We’ve heard it before – how you finish is more important than how you start. And triathlons often reflect this importance with crowds, cameras, and screams of encouragement.
Truth be told, the not-so-spectacular start of a triathlon has just as much importance to the overall performance and psychological well-being of your race than you might imagine – and can impact how well you finish.
Going out too fast or too slow, failing to familiarize yourself with the course, and not having a sure and steady race plan are all miscues that can cost you valuable time as well as create added physical and mental strain during your race.
These five tips will give you an added edge at the triathlon start which can translate to reduced time at the finish:
1. Practice, practice, practice
Like so many aspects of triathlon, preparation precedes peak performance. Triathletes should not leave anything to chance – especially the all-important start. Practicing mass starts with others will help you get used to swimming with people close to you. And if you practice them at a lake, you’ll learn how to navigate through currents and waves.
2. Plan Your Pace
Knowing your ideal pace beforehand will help you keep focused so you won’t fall prey to the go-out-as-fast-as-you-can-and-fizzle-later syndrome. It stands to reason that if you don’t have a planned pace, you won’t follow one. Conversely, knowing how fast you want to go and where you want to be at certain stages of the race will keep you on track and at a regulated race pace.
3. Study the course
Always know the ins and outs of the race course. The better you know a course before a race, the better you’ll navigate it during the race. Attend pre-race course instructions and you’ll learn how temperature, wind, and water conditions may affect your race. Otherwise, you may be in for some unfortunate twists and turns.
4. Warm up well
Race horses and stock cars don’t run well cold; neither do triathletes. Not only does a good warm-up swim prepare your muscles and mind for your upcoming race, it also enables you to get a good feel for the water temperature and conditions.
5. Get a good spot
It seems a bit obvious, but if you line up too far in the front, you’ll be running with those far too fast for your pace. But if you’re too far behind, the pace won’t be motivating enough for you. There are no right or wrong starting positions. Pick the spot that works best for you and your racing ability and strategy.
These may seem to be obvious steps to a successful triathlon start, but many athletes still come to races unprepared, get confused at race conditions, and become disoriented along the course, getting stuck in traffic or run over by faster contestants.
Get off to a good triathlon start and you improve your overall chances dramatically for your best triathlon finish.
What’s your best advice for race starts?