visualisation can really help get you in a frame of mind where you take yourself to the event, feeling excited and ready to enjoy it rather than having the event come to you and leaving you feeling overwhelmed by it.
In terms of training, there are about as many views on tapering as there are coaches. My view, for what it's worth alongside all the things you can read about fancy formulas and “the right way to…” is that there is no right way as it all depends on each person, what they've been doing, how important the race is and so on - but there are certainly some things that are unlikely to help. Top of this list is going out and hammering yourself on a big training session as if to prove you can cover the distance or hit a particular target time.
If you've already done some racing and Eastbourne is part of a sequence of races you've got lined up, I'd start by making sure you have recovered from the last event. Book in a sports massage or see your physio. Be disciplined about stretching and using the foam roller that's hidden at the back of a dark cupboard. Once you're feeling ready for it, I'd recommend no more than three ‘key’ training sessions in this coming penultimate week, with the others pretty much all light recovery rides and runs and technique focused swims. For the key sessions I'd suggest high intensity mini-blocks with short rests within the mini-blocks and generous recoveries between so as to hone race sharpness.
If this is your first triathlon, you're unlikely to add much to your fitness around ten days out from the event - and as above the big risk is to tire yourself out before just at the point where you want to be feeling fresh and confident. More valuable in this penultimate week I suggest is trying out any equipment you may have recently acquired for your first time race: get used to the feel of the wetsuit and settle on the goggles you'll wear; check the bike over and book in the service you've been telling yourself you really should have done a while back; try out those fancy race shoes you may have splashed out on.
7 days to go:
The Brownlees’ book opens with Alistair and Jonny each describing how they felt the morning of their – now legendary – Olympic race. Despite all the pressure, all the hype and expectations, they both relay the same simple emotion: excitement!
How brilliant to go into a race feeling nothing but excitement about what lies ahead. If next Sunday’s Eastbourne triathlon is your very first, you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed by a whole mix of very different emotions: excitement for sure but also trepidation, fear of the unknown, self-doubts about how prepared you really are. And even if you are a seasoned triathlete you’ll probably be feeling some of the same uneasy anticipation: have I trained enough? have I rested enough? and what’s that big hill really like? As this is the very first Eastbourne Tri there’s an element of the unknown for everyone.
So here are a few brief tips and suggestions to help you in this last week, building on the idea from the last blog post about taking yourself to the event, rather than letting it happen to you.
First, remind yourself why we do this wonderful sport. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the detail and pre-race nerves that we forget. If you’re not enjoying it, then stop. Hold back and readjust your settings to ‘enjoy’ mode.
As I suggested in the last post, spend a little time practising the fine art of purposive, positive imagination – how great its going to feel in whatever excites you most, such as just being part of a new event in a stunning location; running through to the finish line; or bragging to your friends in your new, well earned t-shirt.
If you are feeling really nervous and anxious, take out a little time to identify and start breaking down what it is that is making you feel that way. Almost certainly there are ways of dealing with much of what gets to us and leaves us feeling overwhelmed.
So for example, it may be if this is your first race in the open water, rather than fearing the whole thing, is it the thought of being knocked around by others, knowing its going to be cold but not how cold or doubts about the distance? So use this week to think through your strategy for whatever it is: maybe to position yourself toward the back where you won’t be jostled; prepare yourself for the cold by promising yourself to get in early, gradually getting used to the temperature and always ensuring your breath is under control; break the distance down into sections, such as from the start to the first buoy, then the next and so on; tell yourself you are just going to focus on getting your breathing under control for the first part of the swim and get into your rhythm. Whatever your fear, break it down and have a plan to meet it.
In terms of training this week, as mentioned in the last post its all about keeping it light – lots of stretching and flexibility, shorter and lighter swims than you’ve been doing, focusing all on the feel in the water; easy spinning on the bike; and controlled, no-tension striding.
The next and final post will inevitably all be about the practical things to pack and have to hand. Needless to say, this week is the last chance to try out those flash new goggles, test the wet suit and condition of the bike before the race. We may include some tips for dealing with the cold water – or if you post a reply here and say what’s on your mind I’ll have a go at giving some last minute advice.
And above all, be a Brownlee and be excited.
(This post is dedicated to Grace, Fiona and Scott who are going to be awesome)
48 hours to go:
There’s no escaping now – its almost here! The very first Eastbourne Tri: new to everyone regardless of whether this is your very first triathlon or one of many. How brilliant to be a part of it.
The last two weeks the theme of these posts has been about taking yourself to the race rather than letting it come to you. And here it is now, just two days away. So what to do?
There are a few things I think will help, now all the training is done. Some of these are really a recap on the earlier posts and one addresses the elephant in the room.
First, take control of your time. Its so easy to find the time slipping away and then get in a last minute panic, hunting for that bit of kit you know you left somewhere but can’t remember where. Make an appointment with yourself to get everything you need together. You could allot an hour, that in the previous days and weeks would have been spent out training, to make a list of what you need and quietly, calmly work through it. There’s a useful checklist here on the FAQs page – don’t forget to add what you’ll wear, eat and drink before and after.
In the same way, tell yourself that when you come to register and set up in transition, you’ll also be in control of your time. This doesn’t mean being so laid back you miss the start! It means not allowing yourself to get caught up in other people’s infectious nervousness and panic, instead being methodical and composed. I like to walk myself through each entry and exit point of the transition, fix in my mind a way of remembering where my bike is, rehearse putting on my race belt, flash glasses, helmet clipped… all in the right order so when it comes to the moment everything is in place and it all happens by instinct.
Are we ready for the elephant in the room? Yes, the sea is cold! You don’t need to know the exact temperature. Its cold. However, a bit of mental and physical preparation, can make a big difference. You can prepare yourself physically by doing some flexibility exercises beachside to loosen up and ensure you have full movement in the wet suit. I suggest then getting in the water around 10 minutes before the start, splashing water on your face and a little down the front of your suit (it’s the way the insulation works) and doing some strokes to loosen up. More on the mental preparation, tell yourself no matter what, you are going to control your breathing. As you mill around waiting for the start, get into a relaxed, controlled breathing. Then, when your wave starts, for at least the first quarter tell yourself all the way bubble-bubble-breathe, bubbling out as soon as your head is in the water and breathing to the side in a steady, controlled rhythm.
Finally, I really hope you enjoy the event. It’s been so well organised, with everything done in mind for you to have a memorable, safe and fun experience. There are more tips and ideas for preparation and general inspiration on my site at www.zigzagalive.com and I’d love to hear how you get on and whether these posts have helped. The very best of ZigZag Alive luck.