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Begginners guide to completing the "Hell of the West Kilkee
Can a complete beginner like “me” realistically complete Kilkee Triathlon?
Of course you can, with 6 months to go and the right training! Triathlons are not actually as hard as Triathletes would like you to think! After all, almost every day of our lives we achieve feats of endurance greater than what’s required for a triathlon like kilkee.
Have you ever stood on your feet working in a shop/factory floor for a whole day?
Ever spent 3-4 hours scrubbing or cleaning your house or garden?
Ever gone on a long walk up a mountain?
Ever spent 2-3 hours cutting the grass?
Ever gone days without proper sleep minding sick children or studying for exams?
……and any mothers out there – Triathlon has to be a walk in the park compared to childbirth!
So most of us have at some stage in our lives completed tasks far more difficult that a 3-4 hour triathlon!
So you have plenty of time to train correctly and wisely to get you through kilkee. The following advice may not get you first place, but it will get you home. This is not for the elite but for the regular “Joe” and “Josephine” who would like to wear a kilkee shirt and say “yeah, I did it!”. Often getting to the start line in one piece is the hardest aspect of triathlon – once you get to the start line, the rest is easy……-ish!
The thing key to keep in mind is that finishing kilkee is all about swimming, cycling and running within your own limits. It’s when we try to go beyond our limits that things go wrong and the same should be applied to your training.
Before we get into actual training schedules it is important to make sure you try to do as many of the following during the next 6 months:
• Sleep 1 more hour a day – so turn off desperate housewives and go to bed early– the best recovery is done while resting or asleep. Training on top of already busy lives will place an extra strain on you so be sure to compensate with more sleep.
• Eat better - try and cut out fast energy junk food/snacks and replace with proper wholesome food that will give slow release energy and the proper vitamins and minerals needs. Eat good meals early in the day and avoid late night eating.
• Dress, eat and drink properly while training – stay warm, dry, well fed and hydrated.
• Try and get in the key following sessions at a minimum – 1 hour long swim, 1.5-2hr bike and aim to work up to a 40-60 min run.
• Keep the late nights-out and alcohol to a minimum - no point training hard during the week and wasting all the effort by staying out till 5am at the weekends and wondering why you can’t cycle the next morning. Hangovers are not conducive to quality training. Nothing wrong with a glass of wine in the evenings or 2-3 pints on a sat night. Its good to reward your effort …….just don’t make it 23 pints!
• Don’t feel you need to train if you are over-tired or stressed out trying to balance family, life, career with training – usually something gives, so strike the balance!
• Enjoy the journey – try and train with others rather than on your own – it’s supposed to fun as well you know!
• If you get injured or strain a muscle – let it recover or alternate your training so the injury is not aggravated and allowed sufficient time to recover.
• If you get a cold or sick, mind yourself – they say if an illness goes below your neck not to train at all till better, and for head colds etc above the neck be sure to take it very easy. But consult your doctor for professional advice. Don’t try and “sweat it out” – “Rest is Best” when it comes to getting better from colds/flu’s etc.
• Don’t start training again until you are 110% recovered – many of us have gone back training to early only to get a relapse.
• Try and get in at least one yoga, Pilates or stretching session a week to help increase your core strength, flexibility and help prevent injury.
• On bad weather days (icy roads, gale winds) etc alternate your training indoors or onto suitable surfaces – run on forest trails instead of icy footpaths etc.
• Use quality gear and clothes running and on the bike – others you are training with who perhaps are more experienced/fitter will likely have good quality equipment – so leave the wind-cheaters aka “parachutes” at home when cycling. There is no need to spend €100’s on gear, just dress in layers and appropriately and have your tyres pumped up properly. If your runners are old and worn look at replacing them – running injuries are often due to “dead” runners and a new pair could save you lots of €’s on physio’s etc.
• Make sure you enter and race smaller races before the big day so you have an idea how to pace yourself and know what’s ahead of you! You’ll learn more from one race than you would from months of training. Plus they are fun.
• Bedtime reading! There is a very good book for beginners called Triathlon Training Basics by Gale Bernhart which covers programmes for beginners to people who have one or more of the sports background. she gives training plans for sprint and Olympic distance for both individuals and relays. Its a real no nonsense, easy to understand programme.
Race Day Advice:
1. 2 weeks before the race make sure your wetsuit, bike and runners helmet and goggles are all in good working order – If they work 2 weeks before a race then more than likely they will work fine on race day – so don’t go messing with gear 2 days before a race.
2. 2 Days before the race – do no training but eat well - don’t change what you would regularly eat, just eat slightly more. You wouldn’t put diesel into a petrol car before a big journey so stick with what your body is used to!
3. The day before the race go for a 10min swim, 10-15 cycle followed by a ten min run to wake up the body for the following day – then take it easy for the rest of the day – don’t clean the entire house, cut the grass or spend the whole day shopping in town! Eat normal to light meals and don’t eat late in the evening e.g. after 7pm or so.
4. Pump up your wheels (to 100-120psi) the day before and take the bike for a test cycle. Don’t risk messing with tyres the day of the race!
5. Get to bed early the night before the race so you can get up early on race day!
6. Eat a quality breakfast 2-3 hours before the race, but one your body eats regularly - avoid high fibre foods and don’t overeat. No point in carrying around dead weight/undigested food in your stomach when you are trying to race.
7. Get down to the transition area nice and early and set your equipment so you are not rushing and have time to fix any last minute problems.
8. Once set up maybe go for a small warm up run – but don’t try and go for a cycle – this is often when people pick up punctures unwittingly.
