Rebecca Porter recently completed her first Ironman 70.3 Mallorca triathlon. Here are 5 key lessons in middle distance triathlon that she will put into practice next time!
1. I needed more fluid than I thought
Nutrition and hydration really worried me before the race. I spent a lot of time and energy thinking about how best to optimize my refuel. I particularly focused on my on-bike refuelling schedule because that worried me the most and also seemed like the best place to get the most fuel in.
On the bike I drank a litre of electrolyte-carb beverage, and probably 0.25 litres of plain water, but I was still dehydrated coming into the run.
Because I’m a fairly nervous rider I decided that I would take a Camelbak with me, as well as a water bottle. This allowed me to drink as I went, without worrying about grabbing a bottle from between by legs. Unfortunately, this also meant that I wasn’t actually drinking as much as I should have.
At the fuelling stations on the bike portion, volunteers stood at the side of the road holding water bottles filled with Gatorade or water for the cyclists to grab. Although the bottles were only about half full, if I had grabbed one every time I went through a fuelling station I would have guaranteed more fluid in my blood stream.
It also would have paced my refuel by forcing me to either finish the bottle and chuck it in the designated littering zones or chuck my own bottle and replace it with one from the race.
2. Brick, brick, brick
I love running. Once a week I do a 20km run into work and come in feeling fantastic! I supplement this with treadmill speed sessions once a week. To be honest, I felt pretty confident about my run before the race.…I shouldn’t have.
Coming off my bike into the transition zone, I had to tell myself to keep going. I thought my legs would give out even before I could start the run.
Once my bike was racked, I started out on the run and realized that it would be one of the hardest and longest half marathons I had ever done.
Despite all my running during training, I only did a couple of brick sessions and wasn’t entirely used to the feeling of running on jelly legs. Coupled with my dehydration, it was all I could do to continue jogging.
Going forward, I will follow the advice of my triathlon buddy Josh Barr and focus on doing a ride before my runs (even if it’s just a short one).
3. The kit you wear has an effect on your confidence
I won’t lie; I really struggle on the bike. It’s definitely my worst of the three disciplines. I know that a large part of this is simply hours of, as my dad puts it, “bum in saddle time”. However I realized during those 3.5 hours of biking that part of my problem is that I don’t FEEL like a cyclist.
I’ve always maintained that I’d rather be under-kitted and surprisingly good, than over-kitted and under-trained. But what I realized on that bike ride was that part of being able to ride long and fast is having the confidence that you’re good at it; and part of that confidence comes from looking the part.
Now I’m not about to go out and buy a carbon fibre bike to replace Fred (my 5 year old Giant Avail 4), however I will invest in tri-shoes and clips (I have SPDs and mountain-biking shoes) and a new saddle. I also vow to stop bringing my Camelbak with me and to learn to drink from the water bottles on my bike.
…I will also buy cooler water bottle holders.
4. Don’t underestimate your strength
I have a sneaking suspicion that women do this more than men. I know that I’m guilty of this (hence it being a key learning for me). I noticed this in particular for my swim.
I estimated, based on the fact that it was my first half IM, I would be about average to below average in the swim, so I carefully placed myself on the outside-back area of my wave. After a few minutes of a mess of feet and hands, I found myself in the front third of the group and gaining fast. I didn’t push myself and came out of the water feeling refreshed and ready to go for the bike.
Going forward I will always push myself to go faster and pull stronger. I will place myself closer to the front of the wave, and I will demand the confidence from myself to remain there.
5. A support crew really does support
I have done a lot of races where it was just me racing myself. I’m comfortable with that and I always race for myself.
This time my mom came all the way from Canada to watch me race, and it made a huge difference. Knowing that she was there to cheer me on helped propel me forward and quickly extinguished any thought of not going on. When I could finally see the finish line, I pushed myself to run faster because I wanted to show her how fast and strong I am.
It’s a bit vain, I know, but having something positive to push you forward helps when your body has decided that it’s not sure it wants to go on.