9. Relax, stay warm and if you are nervous go for a walk or sit in a car away from all the hype and bustle.
10. Be sure you know what swim wave you are in and you have all your numbers, swim hats, wetsuit ready to go.
11. Clothing - unless Met Eireann really throw a spanner in the works you should get away on most race days with either a combined one or two piece, ideally lycra/”dry-flow” type suit. Ideally it should be tight fitting to reduce wind drag and have some form of seat “chamois/padding” for the bike. These items should be worn underneath the wetsuit with the race number pinned to the race top back and front or to a “race belt” – pins are better when starting off. There is little need in changing again after the swim or after the bike apart from putting on bike shoes or runners. Why train for 6 months and waste time changing in transition, drying your hair etc? So plan for an efficient into/out of transition to get you home sooner than you thought possible.
12. Swim: If you are a nervous swimmer, start at the back or out to the side to avoid the fist-fest that often occurs in the middle of large swim starts. It’s a long day waiting 5-10 seconds to let the main bunch off isn’t going to impact your overall time. Put you goggles on once and don’t mess with them too much and don’t tighten them anymore than your regular swim sessions.
13. Clean you hands well of all cream, Vaseline/bodyglide before putting on goggles etc.
14. Use a “rash vest” or Vaseline/Bodyglide to prevent the wetsuit cutting your neck/underarms if it has done so before. No gloves, shoes or flippers are allowed during the swim – wetsuit only and or neoprene hat under the swim hat provided by race organisers.
15. Swim steady, calmly and use long steady even strokes and look up very regularly to make sure you don’t swim in zigzags. Avoid “overkicking” with the legs, as you’ll need your legs more on the bike and run – the wetsuit will keep the legs floating behind you anyway. If its rough on the day – apply a slide and glide type stoke and try and slice through the waves than go over them – look up for the swim buoys when on the top of the waves.
16. Getting out of the water don’t stand too early - swim right to the very edge of the water till your arms are touching the bottom – only then stand up and start to walk run – if you stand up too early when the water is up to your waist or higher you’ll waste valuable energy running through deep water and end up looking terrible for the swim exit photos!
17. If the transition is close to the waters edge wait till transition to take off the suit – if there is a big run e.g. >500m or so, then it will be better and far easier to take the suit off at the waters edge before it becomes really stuck to you along the big run to transition. A good compromise is take the arms and upper torso off at waters edge.
18. Timing: The organisers will manage and record your time so there is little point in trying to manage your own time by a watch – better to stay focused on the swim/bike/run and get your splits at the end in the bar, enjoying a drink!
19. Transition 1: wetsuit goggles and hat off – place neatly at your spot – helmet on and tie it– shoes on - then take your bike and out you go. Go steady and efficient through transition. Don’t waste time – and unless its really cold there is no need to do a full towel dry – the wind on the bike will do that for you. Socks are optional at this stage but can be hard to put on with wet feet – might be best to leave till transition 2 (bike-run)
20. On the bike- ride your own race – ride strong, steady and comfortably but “within” yourself at all times – if you have bundles of energy save it for the run. At the start of the bike give yourself a few miles/20-30mins to settle down after the swim, and then put the “boot” down if you feel good. If its especially windy don’t ride a hard slow gear into the wind – use a gear that lets the legs “spin” into the wind and then by all means use all the big gears when the wind in behind you.
21. Bring along a water bottle, ideally with a tried and tested sports drink (even diluted apple juice will give you a boost – but make sure what ever sports drink you use that its not too strong a flavour – dilute to taste), pump, two spare tubes – even if you can’t change a puncture, a marshal is permitted to help you and other athletes if its safe.
22. Spin easy up all the hills.
23. For the last few miles spin the legs to get them into the “run” mode, take in more fluids and perhaps a “gel”/sports bar with 10-20mins to go on the bike.
24. In transition 2 – rack your bike first – take off your helmet, then put on the runners.
25. If it’s a hot day consider wearing a light hat, or sun visor and “shades” on the run. (and shades on the bike) Also if it’s planned to be anyway good weather use a high strength/factor waterproof sun cream (do so even if its not1) before you put on your gear that morning. Factor 45-50 “For kids” works a charm –Even a cloudy day will give you sunburn when you are exposed for 3-4 hours. Tan lines are bad, melanomas are worse! So never underestimate the impact of the sun on race day – sunburn will increase the rate of dehydration and severely impact your race! Apply sun cream to the back, shoulders, arms and thighs, calves especially.
26. Run: Take the first 2-3 miles very relaxed and slow – use “pitter patter” baby steps going up the Dunlicky hill – this will help save the legs. Slow down to take on water at the water stations. Stay focused on the run the whole way – “Misery loves company” so if you see someone else struggling ignore them, there’s nothing you can do for them – so focus on getting yourself home.
27. Keep looking up at all time – don’t run with your head down as this will result in a shuffle instead of a proud energy efficient jog/run.
28. Use baby steps to get up the hills and gravity to help you get down the hills – don’t try and hold yourself back going down as this will tire out the legs even more.
29. You might need to have another Gel or piece of sports bar at the half way point on the run or at say 4km to help you home.
30. Enjoy the run and don’t do a sprint finish with someone else at the end unless you are racing for first place – sprinting at the end of all that usually ends up in either pulled muscles or very sore legs the next day – strong steady and comfortable all day is the way to a good time – last minute sprints = less flash on the dance floor later that night…….
31. Have food, liquids, shower and a rest ASAP after the race – enjoy the night out and well done!
Special thanks to Eamonn for putting this document together.